Saturday, February 19, 2011

Exploitation Producer David F. Friedman R.I.P.

David F. Friedman, the pioneer of splatter films who produced movies such as Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), passed on February 14, 2011 at the age of 87. The cause was heart failure.

David F. Friedman was born on December 24, 1923 in Birmingham, Alabama. It was after his parents divorced and his mother moved to Anniston that young Mr. Friedman became interested in carnivals and con men. He attended Cornell , sitting next to Kurt Vonnegut, then worked as a film booker and projectionist. Afterwards he enlisted in the United States Army. It was while in the Army that he met movie producer Kroger Babb, whose films were exploitation masquerading as education. He worked as a regional marketing man for Paramount before he began making his own films.

His earliest films were of the "nudie-cutie" variety, films which were either filmed at nudist camps or in which women performed ordinary household tasks naked or nearly so. Although scandalous in the Fifties and early Sixties, these films would be considered mild today, as they contained no sexual content unless one counts nudity itself. It would be with 1963 that producer David F. Friedman and director Herschel Gordon Lewis would make a totally different sort of film. Blood Feast, in which a deranged caterer goes on a murderous rampage. It is considered by many to be the first "splatter film." Messrs. Friedman and Lewis' next film would go even further than Blood Feast. In Two Thousand Maniacs  a small Southern town took revenge at a War Between the States centennial on visiting Yankees, often in the most gruesome means possible. If Blood Feast was the first splatter film, 1964's Two Thousand Maniacs was the first example of torture chic. Colour Me Blood Red, from 1965, centred on an artist who painted in blood.

David F. Friedman would later delve into soft core porn, although he would continue to produce horror movies, such as She Freak (1967) and The Acid Eaters (1968). He produced what may be his best known film besides Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs, and perhaps his most notorious as well. Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. (1975). It was one of the first of the Nazi exploitation films, and one on which Mr. Friedman used the pseudonym Herman Traeger instead of his given name.

David F. Friedman would make fewer films after the Seventies, his exploitation and softcore films out of step with hardcore porn which showed the actual sex act on the screen. In 2002 he would produce a sequel to Blood Feast, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, and in 2005 a remake of Two Thousand Maniacs, 2001 Maniacs. It was followed by a sequel, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, in 2010.

While I personally find David F. Friedman's oeuvre of questionable quality, there can be no doubt that his films had an impact. Before the slasher films of the Eighties, Mr. Friedman had a murderer cutting up women in Blood Feast. And before Wes Craven, Mr. Friedman was delving into torture as a source of horror in Two Thousand Maniacs. For better or worse, David F.Friedman was a pioneer paving the way for the more graphic horror movies of the Seventies and Eighties.

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