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THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR (1973) Directed by Ivan Dixon United Artists Unsettling! Incendiary! Revolutionary! These are just some of the words that have been used to describe Ivan Dixon's 1973, underground classic, The Spook That Sat By The Door . Based off the controversial Sam Greenlee cult novel of the same name, The Spook... details the fctional account of the frst black Central Intelligence offcer, Dan Freeman. The story begins when a senator, desperate to shore up black votes for his re-election campaign, hatches a cynical public relations plan to integrate the C.I.A. After a grueling training process, the government heads are shocked to learn that Dan Freeman has emerged victorious. Dutiful, non-threatening, and loyal to the white establishment, Freeman is seemingly the very picture of upright respectability, a credit to his racea true Uncle Tom. But nothing could be further from the truth. When Freeman, citing personal reasons, departs from the agency and returns home to his native Chicago, all hell breaks loose! A transformed new man, Freeman (or, more aptly put, a Free Man) is revealed as a double agent, a black nationalist who the U.S. Government has now unwittingly equipped with the tools and expertise to lead a ghetto uprising! Mysteriously vanishing from theaters shortly after its initial release, rumors swirled around The Spook's... status. Had it bombed at the box offce? Had the studio, fearing a backlash, proactively removed it? Or, as some had insisted, had the F.B.I. led a suppression campaign to censor the flm's controversial message? To this day not much is certain. For thirty years the flm went largely unseen. Nevertheless, for those fortunate few lucky enough to have experienced the lost flm in theaters the luridness of its images never faded. Passed around from one devotee to another in the form of shabby bootleg copies, the flm fnally received its just due in 2004 when it was made available on DVD to an entire new generation of fans and critics. At frst blush, The Spook..., like its unassuming protagonist Dan Freeman, appears deceptively simple. Broadly speaking, the flm falls into the panoply of movies known as Blaxploitation. As the portmanteau implies, these 300 or so movies were, for better and for worse, comprised of equal parts black and exploitation. These were flms centering on the urban black experience (myth) featuring black anti-heroes such as pimps, drug dealers, gangsters, and vigilantes, hustlin' to make it in The Man's world. Of equal importance were the pictures' now legendary soundtracks which featured the soulful melodies of Issac Hayes, Curtis Mayfeld and James Brown (The Spook's... score was written by none other than Herbie Hancock). For the frst time in Hollywood there were flms being made with predominately black casts and crews and targeted at predominately black audiences. Blaxploitation's popularity proved so great that for a brief moment in time these flms helped to keep many a foundering studio, quite literally, in the black. Yet, while The Spook... can generally be thought of as existing within the confnes of Blaxploitation, the groundbreaking flm went on to stretch and ultimately defy the genre's cliches and limitations.

No less shocking today than it was upon its initial release, true appreciation for The Spook's... radical message and place in cinematic history can perhaps best be understood when paired alongside a more celebrated polemic such as Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 classic depiction of the Algerian War of Independence, The Battle of Algiers. In their separate ways both flms speak to an anti-colonialist moment in world history where oppressed people at home and abroad were vying for their civil rights and independence. It should then come as no surprise that both flms were at one point banned. Nor should it shock us that at their roots both flms take the teachings of controversial Martinique-born, FrenchAlgerian, philosopher, Frantz Fanon as their impetus. Fanon's writings, particularly his seminal, The Wretched of the Earth, served as the intellectual framework on which many of the 20 th Century's global decolonization efforts were built. In Wretched... Fanon would apply Hegel's master-slave dialectic to its logical, antiimperialist, extreme arguing, as both The Battle... and The Spook... do, that the sociological side-effects of Colonialism produce in an oppressed peoples devastating psychological consequencesa mental sickness. More precisely, this colonialist disease was characterized by an inability on the part of both master and slave to see the other as anything more than a mere object. For Fanon the cure for this affiction, though never simple, was singularviolence (armed, psychological, and otherwise). For it was, Fanon thought, the very act of confict that could produce in both master and slave the proper levels of catharsis necessary for each to gain his sense of self-worth and agency. Indeed, it was through struggle that the downtrodden masses could fnally begin to be recognized as humanB.P. Runtime: Rated PG: 102mins. Sexual Content, Violent Images, and Language

SEE ALSO: Nothing But A Man (M. Roemer, 1964) The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1966) Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles, 1971) Shaft (Parks, 1971) Super Fly (G. Parks Jr., 1972) Blacula (Crain, 1972) Black Caesar (L. Cohen 1973) Foxy Brown (J. Hill, 1974) The Education of Sonny Carson (Campus, 1974)

SUPPLEMENTALS: Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth - Lecture by Renisa Mawani Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask (Julien, 1996) Baadasssss Cinema (Julien, 2002)

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