A large hole was left in the history of exploitation film today. Cult film director and producer David F. Friedman passed away due to heart failure at the age of 87 in Anniston, AL, according to his niece.
Friedman’s career began in the “nudie cuties” but truly catapulted when he and long time collaborator Herschell Gordon Lewis set out to shock the world with what would be known as “The Blood Trilogy”: Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, and Color Me Blood Red. Following a falling out with Lewis, Friedman went on to a career in cinema that earned him the nickname “The Mighty Monarch of Exploitation”.
Embarking on what was the busiest time in his career, Friedman’s name was attached to a multitude of exploitation favorites: The Acid Eaters, She Freak, The Lustful Turk, and The Smell of Honey were but a few of the titles he produced. When the Hayes Code was abolished and the MPAA was born, many of Friedman’s peers went the profitable route of hardcore pornography (though, it was still illegal at the time). Feeling it “wasn’t as much fun”, Friedman continued on in the softcore realm but also kept a foot firmly planted in the grindhouse. In addition to being behind roughies like The Defilers (and the grossly underappreciated Johnny Firecloud), Friedman is also responsible for one of the most notorious grindhouse flicks of all time, Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS. Note: If you’re whipping out your copy of Ilsa looking for the name David F. Friedman, you won’t find it. As the story goes, he too found the material so shocking that he credited himself under the name Herman Traeger-Ed.
As the 70’s rolled into the 80’s David Friedman’s career kept going. He eventually bent on his stance against hardcore and produced some of the era’s better known glamour porns such as Alexandra and Blonde Heat (The Case of The Maltese Dildo). At the same time, Friedman was also running a theater house in L.A. which continued running many of his exploitation greats on a regular basis. He also continued producing independent releases in the Los Angeles area until eventually retiring back to his home state of Alabama.
Retirement didn’t mean that was the last we heard of The Monarch. In 2001, he re-teamed with old comrade H.G. Lewis to produce Blood Feast 2. He also ended up co-producing the Tim Sullivan remake of a Lewis classic entitled 2001 Maniacs. His career rounded out with an executive producer credit on Sullivan’s sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (released in 2010).
David F. Friedman is a cornerstone name in the exploitation world. Without he and Lewis’s “Blood Trilogy” would we have all these fantastically bloody movies we hold so dear today? Knowing how these exploitation guys worked, probably. But it was a marvelous way to get the sub-genre rolling. When Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video contacted Friedman and began repressing his movies, it exposed younger generations to an era of film we will never see replicated. It was an exciting, strange time and Friedman was one of its forebears.
From Kroger Babb to Seka, David F. Friedman’s career involved them all. I look around my own home at various memorabilia, films, etc. and one thing is clear: His influence has longevity and a distinct personality. For exploitation junkies like myself, the passing of such a legend leaves an untouchable hole. Mr. Friedman will be greatly missed. R.I.P., Mighty Monarch…
Tags: Blood, Blood Feast, cinema, Color Me Blood Red, David F. Friedman, exploitation, Grindhouse, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, Independent, Kroger Babb, Seka, She Freak, Two Thousand Maniacs!