Cult Epics presents
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
"If you weren't so greedy, you wouldn't have eaten everybody who came into the house."- The Artist (Patrick Spence-Thomas)
Stars: Demene Hall, Rusty Russ, Julie Ritter
Other Stars: Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas, Rosa Luxemburg, Dave Marsh, Ed Oldani, Marshall Tate, Dess Stone
Director: George Barry
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, mild gore)
Run Time: 01h:17m:19s
Release Date: 2003-11-04
DVD ReviewSometimes a film's history is infinitely more interesting than the finished product, and that somewhat applies to George Barry's Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. Shot largely in 1972, finally assembled in 1977, Barry's completed 16mm film languished without a distributor, and eventually seemed to become nothing more than a footnote to those involved in the production. But unknown to Barry, a pirated copy found its way to Great Britain in the early 1980s where it found a small but loyal audience. It wasn't until 2002 that the director discovered this fact, and that began a chain of events that eventually led Cult Epics to become the film's first official distributor, over 25 years later. Talk about patience.
Like its lineage, this isn't your typical horror film, by any stretch, and the title pretty much spells out the central theme rather clearly; there's an ancient four-poster bed that just loves to eat humans, and it does so anytime it can lure anyone to lie upon it. That's the plot at its foundation, though of course there is the presence of a long-dead and imprisoned artist (Patrick Spence-Thomas), trapped in some kind of netherworld void behind one of his paintings, who provides the necessary voice-over narration and explains the demonic goings on, as it were.
In between some hilarious spinning headlines and the eventual unveiling of the bed's origins, the plot remains kind of nonsensical, and the core of the film centers on a trio of young women who venture to the abandoned estate where the flesh-eating bed resides. The narrative falls more often than not into the "art school" realm, certainly more so than traditional horror, and if anything, you can see a bit of Hammer influence in some of the sequences.
Budgetary restrictions, silly plot, and stiff acting aside, Barry does (or did) show promise in giving his film a dreamy, off-kilter feel at times. He relies less on outright gore, favoring instead surreal visuals such as the bed absorbing its victims in a mysterious sea of yellow foam and liquid, and while it looks goofy, it is more arty and less shocking than is often the case in low-budget horror. Admittedly the premise is laughable, but there are more than a few moments where one can see some faint flickers of stylish storytelling that are hampered more by production values than intent.
There is an odd sort of Mystery Science Theater hypnotic quality to Death Bed, perhaps anchored by the unquestionably bizarre man-eating furniture premise. There are really no genuine moments of horror to be found here, even when a character's hands turn skeletal after an encounter with the hungry mattress, and it seems that Barry tried to deliver a creepy bad dream vibe to the whole affair, rather than a cascade of blood and guts.
Note to the curious and fans of weird casting moments: Be sure to watch for an appearance by legendary rock critic Dave Marsh.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Death Bed has been issued in a 1.33:1 full-frame transfer, culled from an original 16mm print. Certainly not the most luxurious disc I've seen, this one looks every inch the nearly forgotten 16mm film that it is. The overall transfer is rather dark, with a few outdoor scenes all but indecipherable. Colors have that mid-1970s fade to them, with fleshtones looking particularly pale. The print has noticeable damage, with a fair amount of nicks and vertical lines running through it periodically.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: A spotty, rough-around-the-edges English mono track is about what you would expect for a low-budget, never released early 1970s 16mm horror film. A bit of audible hiss is evident, but overall more than adequate for the material. Voices sound rather flat, which at times actually adds to the odd vibe Barry worked to create.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Writer/director George Barry offers up an introduction to the film (05m:30s), where he provides a brief synopsis of Death Bed's checkered history. Most of his discussion centers on his inability to get it distributed in 1977, and the subsequent pirating of the film, a fact he didn't really discover until 2002, apparently.
There is also an insert booklet, written by Stephen Thrower (Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci), that further documents the storied past of this highly unusual horror film. Thrower is also a member of the group Cyclobe, whose music is featured in the film.
The disc is cut into 12 chapters.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsOn the surreal meter, this one wins a batch of brownie points, but as a horror film it doesn't quite hit the mark. A demon-possessed bed that loves to munch on humans is one of those concepts that truly straddles the razor wire between parody and terror.
The film has had a very curious history, and Cult Epics, if nothing else, has sated the needs of fans of the strange by finally giving George Barry's oddball horror film its day in the sun.
Rich Rosell 2003-11-18