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Mar 16

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Death Bed: the Bed that Eats

Death Bed: the Bed that EatsThe other night, I was watching The Comedians of Comedy. It is pretty good. It features Maria Bamford who is brilliant and hilarious. Overall, it is worth checking out, but it isn’t great.

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:

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.

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.

Afterword

That link above is to the MST3K version of “Manos”: The Hands of Fate. I cannot, in good conscience provide a link to the film alone, although it is available. Sadly, The Final Sacrifice is only available via MST3K. Typical.

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  1. JMF

    In the MST3K "Amazing Colossal Episode Guide," Kevin Murphy tells a story about meeting Kurt Vonnegut, his hero. Vonnegut chastises him for picking on those bad movies; many were written by struggling writers who needed the cash. The ACEG accordingly is forgiving to the rare low-budget films MST thinks were made in good faith, and has no mercy on the likes of Joe Don Baker. (The guide ends after season 7, so no word if the gang had a grudging respect for "Final Sacrifice." Although I doubt it.)

    A brother of mine, when he was 15-16 and I was an escapee from military school, living at home, went through a phase of watching every low-budget horror movie ever made. He’d watch two a night. (That’s back when there were video stores and those stores had bargain rentals.) We’re talking stuff like the "Silent Night, Deadly Night" series, with a slasher Santa, or "Basket Case," featuring a head in a basket that eats any actress showing boobs. We developed quite an appreciation for the ones with a bit more wit than others. (Our favorite was Peter Jackson, the New Zealander who made "Dead Alive" and "Meet The Feebles" and "Heavenly Creatures"; his career has gone downhill since. As has my brother’s; he now works for Bain.)

    We also grew to admire Joe Bob Briggs. MST wasn’t on Comedy Central at midnight anymore, but Joe Bob had a thing on TNT weekends called "MonsterVision." It would air a mainstream horror/sci-fi first feature, then something made for a second mortgage as the late-late show. During breaks, Joe Bob would sit on a fakeo set in front of a mockup trailer and give little tidbits about the history of the movies — both the mainstream and ultra low-budget ones. It was obviously stuff he’d researched himself.

    Joe Bob is relegated to solitary blogger hell, now, and I don’t watch low-budget horror anymore. But I have a very warm place in my heart for him. (His blog has, under his real name, John Bloom, some wonderful liberal writing about things like Amtrak and repugnance at our treatment of Muslims after the New York attacks, but he hasn’t written those John Bloom articles in a decade.)

    He has two books of straight-up academic-style research on historic off-kilter films, one called "Profoundly Disturbing" and the other "Profoundly Erotic." The movies he selects to write long, long essays on are things like "I Am Curious Yellow" and "Ilsa: She-Wolf Of The SS" as well as more mainstream fare like Inge’s "Picnic." "Disturbing" has an absolutely brilliant chapter on "Reservoir Dogs"; in it, Briggs anticipates basically every positive and negative thing said about QT since. I’d quote from it but the person who borrowed my copy still has it!

    If your library has it (or if California has an inter-library loan system which does), I’d strongly suggest "Disturbing" just for that "Reservoir Dogs" essay. It’s a frank assessment of a director who loves trash films by a writer who loves trash films, and who might be the only coherent person on Earth to have seen every movie QT’s ever ripped off/homaged.

    JMF says "Check it out." (Joe Bob’s signature endline.)

  2. admin

    @JMF – You confused me for a bit. Yes: Joe Don Baker is an asshole. Joe Bob Briggs is a genius. I have a great fondness for him. Also: he seems to be one of the only people in the world who agree with me that the remake of [i]Night of the Living Dead[/i] is a great film.

    I, of course, have the MST3K ACEG. I am sad that it came out the season it did so there is no Joel and no Frank. And it barely has any Trace! In particular, I think that Frank has a great love for low budget films. He was the guy who did all of the initial screenings.

    There are broadly two kinds of people who are into low budget films. There are no nothings who like to laugh at the low production quality. And there are the rest of us who appreciate all the supreme weirdness of these movies. Sadly, the Golden Turkey guys are in the former category. (Is it any surprise that one of them went on to become a big conservative pundit?)

    Are you in Portland? They have one of the best video stores in the world–especially for strange movies: Movie Madness. God I miss that store! I just checked: of course they have [i]Death Bed[/i]!

    As for [i]The Final Sacrifice[/i], I’m not sure they thought ill of it. On the disc, it comes with an interview with Bruce J. Mitchell, the guy who played Zap Rowsdower. And I think he is much of what makes the movie. He is a natural on screen; it’s too bad that he never got a chance to do more on screen.

