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THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR should never be referred to as blaxploitation; the film is actually true black cinema. Based on the controversial and best selling novel of the same name, written by Sam Greenlee. A somewhat outlandish and over the top revolutionist story of one brother's rise from token CIA copy room boy, to leader of a well trained ghetto guerilla army set to bring white America to a grinding halt.

The one super soul brother is Dan Freeman, college graduate, smart guy, and a man who takes advantage of a political ploy; one to "integrate" the CIA, inacted mainly to capture votes. Dan signs up, as do quite a few other African-American men. The plan is fairly simple; keep the blacks from making it into the CIA. The white CIA officers, stage the training as too rough, the written exams slightly to difficult for almost everyone who goes through the course. Everyone but Dan. When one of Dan's black classmates calls Dan an Uncle Tom for playing the game too well, not slacking so the curve they are grading on is less skewed, Dan simply explains, he's no Tom, he's just not trying to have it both ways, he also adds, "You don't want me to step outside, cuz I'd kick your ass!" This Dan is disciplined at CIA camp, but a man has his needs and when he is allowed to venture out, he likes to sample the local skin trade, never mind the fact he has a hot little honey back in Chicago awaiting his return. Dan, he's a man, for goodness sakes.

Dan ultimately is the only African-American to be inducted into the CIA; he is swiftly given the duty of Top Secret Reproduction Chief. That's right he is over seeing that big Xerox down in the basement, but Dan just wants to make good at his new job. When one day he is selected to tour some Senators around the CIA, his bosses decide it might be good PR to have a token black on the staff, who can sit out front as proof of the CIA's new integration. Well Dan, obliges, for 5 years, overhearing Top Secret meetings and studying guerilla warfare tactics. Dan finally retires from government work, deciding to "give something back" to his community he tells his bosses. Dan returns to the ghettos of his past. His girlfriend, already betrothed, has wed a doctor.

Dan meets his old college pal, Dawson, who's now a straight-laced cop, a good guy, honest, fair and a brother. Dan wants to get involved with the community, due to the current welfare state, social workers are highly sought after and Dan takes a high paying social work position (my how times have changed). It's not long before we find out what Dan's real motives for coming home are to recruit young men, before they wind up in jail or are killed on the streets, into his elite force of freedom fighting soul men. And recruit he does, he tells the young brothers how to survive of the land, trains them in the ways of CIA secrets, and changes them from ghetto petty criminals to ghetto-trained terrorists. His goal is to make whitey choose between policing the whole world or keeping blacks down, Dan's thinking, whitey can only do one of those two things effectively and if they want to police the world they need the support of the country's blacks. This is prime Vietnam era stuff, remember Vietnam was a police action not a war, that's what the government wanted folks to believe.

Dan is also covert, his troupes are a loyal legion, it's business as usual as Dan continues his Social work, he continues his friendship with his police officer colleague, never espousing his radical views. Dan carries himself like the suave, disco godfathers of the era, but rarely uses the word "nigga " 'cept when describing how whites feel about blacks. Dan's views are not rooted in hatred, which is something that Greenlee's book was adamant about, his struggle is about Freedom, Freedom from oppression and Equality, Equality for every one, not just the chosen few…this is not the usual 'sploitation bullshit. This movie, although limited in budget, had a higher calling, to preach some more noble notions than just "Kill Whitey." One standout moment of dramatic, all out, sentimentality is when Dan explains to one of the followers, that getting his education is very important. Dan describes rushing home as a child to read Dick and Jane with his Grandmother and part of the way through the book he realized his grandmother couldn't read, so from then one he rushed home every day to her even harder and eventually she learned to read because of him. "An education is something a white man cannot take away from you." He tells the high-yellow follower. I mention this because the character, the light skinned black man also recognizes the racism amongst blacks, he has repeatedly been called less-black by blacks but still called "nigger" and held back by white folks, claiming "I'll probably die with a bullet in the back my head because I'm black!"

When a riot takes place in the ghetto, things begin to escalate causing the National Guard to be stationed within the streets, of course the government doesn't have the good sense to send in any brothers only whites and Dan's good friend at the police department knows all hell is going to bust loose, especially after a 14 year old black girl is gunned down.

