19 December 2012

On: Location (Slight Return)

Quite surprised to see this one turn up on this year's list of films to be inducted into the U.S. Library of Congress's National Film Registry. Seeing how the same list includes such titled as Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Matrix, Slacker, The Times of Harvey Milk, and A Christmas Story.

But The Spook Who Sat By The Door was hands-down the most unusual and interesting film to see release in connection with the whole cinematic 'blaxploitation' genre. And I suppose its inclusion in the Registry is notable when take into account the words of Librarian James Billington, when he said of the qualifying criteria: "These films are not selected as the 'best' American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation."

I was recently prompted to think of the film again after coming across some grabs from the thing when I bumped into the site Chicago Screenshots. Which is a little amusing, since the bulk of the film was actually filmed down on the much narrower streets of nearby Gary, Indiana; with Chicago mostly providing a lot establishing shots. But some sequences were filmed in the city proper. Like the one above that's the last of the bunch, which has the figures standing on the CTA River North platform at Chicago Ave & Franklin. Which was my stop when I was freelancing at an educational-publishing production house a few years ago. In the 1980s, the neighborhood became an art-gallery district. Just to the east of the platform would be the edge of the Moody Bible Institute campus, with the city's ritzy "Magnificent Mile" shopping district just beyond that. But to the west, where the characters are looking? Cabrini Green, which was about four blocks away.

And then -- relatedly -- there was this, which was rightfully added to the Registry nine years ago. File both under: Films that were directly about "who we are as a people and as a nation," by way of being (among other things) indirectly about Vietnam, at a time when the topic of Vietnam was regarded as a very vorboten, highly-concentrated toxin by almost everyone in the entertainment industry.

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