The trash kings (and queen) are leaving us rapidly. We have lost Russ Meyer, Lee Frost, Doris Wishman, Radley Metzger and now David F. Friedman. These filmmakers are the sleaziest of the sleazy, the trashiest of the trashy and the most audacious of the….well, audacious. The only living filmmakers that compare to them, both in the content of their films and sheer showmanship, are John Waters and Herschel Gordon Lewis (who doesn’t even make films any more, insert sadface).
The Liberal Dead is a predominantly horror themed website, and while Friedman did contribute to the horror genre – he did produce BLOOD FEAST, after all – his work was primarily in exploitation and, to be even more specific, sexploitation. He, along with Meyer, Wishman and Lewis pioneered the “nudie cutie”, all of those now seemingly innocent films of naked girls playing volleyball and sunbathing which were practically pornography in their time.
Friedman was not content with merely exploiting bare flesh though, and he teamed up with Lee Frost – who would go on to direct THE BLACK GESTAPO and POLICEWOMAN, amongst others – to make what is considered to be the first “roughie”, THE DEFILERS. This film is a flat out nasty piece of work, even by today’s A SERBIAN FILM featured standards. THE DEFILERS also holds the honor of being the film that provoked serious study of exploitation for my academic purposes and is one of the films featured in my thesis paper on masochistic spectatorship of this type of material. Needless to say, I owe a lot to Friedman, and this film in particular.
What Friedman would do after, nobody saw coming. He and Lewis teamed up to make BLOOD FEAST in 1963 after realizing that sexploitation was running out of steam and audiences needed more. Well, they gave them more. A whole fucking bloody lot of it. Anyone reading this site knows what BLOOD FEAST is and where its importance lies. This is the first “gore” film. Yeah, all of those hard-R horror flicks that we complain aren’t released enough now, this guy helped pave the way for those. So, I guess you can partially blame him for the SAW series existing, but he basically allowed people like Tom Savini to have a career so we can forgive him.
Friedman’s last large film contributions were in the form of Nazi films which grew rather popular in the ’70s. He was actually behind two of the more well known nazisploitation films, those being LOVE CAMP 7 and ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS. To summarize, Friedman, in about a decade, went from photographing beautiful women playing nude volleyball, to staging horrific scenes of rape and sexual abuse only to then mutilate bodies in graphic detail for the first time on American movie screens. That was not enough though, he had to up the ante by producing films that exploited the Holocaust. Nothing was off limits for Friedman and that is why he will be missed.
In addition to his films, Friedman wrote one of the best books available about trash cinema, and it is autobiographical too! The book is titled A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King and can be picked up on Amazon for under $20 here. It really is essential reading for anyone with even a marginal interest in exploitation cinema and considering the unfortunate demise of Friedman earlier this week, it is rather timely.