I believe I’ve indicated recently that I’ve kind of gone back to the original idea for this project: drawing movie titles out of a box and writing about them. That’s how Blood Rage popped up yesterday in fact. And what happened to rear its sleepy ol’ head today? Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. This is not to be confused with Deathbed from 2002 produced by Stuart Gordon and directed by Danny Draver.
No no this is the 1977 movie written and directed by George Barry (interesting IMDB sidenote, Barry also wrote the 2002 version which is listed as “based on” the 1977 original). At first I considered this a black comedy (which I maintain it kinda is), but really it’s more like a horror parody and a fairly clever one.
As events unfold, bits and pieces of the bed’s activities are commented on or recalled by the artist Aubrey Beardsley (voiced by Patrick Spence and portrayed by a somewhat Beardsley-looking Dave March). Beardsley takes to the bed whilst dying of consumption and in the process draws the bed itself. The bed then resurrects him and imprisons him behind that very drawing, possibly out of some strange desire, as Beardsley suggests, for “company.”
Make no mistake, there’s plenty of dark comedy to be had here. The funniest example has to be when the bed eats a girl who makes it sick. The next shot is a bottle of Pepto Bismol sinking into the bed’s, uh, digestive system I guess you’d call it.
Sure it’s a cheap sight gag, and there’s a number of ’em, but man this one cracks me slap up. It also sets up the bed’s origin story which comes in a nearly 15-minute recounting of the bed’s history as Beardsley tries to discover what made the bed sick.
Well he figures it out, but I’m gonna try real hard not to spoil a second of this movie for those who haven’t seen it. Seriously, treat yourself. For a little added fun, check out Patton Oswalt’s bit about the movie. Sadly, he mistakenly refers to is as Death Bed: The Bed That East People, but the bit is still funny. Frank Moraes over at Psychotronic Review thought Oswalt’s shtick was “pathetic.” I think he missed Oswalt’s point and possibly Barry’s at the same time.
Moraes suggests Death Bed “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.” Again, one of numerous sight gags, but hardly enough to establish the movie “as a comedy from the very beginning.” Like I said before, it’s a parody. What’s the difference? Comedy goes for laughs and humor. Parody makes fun of a specific thing, form, or content, in this case the Cursed Object.
The Cursed Object concept has been around for a hot minute. The first thing that comes to mind for me is W.W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw” first published in 1902. I’m sure that’s not the earliest example by a long shot, but it has been adapted in some for or another time and time again.
Death Bed takes this conceit and endows the object with a low level of sentience as well. It knows what’s going on and is able to communicate with Beardsley (in his narrated flashback he to some degree explains this). The bed also has reactions to and consequences from some of its choices.
There’s an extent to which Barry parodies the grindhouse exploitation flicks of the 70s as well. The bed’s feeding habits take on a sloppy, oozy, borderline splattery nature for example. In stark contrast, the results of one character’s attempt to save another from the bed is not only not gross at all, it’s so transparent and laughable it had to be a conscious decision. Ultimately, don’t let the negative reviews dissuade you. Check this one out some night, then toddle off to bed.
Sleep tight. Don’t let anything bite.
BODIES- 11 onscreen
10 offscreen (give or take 1 or 2 during an orgy beneath some sheets. Oh and a headline from the past claiming “Thousands Disappear”)
Streaming on Full Moon (Prime channel), Prime, Tubi, YouTube