The Film (4/5)
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats is the definition of a 70's midnight movie, except that it never got to play at midnight, or in a theater anywhere. The film was conceived by it's director George Barry due to a nightmare about a bed that eats it's users, and shot over the course of a half decade. When the film had reached completion, he tried to secure a distributor for the unique finished product, but only a few took the bite, and no one really did anything with it, or so Barry thought.
After Barry had stopped paying attention to his Detroit lensed bizarro oddity, that distributor got it into distribution not into theaters, but into the burgeoning video market in Europe where it become a minor cult classic. In 2003, the label Cult Epics finally secured Death Bed it's first official stateside release with a DVD, unleashing Barry's film to an unsuspecting public where it has since become even more known, but not in cinema circles, but comedy circles as the subject of Patton Oswalt's Rape Stove comedy routine.
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats is the one and only film directed by George Barry, and he falls in the pantheon of directors with one film to their credit who have made what could be considered (at least in some circles) a genuine classic. Look, I am not saying that Death Bed is on par with something like The Night of the Hunter, but with Barry's distinct vision for the film we have something intensely creative and wonderful that has certainly earned it's audience and it's status amongst the cult film faithful.
The title reflects the content, but not in the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes b-movie sort of way. This film is much deeper, and much much more bizarre playing more like an American variation on the cinema of Jean Rollin than the title would have you believe. So basically, what story there is involves this bed, it furnishes a dilapidated old mansion. Anyone who enters the mansion to use the bed gets swallowed up into it, and absorbed into it's digestive juices (seriously). The bed shares the house with a young gentleman, who the bed didn't eat, but whose spirit he pushed into a painting, and now tortures the bed with his psychic projections. The torture culminates during an early portion of the film where the bed destroys the mansion leaving only the room that the duo exist in. Most of the film takes place within the present with people coming to visit the bed, and dying by it's machinations or attempting to survive, however in between we get the beds origin story which involves the bed being made from a special wood possessed by the spirit of a forest demon (or something like that).
The film is moderately paced which creates an interesting atmosphere that is more in tune with the dreamlike narratives of the European horrors of the period, than any of the work of Barry's American contemporaries. The acting is not great, nor should it be expected, but it fits the bizarre quality of the film. This is especially apparent in the case of the man in the painting who acts as a sort of strange voiceover for the film, and helps contribute to the films atmospherics.
I will state that while I rate Death Bed highly, this is the sort of film that I find a lot of value in. It's mix of poetic horror and camp is something I can watch repeatedly, it is not a film all viewers might enjoy. That being said viewers with certain taste and sensibilities, or those in the proper frame of mind might find lots to enjoy in Death Bed: The Bed That Eats.
I have not seen Cult Epics prior DVD release of Death Bed: The Bed that Eats, so I do not have a comparison point for this transfer. That being said the film is transferred from the only existing 16mm source for the film, and that source is apparently in pretty reasonable shape. The film textures and grain are out in full force here, but never overpowering. There is excellent detail, colors, and black levels. That being said there is a bit of bring damage, fading, and damage, not too much mind you, but enough to remind you that the source is not pristine, but just enough to remind you that you are watching a film. The film is presented in it's native 1:33:1 ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer.
Cult Epics has produced an excellent extra features packaged for their release of Death Bed. The set kicks off with 2 introductions a 5 and a half minute introduction from the DVD with director George Barry. We then get an intro 4 minutes in length with Beyond Terror/Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower that's a lot of fun. We then get Barry and Thrower doing a Behind the Scenes tour of the remaining Death Bed locations in Detroit. We also get a 15 minute interview with Barry and Thrower called Nightmare USA that focuses surprisingly a lot on Thrower's written works (including his upcoming Jess Franco book, which is my most anticipated read at the moment). We then get the 2 minute original credit music track for the film, and a commentary track between Thrower and Barry.
Death Bed is a cult film fans delight. This Detroit lensed 70's art-horror oddity, has been brought to Blu-ray with a magnificent transfer courtesy of Cult Epics. The extras package is quite wonderful as well. Death Bed: The Bed that Eats comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.