David F. Friedman
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Revision as of 16:18, 11 June 2016 by Peter
David F. Friedman (December 24, 1923 - February 14, 2011) was an American exploitation filmmaker and film producer from Birmingham, Alabama. He is the owner of Entertainment Ventures, Inc. and was a President of the Adult Film Association of America.
In his early life, Friedman developed an interest in Exploitation films in the early Roadshow era, citing films like High School Girl as being films he saw while working with the Tom Nix Circus, with both experiences building a foundation for what was to become his career with his early experiences with the film industry being part of the Sales department of Paramount Pictures, entering the publicity department in 1952. Although he was offered a promotion with Paramount, he decided to go with his instincts as his Exploitation Film career started in Late 1956 when he joined Modern Film in Chicago, a company formed through joining the the four major Roadshows of The 40's, Bob and Sally, Street Corner, Because of Eve, and Kroger Babb's legendary Mom and Dad, featuring VD reels, "Birth of a Baby" scenes, and the all important book sales hyped by someone acting as a "Imminent Hygiene Commentator" (Many roadshows were careful not to call them Doctors). Babb, who's promotion style was an example of "Selling the sizzle not the steak," clearly was among the inspirations for Friedman's "You gotta tell 'em to sell 'em!" approach to film promotion which was perfect for his effective use of words that hyped the many films he was connected with through the years. Friedman's skills would also be sharpened in his appearances as "Elliot Forbes" for the book pitches in the Mom and Dad roadshow as well as helping Babb out with The Prince of Peace, a Roadshow saved by creating a more professional soundtrack with radio announcers from Atlanta to replace the regional-sounding original.
At Modern, he worked with Babb and Irwin Joseph and developed a strong reputation through his efforts in promotion as the company became one of the leaders of Exploitation in the Late 50's focusing on Roadshow films including She Shoulda' Said No, developing his negotiating skills ("Squaring the Beef") with both the law, especially in cities where they were usually frowned upon by the authorities, and even film companies. One of Modern's more infamous pick ups was that of Ingmar Bergman's Summer With Monika, a film Kroger Babb got from Gaston Hakim and not from the original company, which turned into the Drive In hit Monica, the Story of a Bad Girl that had a new soundtrack and edit that did not please the original film's Production company, Svensk Film, who almost sued Modern as they were going to release the full version with Arthouse legend Janus Films but didn't after Friedman and Svensk had a meeting which resulted in the Exploitation edit being allowed to play. Friedman also had a smaller company called Essenjay, one of the Distributors of the legendary Adam and Eve, the film that was one of the few Roadshows that did not generate a storm of protest, mainly through it's clever mix of quoting the original biblical story and artful Exploitation imagery.
Work with Herschell Gordon Lewis
During his years with Modern, Friedman met up with Chicago-based film Director Herschell Gordon Lewis, at the time a Commercial Director and Industrial film maker who was looking to break into regular films. Lewis' first Production, The Prime Time, was produced by his Mid-Continent Films, and was a lesson on how a film with a dynamic promotion can overcome any weaknesses in the film itself, something learned through the abilities of Joseph and Friedman who went on to hype the film through the Exploitation circuit. After the closing of Modern, and in effect Mid-Continental, and caught in the interest in making Nudie films, made very popular and profitable by Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas, Friedman and Lewis embarked on a small string of films, some made for Chicago theater owner Tom Dowd with others made in Florida for people like theater owner Leroy Griffith and introducing the acting of William Kerwin, all made with Friedman being "Davis Freeman" and Lewis being "Lewis H. Gordon." Friedman's showmanship, business ability, and work as the soundman on these films helped Lewis out immensely as their films played through the Nudie film scene very well: The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, Daughter of the Sun, Living Venus, Nature's Playmates, Boin-n-g!, Goldilocks and The Three Bares, and Bell, Bare, and Beautiful.
The Blood Trilogy
During the making of Bell..., the idea to make a Gore film sprang up in trying to move away from the Nudie film series, sensing a drop of interest that became mainly true for the Cuties but not for the Roughies that were to be more popular later on, with their own Scum of the Earth among the first of them. These were made with a Producer named Stanford S. Kohlberg who, like many others in the Exploitation game, was a theater owner as well as a Distributor, but unlike many other partnerships in the Lewis and Friedman story, this led to some legal problems around the time of the third film and a split up between the film makers. After these films, the most contact either one of them would have with Kohlberg was when Lewis sold off The Psychic which then became Copenhagen's Psychic Lovers in 1973.
Blood Feast, a tale of a caterer who worshiped Ishtar to extremes, was filmed in Miami and released very quickly in July, 1963, and while it did not really start a major trend at first, it shocked plenty of people for it to be a legend. The powerful use of gore, which mainly was a mix of specially prepared stage blood and parts bought from a butcher shop, was enough to make the audiences take notice while the classic promotional gimmick of a barf bag was a great touch to what was an already exploitable product which would later turn out to be a major turning point in Horror. Friedman's selling experience was a major part in the now-classic trailers and ad sheets which caught people's attention.
The next Gore film, 2000 Maniacs, took the concept further with a more involved plot, this time being influenced by Friedman checking out the hit musical Brigadoon and turning it into a Gore flick by switching to location to The South and the light love story into a violent play about the ghosts from The Civil War creating a town of their own and capturing visitors from the North. With a classic theme written by Lewis, "The South's Gonna Rise Again," and plenty of Gore, it was a success.
The final Gore film, Color Me Blood Red, about an artist who wanted to use blood for his paintings, had a troubled production history that led to a story best told by those involved. In short, monies that were supposed to go to Lewis and Friedman did not show up, Friedman left to go to California, and Lewis was on his own by the time he made Moonshine Mountain along with another partner in the Blood Trilogy, Sid Reich, who would help him out in his first Post-Friedman years. Years later, the two film makers continued their friendship and would be involved with Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat.
In Late 1964, with work on Color Me Blood Red still in the plans for a 1965 release, he joined up with the legendary Sonny Amusements in Los Angeles, then led by Dan Sonny, the son of Exploitation pioneer Louis. Friedman helped out on finishing films like My Tale Is Hot so that they could be sharp exploitable items and even struck up a few friendships across the country with other film companies just starting out in the Post-Nudie Adult film world. His most important friendship outside of Sonny Amusements was that of legendary character Bob Cresse, who was then starting up Olympic International Films, who employed a just-as-legendary Director named Lee Frost, with all roads leading to The Defilers in 1965, but another friendship with Jerry Purcell of Crest Distribution was also as important, especially in the formative years of Entertainment Ventures
Sticking to Sexploitation, Friedman was always on top of what was happening, and the move into the Roughie field was easy especially as The Defilers featured the Directing of one of it's best. With a solid reputation, Nudie film makers turned to Friedman and Sonny for solid business deals or at least connections in the scene. Among their greater successes was The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill, a Costume Cutie made by Peter Perry from Box Office International's Kiss Me Quick fame which played for years (A theatre promoting the film can be very briefly seen in Midnight Cowboy), and the Roughie A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine, a film Directed by Byron Mabe who was from the East Coast scene working for Barry Mahon that also had some interest in being an actor (Mahon's The beast the Killed Women had featured him.). Both Notorious Daughter and A Smell of Honey featured the camerawork of Laszlo Kovacs, who was just starting to get noticed in the film world through a classic series of Exploitation films.
A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine, was the final film released by Sonny Amusements in 1966 (and the last featuring a potential star in Stacey Walker), but furthered Friedman's reputation for being a top seller in the Exploitation field. Both Defilers and Smell of Honey featured classic catchphrases that would bring in the audiences, with some the visual style going back to the red and black filled days of the Blood Trilogy. By 1967, the offices on Cordova Street were about to change for Friedman and Sonny's new company, FPS Ventures (Entertainment Ventures would be next). At this time, Sonny and Friedman's productions were made through Esseneff (S&F=Sonny and Friedman)
Around this time, Friedman was also known for helping out some people in the cinema business by moving away from cheap B-Movie programming to more profitable Adult Exploitation, with the success of The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill as a major selling point.
FPS was the Distribution company known for Friedman's productions from 1967 to 1968, including a line of films Directed by Mabe with it's name possibly meaning F=Friedman, P=Purcell, S=Sonny (Purcell's Crest was known to co-distribute The Acid Eaters). Through this time, a move away from the Roughies was noticed in it's change to Color, which was still a move some Exploitation film makers hesitated to make possibly due to cost, and the 1967 released She Freak. a film with a carnival setting which was slightly based on Tod Browning's Freaks, tried to make the company move into more general release films, but despite a classic campaign and standout performances, the film was seen as a box office disappointment and a possible reason to stay with the Skin Flicks they were best known for all with a shot of humor and clever ad campaigns. Director Byron Mabe went on to make a series of Nudie Cuties through 1968 including The Lustful Turk, The Head Mistress, and Brand of Shame before getting fired on the making of Space Thing in the Summer of 1968, all witch were hits on a circuit that was just starting up called the Pussycat Theaters, led by Vince Miranda.
Through 1968, both FPS and Olympic International Films were the friendly competition of 1968, usually checking up on what the other studio was doing just to make sure they were not directly copying one another as well as being in good standing with one another. Bob Cresse of Olympic invited Friedman to appear in some of Olympic's films that year resulted in notable appearances in The Pick Up and the infamous Reichsploitation legend Love Camp 7. The only major argument between the two was when both studios made Western Nudies at the same time, FPS with Brand Of Shame and Olympic with the Roughie Hot Spur, resulting in an argument of who made their film first and who was going to get the Pussycat playdate, with Hot Spur getting the first round with a trailer to Brand of Shame playing after the film, creating more interest and a huge audience (Hot Spur, however, did go on to play well in New York with co-Distribution through Aquarius).
FPS was also known for it's solid work for both in-house services and Exploitation business connections if a film was seen as not suitable for the company. The Brick Dollhouse was a major example of film makers going to the Cordova Street offices in order to get their film finished knowing that Friedman's choice in starlets was appealing and FPS was a very reliable business even if the film lacked in other departments. On the other side, a film made by Don Davis was rejected all together but was directed to the notable Texas distributor Al Sack and renamed Uncle Tomcats House of Kittens, a film that is at the time of writing still considered "lost," but it was enough to get his foot in the Nudie Cutie room for a series of Late 60's-Early 70's Exploitation films (A number of them with Marsha Jordan).
Entertainment Ventures, Inc.
Friedman's best known business, Entertainment Ventures, Inc. was created when the Adult Film world was getting more noticed, and a change from fun low-budget Nudies to more polished films was a noticeable trait in most of it's productions. The noted line up of films included Starlet, based on the studio's history; the comedy Trader Hornee; and the international co-productions The Long Swift Sword of Sigfried, featuring Sybil Danning, and The Erotic Adventures of Zorro, featuring the comedic talents of Bob Cresse. The company was also a help to various film makers including Ferd and Beverly Sebastian (The Runaway), Pete Walker (The Flesh & Blood Show), and a returning Byron Mabe (Love Thy Neighbor and His Wife and The Adult Version of Jekyll and Hyde) as well as Space Thing's Danny Martin, who's The Big Snatch (1971) was one of the company's most "Rough" films, although his followup The Mermaid was rejected and sent to a friend's company and was shortly after that Distributed through Freeway Films.
Entertainment Ventures, Inc. also was a producer of one of the many looks into the growing Adult film industry and it's fights with censorship called Red, White, and Blue, focusing on EVI. By the time of it's release, Friedman was a President of the Adult Film Association of America, a group founded in 1969 who was known to give respected advice to theatres, and was to be for a few years as he gained status among the best known Producers of the day. By 1973, EVI was slowly moving into the general film market with films like Bummer (1973), The Wrestler starring Edward Asner (1974), and most successfully Johnny Firecloud (1975), the later receiving worldwide distribution through 20th Century Fox. During the Early 70's, even in it's first years of Porno Chic, Friedman stayed away from explicit sex films, which were then still a very high legal risk to create and show despite their profitability, stating that they were not as fun to make.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S.
Friedman's film production slowed down for a while through the Mid 70's after making Johnny Firecloud. One of his best known films outside the EVI history was the infamous Reichsploitation legend Ilsa: She Wolf of The S.S., made for Cinepix in Canada and Directed by Don Edmonds, although troubles with the production made him angry enough to take his name off the credits and replaced with "Herman Traeger." Dyanne Thorne's character would be featured in three more released films and an legendary never completed Kung Fu film.
The Porn Years (1978-1985)
Entering the Porno world, usually with notable story-driven films with solid production values, Friedman continued with Entertainment Ventures, Inc. with films like Chuck Vincent's Bad Penny, Shaun Costello's Dracula Exotica (1981), and Henri Pachard's The Budding of Brie (1980), while also Producing EVI titles for VCA Pictures including Seven Into Snowy (1978) and A Chorus Call (1979). After Producing 1983's Alexandrea, Friedman's last writing credit in this era was for 1984's Matinee Idol, Distributed by Coastline Films, who also carried his final Production of the 80's, Blonde Heat. During the Mid 80's, Friedman retired from the film industry while keeping prints of his films and checking up on business while planning a return to the world of the Carnival, although the occasional interview in publications like Film Comment and Re/Search's Incredibly Strange Films would keep interest in his films alive.
Collectors of Trailers on DVD may have seen those for Alexandrea, Blonde Heat, and Matinee Idol on Synapse's 42nd Street Forever: XXXtreme Special Edition.
Revival by Something Weird Video
In 1991, the Seattle company Something Weird Video released their first titles of a collection of EVI films and films related to the Friedman history along with the trailers compilation The Laughing, Leering, Lampooning Lures of David F. Friedman, which was instantly acclaimed for the care put into the presentation of the legendary archival pitches which put together was like a collection of mini movies. Friedman was also helpful to the company in it's connections to people who had films that were seen perfect for them, including the owners of films released by Distribpix (A New York company who unleashed a huge number of films through the Late 60's and Early 70's). A very informative issue of Cult Movies in 1992 focusing on the many releases of Something Weird Video has informative stories of their beginning including an interview with Friedman, as well as the ad for Space Thing which was reported to have been the company's first major seller, much to the surprise of Friedman himself.
When the video company got rights to release DVDs through Image Entertainment, it went immediately on presenting the most popular films of their EVI library (sans The Big Snatch, reportedly rejected by the company for DVD release) with commentaries featuring interviews between Friedman and owner Mike Vraney. The acclaimed tracks are informative and entertaining looks at the Exploitation film world through the ages that cover a wide range of subjects. A line of videos under the name David F. Friedman's Roadshow Rarities collected many of the most legendary titles of Roadshow history, with some of them getting a deluxe DVD treatment with commentaries featuring many historical tales of other Exploitation pioneers and personal memories of being with the show, selling the books, and "Doing good while doing good" (Making a good profit under the guise of education).
During Something Weird video's short lived interest in creating original productions, Friedman served as Associate Producer for John Michael McCarthy's Teenage Tupelo (1995). Friedman also helped out on the liner notes for a series of DVDs surrounding the films presented by K Gordon Murray which only saw one disc see official release.
Cult Cameo Star and Recent Activities
With Friedman's growing celebrity in the film world through The 90's, he was sought after by a few Directors to appear in films. Recently, cult movie fans have caught him in John Michael Mccarthy's Sore Losers (1995) and Anthony Waller's An American Werewolf in Paris (1997). Friedman was a part of the return of Herschell Gordon Lewis when he was the Executive Producer of Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat while he continued his Producing with Tim Sullivan's 2001 Maniacs as Co-Executive Producer.
Friedman also appeared in Documentaries including Sex and Buttered Popcorn (1989), Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001), Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001), and The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray (2009).
The Hitchcock of the Nudies - Notable Cameo Parts in Films
Friedman was known as "The Hitchcock of the Nudies" as he appeared in many of his own productions in small cameo roles. This included being a member of a jury and man who picked up Stacy Walker's character at the end of A Smell of Honey..., a movie Producer in Starlet, actually appearing as himself (Based on the the history of EVI), the Drunk At the Bar in Trader Hornee, a "Talker" in She Freak introducing the attraction at the carnival, a coach driver in Brand of Shame (With trademark cigar), the "Soldier with a snake" in The Erotic Adventures of Zorro, and a Lieutenant in Bummer (Fittingly, in a scene along with Bob Cresse).
The Art of the Trailer
Friedman's history by this time was also made famous through his epic trailers (A trait picked up by Cresse for his films at the same time). These trailers were mainly comprised of sharp writing, excellent catchphrases, and plenty of out takes or different scenes made just for the trailer, all put together in then-epic 6-7 Minute pitches which created much interest in the film, while newspaper ads had some of the classic phrases included. Some of them, including those for The Lustful Turk and The Head Mistress, included "Behind the scenes" footage specifically made for the ads - The most legendary one being a whipping scene for The Lustful Turk on starlet Gee Gentle. In 1991, Something Weird Video put together a collection of these trailers which was instantly acclaimed by Cult Film fans.