Perhaps one of the most brilliant films ever, the 1977’s Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is a film about a bed that eats people. Yes, just like the title says.
Seriously, that’s almost the entire film. The bed sits in an abandoned, dilapidated mansion that appears to be located out in the middle of nowhere. People break into the mansion. People find the bed, which is surprisingly well-cared for considering the fact that it’s sitting in the middle of a dusty, abandoned house. Some people make love. Some people try to get some sleep. Some people just sit down so they can take off their shoes. But in the end, all of them get eaten.
The bed is vaguely alive, which is to say that, if you listen carefully, you can hear it breathing and chewing. Many years ago, the bed was conjured up by a demon who needed a place to make love to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, his girlfriend died while they were having sex which caused the demon to cry. The demon’s tears brought the bed to life and now, every ten years or so, it has to feed.
We know all of this because the painter Aubrey Beardsley tells us so. Much like Paganini Horror, Death Bed is unique in that it features an actual historical figure as a key part of the story. Aubrey Beardsley was an English illustrator who specialized in pictures of the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. Beardsley was only 25 years when he lost his life to tuberculosis, dying in France in 1898. However, Death Bed suggests that Beardlsey did not actually die but was instead imprisoned for eternity inside one of his paintings, forced to helplessly watch as Death Bed feasted. Though Beardsley knows how to destroy the Death Bed, no one can hear his words.
One of the more interesting things about Death Bed is that we actually get to see the inside of the bed while it’s digesting it’s victims. The bed literally eats everything that’s dropped on it, except for one woman who reminds the bed of the woman whom the demon loved. Whenever the bed sees this particular woman, it cries out in pain and we get a shot of red blood shooting through the inside of the bed.
The woman is Sharon (Rosa Luxemburg), a runaway who has come to the mansion with two of her friends. Why they’re at the mansion is never really quite clear, beyond the fact that they want to take care of the place for some reason. Suzan (Julie Ritter) brings flowers, just for Diane (Demene Hall) to point out that the mansion is in the middle of the wilderness and is therefore already surrounded by flowers! The bed eats Suzan and half of Diane.
Meanwhile, Sharon’s brother shows up and, believe it or not, he’s played by a vaguely recognizable actor, William Russ. (Russ is probably best known for playing Cory’s father on Boy Meets World.) Sharon’s brother — who doesn’t get a name beyond that — gets his hands eaten down to the bone by the bed but it doesn’t seem to bother him that much. He just sits there and stares down at his skeletal fingers. Can Sharon and her brother end the bed’s reign of terror? Will Aubrey Beardsley ever find peace?
Earlier, I called Death Bed brilliant and I was not joking. Death Bed plays out like a dream, full of weird images and off-kilter dialogue and strangely subdued performances. As odd as the story may be, the film delivers exactly what it promises. This is a film the promises a bed that eats people and that’s exactly what this bed does. The film plays out in a collection of strange, vaguely-connected images, mixed in with odd moments of humor. There’s a random shot of an elderly woman reading hardcore pornography. The bed drinks pepto bismol after having too much to eat. William Russ explains why his bony hands are falling apart. Death Bed is a dream of dark and disturbing things, a film that creates its own reality and dares you to stop watching. Much like An American Hippie In Israel, there’s no other film like it and therefore, it’s important that it be watched and appreciated. Death Bed is a unique spectacle, one that exists in a universe of its very own.