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3:AM Cult Hero: David F. Friedman

The New York Times last week reported the death aged 87 of David F. Friedman, the “film producer who cheerfully and cheesily exploited an audience’s hunger for bare-breasted women and blood-dripping corpses in lucrative low-budget films like “Blood Feast” and “Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S.,”:

Part carnival barker, part adman, part good-natured, dirty-minded adolescent, Mr. Friedman plumbed the low-rent depths of the movie business with a sense of boldness and a sense of fun. In the early 1960s he and a partner, the director Herschell Gordon Lewis, made a handful of films in a genre known as “nudie-cuties,” in which young women would perform ordinary household tasks or cavort in sun-dappled settings half-dressed or entirely undressed.

In 1963, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Lewis made the gleefully gore-soaked “Blood Feast,” considered by many to be a groundbreaking film in the horror genre, the first so-called splatter film. It tells the story of a murderous Egyptian caterer in Miami who is especially fond of decapitating women. To promote the film, Mr. Friedman warned viewers that it might be sickening and supplied theaters with airline vomit bags to distribute to customers. Made for $24,500, the film reportedly earned millions.

Mr. Friedman made films in the soft-porn vein — they had titles like “Trader Hornee” and “The Erotic Adventures of Zorro” — and eventually, while serving as chairman of the Adult Film Association, made a handful of hard-core movies as well. Perhaps his most famous title was “Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S.,” about a sadistic and insatiable female Nazi prison guard, generally considered a campy classic of sexploitation.

“He partied like an animal,” said Mike Vraney, whose company, Something Weird Video, distributed Mr. Friedman’s films. “He ate huge meals, drank and smoked enormous cigars. He lived with gusto.”

More: Dangerous Minds on Video Nasties / Tony O’Neill on Video Nasties / Dennis Cooper on Video Nasties / Sleazoid Express

First posted: Sunday, February 20th, 2011.

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