The boys set their plan in motion and…well, I can't tell you anything else because the film takes on another personality here. One standout moment is when the head of the Guard is black faced and given LSD on sent out on a 20-inch Buzz Bike. This moment is visually out there, as is the actions of the guerrilla warriors.

THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR is not dry although it might sound like the serious tone and message of the film would make it that way. There are honest moments of humor, when the aging CIA head refers to blacks being tremendous athletes and the hooker, while being interrogated about sexual Dan's habits alludes to his prowess. This film is black without a doubt, there are a few anti-white references as well, honky and cracker and there are no decent white characters in this film whatsoever, we are all portrayed as bad. Ivan Dixon, who directed the film has a nice sense of when to back away from being too preachy, Dixon you'll remember as Kinchloe from Hogan's Heroes, that's right the one black guy. SPOOK is the only theatrically release Dixon directed, instead opting for a long career doing such notable TV shit pieces and Starsky and Hutch, Wonder Woman, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Get Christie Love amongst many others. Dixon also had one legit blaxploitation film under his belt, TROUBLE MAN, a film whose soundtrack is every bit as good as Bob Hook's Mr. T. I'll let you figure out what that means.

Larry Cook is Dan Freeman, Cook's looks are very conservative, not like the typical pimp-tacular clothes of early 70s black schlock, he occasionally relaxes in a nice Dashiki or a touch of plaid but his rather benign, almost unnoticeable look plays to his character perfectly. Cook was also in TROUBLEMAN and did a short stint on my Mamaw's favorite soap opera, DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Cook's acting is strong, emotionally he runs the gamut form nice, Stepandfetchit token black to angry black male and he does both characterizations very effectively.

Other mentionables are Don Blakely, is a very recognizable face as Stud Davis. Don has been in small roles from SHAFT'S BIG SCORE to PULP FICTION. J.A. Preston as Dawson, Dan's police officer friend, J.A. was the judge in A FEW GOOD MEN. Dans's prostitute Dahomey Queen, is handled by stalwart Blactress, Paula Kelly, Kelly definitely had the best career of anyone involved with SPOOK going on to TV and movies A varied as SOYLET GREEN, PETER PAN and NIGHT COURT (she was Liz the attorney for the first season). The phat, funktagious soundtrack is pplied liberally by none other than Jazz/Funk Maestro Herbie Hancock. You know the "Rockit" guy...

Because of the recent interest in the film, many assume this is just another typical SHAFT or DOLEMITE movie, mainly because of the term "Spook" in the title, which we all know can be used as a slur, it's actually a slang term for a CIA agent, spook or spy. Fuck that tongue in cheek black bad ass shit for a moment and watch an actual black film, you'll get enough dated references to niggas, pimps, hos and shit to satisfy you 'sploitatioon fans. But you'll also get a little better understanding of the plight of the inner city circa 1973. Did I mention a guy in black face? You get that too. Fight the Power. Shiiiiiiiiitt.
Prof. Tread

Dan in his post-killed my best friend mood,

Spooky snipers on the streets of Chicago.

Dawson is Dan's old buddy from college, he's also a pig.

Dan slams the man.

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What a title, can't imagine one like that these days.

Chris Wayne
Spook training, spy training dammit, not Black training.

THe Brass discuss the athletic prowess of the coloreds.

A spook trainee and a parachute, I just thought it was funny, okay?

Explosives training...

Judo training...

Dan Freeman bid a fine farewell (and ultimately a fine fuck you) to the CIA.

Dan's occasional ho, the Queen....Paula Kelly.

Dan on the streets recuriting young brothers.

He doesn't discriminate, all borthers, even the light skinned ones.

A National Guard commander gets Samboized.

Shortening, Shortening, Mama's little baby loves Shortening Bread.

A little LSD never hurt nobody, right. The boys dose p the commander.

THe commander takes a little ride on his "buzz" bike.

Then he takes one to the chest.

Uncle Tom takes over the Soul Station to unite the forces.

Chicago on fire, the war is on!
Brains On Film 2003