    I think you’re being too hard on Peter Jackson. [i]Dead Alive[/i] is a great film, of course. But I thought that his [i]King Kong[/i] was wonderful. I haven’t been able to get more than 10 minutes into [i]Fellowship[/i], but I think that’s Tolkien’s fault. I always found the books pretty boring.

    I will see about JBB. I have one of his books. But the library doesn’t have the more serious ones.

  3. JMF

    Sorry for the confusion. My mind is going; I can feel it. I can feel it, landlord. Stop. Will you stop, landlord? "Daisy . . ."

    A pure joy to know you also appreciate JBB. His other books are amusing; the "Profoundly" ones are quite different.

    Jackson’s "LOTR" movies are probably inaccessible to outsiders of fantasy fiction. Nor would I recommend fantasy to anyone who doesn’t like it. I’m not a huge fan; I loved Tolkein as a child and have been introduced to some decent fantasy lately. Very little of it stays with me after reading it, except Paolo Bacigalupi (whom the person suggesting fantasy titles to me cannot stand; "he’s too political and dark.")

    Whether or not fantasy is of any worth, I think of the old Gore Vidal essay on the Oz books. Vidal made the point that fantasy, as opposed to sci-fi, imagined different worlds, not just technologically advanced versions of our world. To Vidal’s mind, different worlds meant thinking about what was terribly wrong with our world, and that’s one of the reasons he loved Baum.Tolkein has a well-known (and almost impenetrably ponderous) essay about fairy lore, which has a coda I found terrific. Escapism, Tolkein wrote, has two forms. There is the escape of the deserter from his mates at the front. There is also the escapism of a prisoner from a jail. Tolkein’s fantasy was that of someone feeling himself a prisoner in the modern world. It is tiresome and simplistic; it’s also morally sane.

    And, by-the-by, I just found your reaction to Vidal’s death. I felt much the same way; I loved the guy; his death hit me in the gut. It shouldn’t have; as a writer on TruthDig commented, Vidal had the kind of life people ask Santa for. And his dotage writings were not up to the quality of his prime. But I knew I’d miss him, just the same. There’s no replacement of a rich kid who decided to scorn his class, and yet exuded happiness doing so. Even in the end, he wrote about his longtime companion’s death with such cool clarity that it broke your heart. He never claimed to be omniscient, he admitted mistakes, and he was always trending towards the side of the screwed. What an utter stud. I’m so sorry he’s gone.

    Too bad there’s no library loan program in Cali. Here in Minnesota I can get any book from any library in the state (and some from western Wisconsin!) This obviously costs money, and is why I’m not religious about returning my stuff on time. If I need an extra day, I need it, and I regard the late fees as unbelievably lower than the value my library gives me.

  4. admin

    @JMF – You are right that I’m not a big fantasy fan, but that’s not what’s going on with Tolkien. [i]The Hobbit[/i] was fine. The rings trilogy was just too serious. And he uses way too many words to tell a fairly simple story.

    I’ve read some of the Oz books. They are charming.

    I do get books from other libraries. It just takes a little more effort. Here in Sonoma Country, we have an excellent if under-funded system. I will see about it. I checked JBB’s Twitter account. His last tweet, "Why do non-Catholics care who the new pope is? I don’t care who the next head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves is."

  5. JMF

    Good to hear JBB is funny as ever; that’s terrific.

    I basically read tidbits of fantasy/sci-fi to have something to talk about with a brother of mine who’s into that stuff (not the Bain one.) It’s better than it used to be; it’s not all orcs and wizards anymore. Still, the only one I’ve come across who strikes me as memorable is Bacigalupi; his "The Windup Girl," a vision of the ecologically-devastated future, was so grim my brother couldn’t handle it; he said he gave up after a few pages. And whenever something I liked is immediately hated by someone I suggest it to, that’s usually a good sign it’s not bad stuff.

    I won’t strictly recommend Bacigalupi; but fantasy-loving insurance analysts who think climate change is poofoonery despise him. I also like typing "Bacigalupi." As I suspect Mr. Bacigalupi does.

  6. admin

    @JMF – I can see fantasy going in interesting directions. The truth is that modern fiction is so varied and genres are largely meaningless. When someone [i]is[/i] staying true to a genre, it is usually in a postmodern sense. My current project pretends to be a mystery, but really isn’t. But it gives the writer and reader something to hold onto.

    I started reading the novel [i]John Dies at the End[/i]. It is really good. And it is hard to define. Something like David Foster Wallace. I find that kind of work aggravating as a writer, because it seems so easy but is in fact almost impossible to write.

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