Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Directed by George Barry
Cult Epics DVD

Cinema is life. Cinema is sex. Cinema is death. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is all of these things.

In 1972, a guy from the Detroit suburbs named George Barry decided to make a film. Completed in 1977, Death Bed was never released. Mr. Barry’s sole output as a director was relegated to illegitimate European releases and muddy bootlegs for the next 26 years. Now, Death Bed has received a proper release for the first time ever. A tiny treasure chest has been revealed and the experimental farts within are more exotic than your most beautiful nightmares. Let’s go in the woods.

Deep within an unspecified forest, a cobblestone embankment houses an underground cave. Inside the cave lies Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. Hundreds of years ago, Death Bed was spawned by the tears of a satanic demon who enticed humans into becoming its next meal. Stuck behind a painting in the same cave sits a sickly narrator (complete with fake British accent), who was once ingested by Death Bed, but rejected because of his unspecified sickness. Over the course of one day (“Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “The Just Dessert,”), the audience plays fly on the wall. Death Bed entices men and women with promises of sex. Death Bed breaths heavily as it removes women’s clothes. Death Bed emits piss-yellow soap suds as it chows down on victims. Death Bed guzzles a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. A brother searches for his sister. Will he understand the plight of Death Bed? Will you?

For a $30,000 backyard horror movie, Death Bed is a major accomplishment in the annals of strange cinema. Calling the experience surreal is too easy. In fact, thanks to the crude, psyched-out techniques and could-have-been-a-great-urban-legend plotline, the film floats in the upper echelon of disconnected films that must be seen, just to be certain that they actually exist. Scored with sparse, echo-drenched synths and random sound effects, the tone is folksy and dead serious, despite the obvious moments of facetiousness. So when you see Death Bed eat a bucket of fried chicken, replace a guy’s arms with plastic skeleton bones, and knaw through a handful of medieval orgy practitioners, DON’T LAUGH. The look is cheap, but completely appropriate — Death Bed’s chambers and the surrounding areas would never have the same effect if things were more fleshed out. Especially during the disorientating dream sequences.

So we’ve got this near-epic of dreamy, absurdist cinema with an amazing concept. Does it wear thin? A little. People wander into Death Bed’s room and then a feast ensues, spiced up with the occasional flashback and a generous amount of boobs. This repeats a couple of times, without much variation. In turn, the content runs a tad short of fleshing out a full length feature. I asked myself if that really mattered. As it turns out, it doesn’t.

If you have a problem with crusty 16mm prints, get the fuck out of here! The full frame presentation was impressive, with bright colors and a surprising lack of damage. The grain was juicy, the mono sound was crisp and audible. Very nice.

One supplement, which is a five minute video interview with director Barry, interspersed with backstage stills. He dishes on the film’s history. Extensive liner notes are also included in the disc’s packaging.

Death Bed goes toe to toe with Doris Wishman’s A Night To Dismember as one of the most disconnected and impressive low budget horror films of all time. I wasn’t completely taken with the film as a whole initially, but that changes with repeat viewings. Just don’t forget to wash the sheets.