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Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

I’ve been on a big Patton Oswalt kick lately, and on his album Madison Heights Werewolves and Lollipops he talks about this movie at length. So, you know, go follow that link and listen to the bit. It’s hilarious.

And then doing a little research on the internet, I found that this movie has a whole elaborate history to it — beyond the incredible fact a movie about an eating bed was made at all. The first-time (and only-time) director George Barry started the movie in 1972 as a labour of love, finally finished it five years later, and then found nobody wanted to buy it. Period. Not even for the price of striking a print. He shelved it and went on with his life (I think he ran a used book store in Detroit), but unbeknownst to him, one of his development labs somehow pirated it, and it bounced around Europe for decades as a (very) minor underground phenom in the pre-internet. Finally, an astonished Barry found out about the cult it had attracted and give it a much-belated release on DVD in 2002.

So how is Death Bed: The Bed That Eats? Worth the wait? Well, first off, it clearly is a labour of love. Most luridly-titled horror flicks fail to deliver on the title’s promise (see Killdozer, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, or every single movie ever released by the turd factory that is Troma), but not this one — this movie is clearly the work of a man who sought to tell the story of an eating bed. It eats gangsters, hippies, priests and orgies, not to mention flowers, fried chicken, cigars and suitcases, all of which sink into the bed’s “stomach” (a vat of coloured water), accompanied by hearty chomping and chewing sounds.

Weird enough, but that doesn’t even begin to get at just how balls-out bizarre this movie is. For one thing, the movie is narrated by the spirit of an pissed-off-sounding artist who lives behind a painting overlooking the bed. Also, the bed itself falls asleep (and snores), which just raises all kinds of questions. And in the movie’s strangest sequence, a man survives the death bed only to have the flesh eaten from his hands, but instead of, you know: screaming in agony, like you or I might be inclined to do, he just stares forlornly at the skeletal hands emerging from the sleeves of his blazer until his sister helps him out by breaking off the bones and throwing them into a fire!

Unfortunately, while Death Bed gets mad props for effort and originality, it’s easier to admire than to enjoy. It may have El Topo-to-Eraserhead levels of weirdness, but it has the technical proficiency (and budget) of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Half of it is shot in painfully bad day-for-night, and the entire (dubbed) cast acts like they’ve just had a big lunch and are looking for a place to take a nap. Though, hmmm, napping… sleeping… bed… maybe that’s the point?

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  1. Blood Freak (1972) | eric brochu | haiku factory on Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    […] on layer after layer of WTF. My last such gift from the gods of greatbadfilmdom was the incredible Death Bed, and while the X-rated, grade-Z drive-in classic Blood Freak isn’t quite the insane […]