LOS ANGELES—David F. Friedman, the legendary "godfather of B-movie gore," who pioneered the splatter film genre with the release of Blood Feast in 1963, and was also a successful producer of adult films and ardent supporter of free speech rights, passed away Monday of heart failure at a nursing home in Anniston, Ala., according to the Los Angeles Times.
Friedman, an American original in many ways, was a carnival barker before his foray into the movies, where he started out making a non-explicit "sexploitation" series of films in the early 1960's called "nudie cuties," in which he honed the art of teasing the viewer from one film to the next. When that craze died down, he moved on to low-budget horror—with his partner, director Herschell Gordon Lewis—where he made his mark with the release of Blood Feast.
His closeness with co-sexploitation icon Russ Meyer extended back to the 1940's, and was well remembered by Elliott James, editor at the Score Group, who told AVN this morning that Friedman was "good friends with Russ Meyer, [and] knew everyone in the biz. He really was the real 'most interesting man in the world.' His ex-partner Herschell lives not far from me in Fort Lauderdale."
In 2004, upon the death of Meyer, Friedman told AVN of his longtime friend and film buff colleague, "Russ was the best of us all,” said the pioneering sexploitation film producer who served with Meyer in the Army Signal Corps in World War II. “He fought the great fight, from Normandy Beach to Charles Keating [anti-porn zealot], and he won ‘em all. I’ll miss him. He was my friend and fellow Signalman.”
With an IMDB resume that extends back into the 1950's, Friedman's last credit on the site is for 2010's comedy-horror groaner 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, which he executive produced; in 2009, he exec produced another flick in the same genre, Crustacean. In addition to his noted films, such as Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S.—which, though "garbage," according to Friedman himself, were brilliantly marketed money-makers—he also made some well-received adult films, including Blonde Heat, which starred the legendary adult stars Seka and John Leslie, and was released by VCA in 1986.
An AVN review of the movie, which was directed by Tim McDonald and featured Friedman in the cast, was extremely complimentary of the effort.
"Director Tim McDonald has taken his own screenplay and turned it into a serious adult presentation which can already be considered a contender for the 1986 AVNA best picture honors," wrote Steve Pone. "Blonde Heat: The Case of the Maltese Dildo is an entertaining, erotic, funny and superbly made Bogart-style detective movie that exemplifies all the qualities lacking in a majority of today's releases."
In addition to his contributions as a producer and energetic promoter of classic exploitation and adult cinema during its heyday, Friedman was also a vigorous defender of free speech rights, serving for several years as chairman of the board of the Adult Film Assn. of America, the progenitor of today's trade association for the adult entertainment industry, the Free Speech Coalition.
Friedman wrote a memoir, published in 1990, titled A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King, which is available on Amazon.
According to the Times, "In 1988, [Friedman] moved to Anniston to be near his wife's family. She died in 2001. He is survived by nieces and nephews."
For more information about Friedman, grindhousedatabase.com has a cool entry about his life and work.
Photo: Poster for Scum of the Earth, (1963)