R, 1987, 95 minutes, Media Home Entertainment, $79.95.

In 1969, magazine writer David Freeman published a splashy "expose'" in New York magazine called "The Lifestyle of a Pimp." In "Street Smart," Freeman dramatizes the details behind the story, which was a complete fabrication, and fantasizes the fallout after its publication. There wasn't a scandal when the story actually came out; nobody seemed to pay much attention. But in the movie a real-life pimp named Fast Black (Morgan Freeman), who fits the description of the made-up figure that the writer-hero Jonathan (Christopher Reeve) drew in his story, surfaces and turns his life upside down. The film's director, Jerry Schatzberg, takes his naive, Harvard-educated hero, who sees himself as privileged, exempt from any real danger -- a kind of American princeling -- and rubs his nose in the black man's edgy world. As Fast Black, Morgan Freeman is danger incarnate, an unsheathed blade. His performance here is a great one -- he seems silky, but there's broken glass underneath. If the rest of the movie had been up to his level it would have been too intense to sit through. But the movie is really an act of self-glorification for Freeman; he atones for his journalistic sins by romanticizing them. And himself. Because he can't resist turning Jonathan into a hero, Freeman robs his character of any credibility, and he cheats the audiences out of a believable ending, too. Still, whenever Morgan Freeman is on the screen your blood runs cold.