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Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1977 / Director: George Barry / Actors: Demene Hall, William Russ, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas ... / DVD released 2004-04-27 at Cult Epics / Features of the DVD: DVD-Video, PAL

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      10.08.2009 08:44
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      A cheap oddball horror with an increasing cult following

      A review of just the film. A region 1 DVD can be purchased through amazon for about £7.

      Made in 1977, this is a real oddity - a low, low budget American exploitation movie that is hugely endearing, with a particularly ludicrous premise. You can probably guess what that premise is from the film's title. It might not have even been released properly at the time it was made (it's not really clear), but in recent years it's appeared on DVD. For people like me, this is kind of thing is pure film gold.

      There's a living bed in a kind of outhouse attached to a deserted mansion. The bed eats things - anything that gets anywhere near it, but it particularly favours naked women. In the same room as the bed is a painting of the bed. Behind the painting lives a New Romantic/goth looking chap who provides the film's narration, and in the fullness of time explains the bed's back story.

      It's one of the silliest ideas for a horror film I can think of: a threat that's totally inert, and which relies on its victims climbing on it (for sleep or nookie). As such, it's not possible for the film to generate suspense. But we're not meant to be taking this seriously, and it makes a virtue of its essential daftness and incredible cheapness. The way the bed eating people manifests itself is for a lot of bubbles to swell up around the victim, with shots inside the bed's acidic 'stomach' showing things dissolving in yellow goo. Which is as silly as it sounds, but just occasionally actually manages to be a bit disturbing in spite of itself.

      The silliness is obviously highlighted by having a stupid narrator (who, it seems, is meant to be Decadent artist Aubrey Beardsley). The film's first line, "I've been imprisoned behind my painting in this limbo for 60 years now, since my death" gives a pretty good idea what to expect. The artist's voice reminded me a bit of Oliver Postgate, who narrated Noggin the Nog and The Clangers; the bed snores when asleep, and the little yawn it gives on waking up sounds exactly like Bagpuss. This gives this the air of a 70s BBC kids show gone horribly wrong. And there are some quite funny gags - silly newspaper headlines, funny victims (the old lady reading lesbian porn, the orgiastic 'sexual health' farm). It's not often that a horror film exhibits genuine wit, but this one is charmingly intelligent.

      But for all the humour and silliness, this does have moments of something like horror. There are a couple of very nice nightmare sequences. And the second set-piece bed-eating-someone scene has a feel of genuine perversity about it. Its one sustained attempt at being nasty doesn't quite work, though. The director, George Barry, obviously had talent, and it's a shame he never made another film (although he's apparently quite pleased about the film's increasing cult following). All in all, the incidents in the film are about as varied as they can be given that its central premise involves a large, motionless bed eating people. The music is a fairly typical collection of electronic gurgles and creaking noises, which works well enough.


      The actors are probably friends of the director, and none are very good. But as is so often the case, their blankness sometimes works in the film's favour. The courting couple at the beginning are a bit annoying (and who takes a bucket of chicken along with them on a date?) but the main characters - three women who stumble across the bed, and the brother of one of them - are likeable in a vague way, even if the brother does have really silly 70s hair. The film isn't shy about showing us naked breasts, presumably a prerequisite for something like this to get distribution.

      Overall, this one is well worth seeking out. If you like a quirky old horror movie and feel you've run through most of the famous possibilities, this is probably your next port of call. It's probably the daftest idea for a horror film ever (and it gets weirder and weirder as it progresses, too), and that alone has to be worth something, doesn't it?

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