Monday, February 14, 2011

David F. Friedman Has Died

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, David Friedman went into America's cinema underground as a younger man and, by the time he was an older one, had become a legend in the exploitation film trade--as he put it with his typical carny-talker's flair, the Mighty Monarch of Exploitation, both as practitioner and as an historian of the trade. Along with Herschell Gordon Lewis, he invented the gore film. He was the producer of the first Nazisploitation film (LOVE CAMP 7), and later helped give birth to the most infamous denizen of that milieu, ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS (though that's one of the only cinematic feats in which he didn't take much pride). He was full of tales of the previous generations of exploitation filmmaker, many of whom he knew and with whom he worked. Working primarily as a producer but also as a writer, actor, even sound guy, he turned in over 50 movies in his long career, specializing in sex films, where his formula was at least one straight scene, one spanking scene, one lesbian scene. "Something for everyone," as he put it.

Asked, about 25 years ago, what inspired him to make his first movie with Lewis, Friedman said "I owned a drive-in theater in Joliet, Illinois that was playing a lot of junk on the weekend. One day, I said 'Christ, I can make a better picture than that!'" The two made a string of pictures, but really struck gold with drive-in-classics-to-be BLOOD FEAST and 2000 MANIACS.

Friedman was a good, jovial fellow, with a great, bawdy sense of humor (usually present in his films--sometimes omnipresent), and he was absolutely brimming with fantastic lore from his days in the biz, when he'd palled around with many of the founding fathers of exploitation. I'd grown quite fond of his work, courtesy of Image's "Something Weird" discs (his many, many commentaries on those releases were sometimes better than the movies themselves).

He died this morning in Anniston, Alabama, at the age of 87.

The king of sexploitation dropping dead on Valentine's Day seems as if it should inspire a much grander soliloquy than I've managed here. Unfortunately, my life has me pretty down just now, and, my troubles of the romantic variety being compounded by the fact that this, of all days, is my birthday, I don't have a better one to offer than this: I'll miss him.