Death Bed: The Bed That Eats Review and Analysis
The event is hosted by Patton Oswalt. At the end of the show, he does a monologue about writing screenplays.
It is very funny. In particular, he riffs on a film called Death Bed: the Bed that Eats, although he refers to it as the much funnier, “Death Bed: the Bed that Eats People.”
He claims that he is now working on a screenplay called, “Rape Stove: the Stove that Rapes People.”
Here is the routine:
First Watching Death Bed
I knew I had to see the film. For one thing, as much as I found Oswalt’s routine funny, I knew that he was wrong about how this movie got made. Such movies are not made within the studio system. They are personal projects that people pour their souls into as well as all of their money. As bad as it may be, it is more authentic art than anything that Oswalt has done or ever will do.
And it turned out that I was right. It was made by George Barry, shortly after he got out of college. He put together $10,000 to make it, but eventually spent $30,000 on it. You can find out more about it by reading Stephen Thrower’s review of it on Amazon.
After looking for a little while, I found the whole film online as part of an episode of some bizarre Creature Features show called “Doktor Sick”: DoktorSick Program ep 8 Death Bed the bed that eats people. Sadly, the film is repeatedly interrupted, but it is easy enough to skip ahead. Don’t, however, take that as a recommendation. It is on Archive.org.
Art, Horror, and Fetish Films
Death Bed is a cross between art, horror, and fetish films. As such, I think it is a must see for anyone studying film. The truth is that I learned something new: there isn’t much difference between art, horror, and fetish films. All of these films tend to fall in love with the objects of their focus. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Now that I think about it, Cries and Whispers combines these same elements. What’s more, Death Bed does it with a fair amount of wit and humor.
In the pantheon of low budget favorites, I would put Death Bed far above “Manos”: The Hands of Fate but below The Final Sacrifice. But bear in mind, I really like The Final Sacrifice. Be warned: Death Bed is only for enthusiasts. It has almost no dramatic momentum and barely works at all as a traditional narrative film.
Seeing the Real Thing
Last month, I finally saw Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, as it was intended to be seen. The DoktorSick version was edited to make the film look as silly as possible. When I missed on my viewing of it in that form was that the film is, at core, a comedy.
This makes Patton Oswalt’s stand-up routine about the film all the more pathetic. The film establishes itself as a comedy from the very beginning. The bed eats an apple and then returns the apple to the top of the bed with the core intact. Many similar sight gags follow. It never loses sight of its essential nature.
The biggest problem with the film is its structure. Death Bed gets a bit bogged down at the end of the second act and part of the third act. I assume this is because the writer-director, George Barry, felt the need to make it a feature film, instead of the hour-long film it really should be cut to.
Death Bed Is Great to Look At
What’s most remarkable about Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is just how visually stunning it is. The camera work is great. The lighting is superior to the vast majority of low-budget student films. And the variety of images is far greater than anything I can think of outside of maybe Kundun. It would make a great stoner film at very least.
But there is much else to like about the film. The acting, for example, is really quite good — especially for a student film.
Is it a Bad Movie?
I understand why people laugh at the film. The story is hard to follow and so requires constant narration of an artist who has been consigned for eternity inside his own paintings. And even then the plot isn’t clear. A demon wanted to make love to a woman on this bed, but she died, and so the bed came to life and needs to eat from time to time.
Just as it must eat, the bed must sleep. The artist uses one such nap to help the two remaining characters. He explains how to destroy the bed, which involves bringing back to life the love interest. This leads to the reanimated woman and the demon copulating and the bed bursting into flame, apparently killing the demon and the woman (again).
But none of that really matters. It’s just an excuse for a number of bits, the best being when a young man tries to kill the bed by stabbing it. Unfortunately (for him, not us), his hands get pulled into the bed, and when he removes them, they are skeletons. It’s hilarious — but even more, it is so bizarre. I would gladly watch anything that George Barry wants to put on screen. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, he never has again and is now pushing 70 years old.
The Evil Medved brothers
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats suffers from what I think of as the Medved brothers syndrome: the idea that it is fun to watch “bad” films. But somehow, it is almost always low-budget films that are “bad.” (Harry seems to have been more open to low-budget films than his more famous older brother Michael.) This seems to be because what people mistake for bad is really just idiosyncratic. They will watch the most mediocre, witless film and think nothing of it because it is just like so many other mediocre, witless films.
So isn’t Death Bed: The Bed That Eats bad? It must be! George Barry must have been trying to make Captain America: Civil War and just couldn’t hack it, right?! Wrong. It never occurs to these idiots that Barry made a film that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. It’s a work of art. And despite its low budget, it is technically competent. You don’t need to like it, of course. But you really are a philistine if you don’t respect it for the idiosyncratic art that it is.
And if you give it a chance, I really do think you will enjoy it.
Information about the movie itself:
- Release date: October 1977
- Length: 80 minutes
- MPAA Rating: NR
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Film: 16mm Color
Obviously, so many more people are involved in the making of a film. But here are some of the most important:
- Director: George Barry
- Producer: George Barry
- Screenwriter: George Barry
- Cinematographers/Cameramen: Robert Fresco
- Editor: Ron Medico
- Art Director: Maureen Petrucci
- Composer: Ossian Brown, Mike McCoy, and Stephen Thrower
- Actors: Demene Hall, William Russ, Julie Ritter, and Linda Bond