David F Friedman: Film producer behind the 'nudie cuties', 'roughies' and 'splatter' genres

The self-proclaimed "mighty monarch of the exploitation world" David F Friedman produced more than 50 low-budget films that drew big audiences to US drive-ins and grindhouse cinemas throughout the 1960s and '70s.

Friedman's output ran the gamut of exploitation genres and his films rang the changes in mores and censorship, from "nudie cuties" like The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961), to the hardcore pornography of The Budding of Brie (an X-rated remake of All About Eve, 1980), via the softcore The Erotic Adventures of Zorro ("the first movie rated Z", 1972).

He originated some of the more un-savoury exploitation categories, in particular the "roughies", with Scum of the Earth! (1963), and the womens'-prison and Nazi-exploitation genres, with films such as Love Camp 7 (1969 in the US but refused a video certificate in Britain in 2002), and Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1974). But his most significant contribution to popular culture may have been the "splatter" or "gore" film, with Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965), all directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Dubbed "the blood trilogy" by B-movie aficionados, they created the template for much of what followed when bigger studios moved into horror in the 1970s and '80s, and have been revived on cable and digital channels and reissued on video and DVD over the past two decades.

An old-fashioned huckster who learnt the tricks of the trade with the exploitation-film pioneer Kroger Babb, Friedman also wrote scripts, acted and directed. But his forte was the way he targeted audiences eager for a glimpse of nudity or a vicarious thrill with fast-paced trailers and posters that appeared to drip blood.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1923, Friedman remembered seeing Tod Browning's Freaks when he was nine. "I watched it from the projectionist's booth in my uncle's theatre. That's the film that really left an impression on me." His parents divorced in 1933 and, when his mother remarried, he began spending more time around carnivals. While studying at Cornell University he worked as a poster boy helping to promote movies. After being drafted, he attended the US Army film school and spent most of the Second World War as part of the Signal Corps.

This training stood him in good stead and he worked as a projectionist, booker and publicity agent for Paramount. He always had an eye for a deal and sold some army-surplus searchlights to Babb, who was touring Mom and Dad, his supposedly educational but in fact highly exploitative film and sideshow about the facts of life. He joined Babb and they they set up Modern Film Distributors in Chicago. In 1956, they bought the rights to Summer With Monika, Ingmar Bergman's 1953 film, shortened it, gave it a racier title – Monika: the Story of a Bad Girl – used posters and lobby cards to make nudity the selling-point, and turned a tidy profit.

Friedman moved into the "nudie cuties" after meeting Lewis, a former English professor, who directed The Prime Time – Karen Black's first film – Lucky Pierre, Daughter of the Sun, Nature's Playmates, Boin-n-g – which poked gentle fun at the genre – and Goldilocks and the Three Bares. Friedman and Lewis then left the nudist camps behind in search of other taboos to break. "Herschell said, 'Isn't there something else we can do that hasn't been done?' Out of that conversation came a four-letter word: gore."

Made for $24,500, Blood Feast tells of a knife-wielding Egyptian caterer who serves up the body parts of his victims. Friedman's masterful trailer and poster claimed there had been "nothing so appalling in the annals of horror"; he took a leaf out of the William Castle book of promotion and had "You May Need This When You See Blood Feast" printed on thousands of airline sick bags which were distributed to cinema-goers as they entered theatres and drive-ins. The film turned a $6.5m profit.

The imaginative Two Thousand Maniacs! followed. "I'd seen a play in New York called Brigadoon about a town that came to life every 100 years. We came up with a Southern town from the Confederacy that returned to kill travelling Yankees." It was remade as 2001 Maniacs by Tim Sullivan in 2005 (Friedman had a cameo alongside John Landis, another admirer of his work). After Color Me Blood Red, the tawdry tale of a painter whose palette literally drips with blood, he fell out with Lewis, though they later reconciled and made Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat in 2002.

In the mid-1960s, Friedman produced softcore features like The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill (1966) and The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood: his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches (1969).

Friedman was a charming, witty raconteur whose autobiography A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-film King (1990), is a hoot. "I made some terrible pictures, but I don't make any apologies for anything I've ever done," he said. "Nobody ever asked for their money back."

David Frank Friedman, film producer: born Birmingham, Alabama 24 December 1923; married (died 2001); died Anniston, Alabama 14 February 2011.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments