A Youth in Babylon
By David F. Friedman
Published by Prometheus Books, 1990. 355 pages.
In the world of exploitation movies, David F. Friedman is right up there at the top. When it comes to selling whatever to the market, Friedman was a god. He grew up in that carnie-like industry, learning from some of the best, like Kroger Babb, on how to market and sell movies, even if they were just terrible. The exploits of Friedman, and some of the other “Forty Thieves” are just priceless and are such a treat to be captured and put down in this book.
Friedman recalls how he got started in the film business, starting at the bottom and working his way up, only to sidestep the big leagues to be more independent. That is where he made his mark, and his name. This book is filled with story after story on different adventures he has gone through in his amazing life. His tales of working with the likes of Babb, Esper, and other road showmen is just a hoot. While some of these guys were basically con men or grifters, it doesn’t mean their stories are any less entertaining.
Of course, Friedman is also one half of the team that invented the first gore film, Blood Feast, alongside Herschell Gordon Lewis. At the time of this writing, Friedman and Lewis had long since parted ways and had not reconnected. But we all know that was resolved and they had become friends again and even working together before their deaths. Unfortunately, it would have been nice to hear more stories of the early days of the gore films in this book, but that is the only small criticism I could give this book. It really is a page turner, with so many laugh-out-loud tales, which had me thinking many times “I can’t believe the guy got away with that!”, such as the time S.S. Millard “stole” a theater in San Francisco for the weekend. Too damn funny.
If you are a fan of Friedman’s work, then this book is a must, if you don’t already have a copy. Or if you are just a fan of exploitation films and that whole drive-in era market, then once again, you will love this book. What Friedman and his ilk did, really made the industry what it was, for better or for worse. But either way, I’m thrilled that they did what they did and gave us so many great movie memories.