strange, strange seventies horror flick about a carnivorous bed presided
over by the spirit of Aubrey Beardsley(!). Released for the first time in 2003,
it’s precisely the type of unclassifiable oddity cult movie buffs dream about.
Inspired by a dream he’d had, writer/producer/director George Barry made
DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS over a five-year period with a budget of $30,000.
The 1977 result was a one-of-a-kind curio that unfortunately failed to obtain a
US release and got exhibited in the UK only because of a pirated copy briefly
released to home video. Now, after 26 years, DEATH BED is legitimately
available on DVD for the first time, courtesy of Cult Epics, who’ve also
sponsored the film’s exhibition on the 2003 festival circuit.
In an abandoned mansion a bed is possessed by an evil—and hungry—spirit.
Nearby hangs an Aubrey Beardsley drawing (Beardsley, for those who don’t know,
was a late 19th Century artist best known for his illustrations for
Oscar Wilde’s SALOME), behind which the artist’s spirit is trapped. With
nothing to do, the spirit spends his days admonishing the bed in voice-over,
providing a narration of sorts.
Beardsley gradually fills us in on how things got to be the way they are.
It seems a wind spirit living in a tree outside the house fell in love with a
dying woman for whom it took on human form and built a bed. When she passed
away the spirit was devastated, dripping tears of blood onto to the bed, which
gave it life...but only when its fathering wind spirit is awake. When it sleeps
the bed loses its power.
Over the years the bed ate a number of passer-by, including Beardsley
himself. In his case, however, the bed, in an apparent bid for company, decided
to resurrect Beardsley’s spirit and imprison it behind a drawing he made just
before his death.
Back to the present: the bed is in the process of devouring a group of
three young women. It toys with them psychically, imparting freaky nightmares
and visions before sucking them into its maw. When one of their brothers shows
up, the bed sucks the flesh off the poor guy’s hands, leaving behind a set of
crumbling bones. It’s around this time that the wind spirit awakens, robbing
the bed of its power; this allows Beardsley to branch out and telepathically
inspire one of the women to destroy the bed in an obscure ritual involving her
brother’s bones and fire.
This film’s loopy aura is probably best explained by George Barry’s comment
that “DEATH BED came from a dream and, to begin with, I wrote the story as more
a fairy tale than a horror film. We shot the story as possibly more horror film
than fairy tale, then in the editing process DEATH BED tried to return to its
fairy tale origins.” The end result is a film that plays like neither a fairy
tale or a horror film, but which stakes out its own genre base. It is truly a
What makes the film work is the utter conviction with which it’s put
together, along with an absolutely fearless audacity that all great no-budget
movies possess. Such an approach often has the effect of bringing the
proceedings dangerously close to camp (the shots inside the bed, with
people and objects falling through what looks like an aquarium shot over an
orange background as chewing sounds fill the soundtrack, are particularly
noteworthy in this regard), yet somehow Barry manages to keep things on a
serious level throughout. It helps that Barry has a sense of humor about the
proceedings (evident in the onscreen titles dividing the story into sections
titled Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Just Desserts) and, even more
so, that his filmmaking is so stylistically assured. The overall mood is a
hypnotic one: quiet and serene, even in the most overtly horrific sequences
(bolstered by the Beardsley character’s calm, studious voice-overs). In short,
DEATH BED is almost the very definition of Dreamlike.
BED: THE BED THAT EATS
Director/Producer/Screenplay: George Barry
Cinematography: Robert Fresco
Editor: Ron Medico
Cast: Demene Hall, Rusty Russ, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas,
Rosa Luxemburg, Dave Marsh, Ed Oldani, Marshall Tate, Dessa Stone