The Forgotten returns, finally tearing itself away from Italy, to focus on Ivan Dixon’s rather remarkable piece of radical filmmaking, THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR. Here.

10 Responses to “Spooked”

  1. John Warthen Says:

    Ivan Dixon’s signature acting role was as lead in NOTHING BUT A MAN (64 Roemer), a film Criterion needs to canonize– an honest depiction of everyday racial abuse is also unusually sensitive regarding its male-female relations. A mother-lode of talent– Abby Lincoln, Yaphet Kotto, and especially Gloria Foster– fills out the cast.

  2. Great Forgotten article. You mentioned all the performances are good, and I remember an article you wrote during supernatural blaxploitation week mentioning that underrepresented groups tend to give it their all in performances regardless of the cultural cache of the film.

    “Most straightforward blaxploitation movies are elevated by their soul tunes, romanticizing tales of crime and violence, but Hancock’s sinister, reverberant crime jazz (he’d go on to score Death Wish) shoves this movie down in the gutter where it belongs.” – This reminded me of Gary Giddin’s writing on PASSING THROUGH (1977), on of the LA rebellion films. It also seems to filter a typical blaxploitation jazz/crime story through a layer of stlyization (I think Giddins’ described it as Lynchian), grit and even melancholy and complexity (Giddins mentions a murder as having a salubrious effect on the protagonists art). It sounds intriguing – have you seen it?

  3. “The Spook Who Sat By The Door” isn’t “Forgotten” by African-American film critics and moviegoers at all. Along with “Ganja and Hess” it’s one of the brightest lights of the “Blacksploitation” era and is clearly a touchstone for Spike Lee’s latest.

  4. Grant Skene Says:

    My wife was watching a season 4 episode of “The Waltons” called “The Fighter” (1975). It was about a black preacher (Cleavon Little!) who boxes to raise money to build a church. It was all the usual heartwarming stuff, but I was surprised at how effectively the boxing scene was filmed and edited, featuring lots of angles, and cuts that truly had an impact (pun intendede). The boxing also looked believable, not just a relentless slugfest (Rocky… ). I was so impressed, I had to see who the director was. Of course, it was Ivan Dixon. How he filmed that under the constraints of a weekly TV show leaves me speechless with admiration.

  5. I always interpret “forgotten” loosely, David E, in order to facilitate a constant stream of interesting movies!

    Thanks for the further recommendations, all! Nothing But a Man and Passing Through sound fascinating, and Cry the Beloved Country has also been added to my list via Facebook suggestions.

  6. chris schneider Says:

    One additional famous name you don’t mention, a name connected to THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, is Paula Kelly — the third performer of “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” in the Fosse SWEET CHARITY. She was also in TROUBLE MAN and SOYLENT GREEN. The last two films were released the same year, 1973, as SPOOK. I take it that her character in SPOOK, “Dahomey Queen” (!), didn’t have much to do?

  7. Not a huge amount, mainly two scenes. And she plays a hooker. Her character has no name, but the protag compares her to a painting he’s seen of a Dahomey queen in Africa.

  8. chris schneider Says:

    Ah. I was going by the IMDb listing. My chief knowledge of SPOOK, which I haven’t seen, was as the first place I noticed Kelly’s name apart from SWEET CHARITY.

  9. Am surprised you’ve never caught NOTHING BUT A MAN – it sits at a really interesting juncture in the influence of neorealism on American Independent film. It’s also a great example of “do your research” – the director and cinematographer spent months in the south before writing the script, and the movie doesn’t feel at all like a tourist’s view of someone else social problem.

  10. Terrific. It’s been on my radar for an age — at least since Abbey Lincoln died, which I now notice was eight years ago. I am pretty slow.

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