Biography

Producer, screenwriter, and unrepentant carny David F. Friedman spent the bulk of the 20th century making and distributing exploitation films, working with some of the most notorious figures in the business and eventually adding his own name to that list. Born and raised in Alabama, Friedman became interested in showbiz at an early age. As a youth, he spent time in movie theaters owned by his uncle, and he worked with traveling carnivals during the summers while attending Cornell University. After a stint in the army, Friedman was hired by Paramount Pictures, where he worked in the distribution and publicity departments. He went independent in 1956 and hooked up with legendary road-show entrepreneur Kroger Babb, learning invaluable promotional scams from the veteran producer and eventually becoming a partner in his company, Modern Film Distributors. In the early '60s, Friedman made a series of films with director Herschell Gordon Lewis, starting with a number of fairly typical low-budget, nudist-colony features. While brainstorming a way to stay a step ahead of their competitors, the pair decided to switch to horror, and created what most regard as the very first "gore" films; Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red were crudely fashioned, but focused attention on graphic, bloody violence that films of the past had only hinted at. They were extremely successful, for better or for worse, helped ensure that future horror movies left far less to the imagination. Friedman next turned his attention to the adult film industry, following the zeitgeist of the times with stark, bad-tempered pictures that mixed nudity and simulated sex with brutality, also known as "roughies." As on-screen restrictions loosened in the early '70s, Friedman's films generally went easier on the violence and amplified the sexuality, leading to a string of bawdy softcore sex farces (Trader Hornee, The Erotic Adventures of Zorro, and Thar She Blows, among many others). Friedman was never interested in following the path of permissiveness all the way to hardcore pornography, so as triple-X films proliferated and the drive-in theaters that showed his pictures began closing, he decided to bow out of the business. Though retired, he held on to the rights to his films (which found a whole new audience on videotape) and kept his hand in the traveling carnival business. Friedman wrote a popular memoir entitled A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King and subsequently became known as the grand old man of exploitation cinema, in demand for documentaries and fan conventions for his colorful anecdotes and encyclopedic knowledge of low-budget film history. ~ Fred Beldin, Rovi