7.2/10
1,137
21 user 24 critic

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

A black man plays Uncle Tom in order to gain access to CIA training, then uses that knowledge to plot a new American Revolution.

Director:

Ivan Dixon

Writers:

Sam Greenlee (screenplay), Melvin Clay (screenplay) (as Mel Clay) | 1 more credit »
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lawrence Cook Lawrence Cook ... Dan Freeman
Janet League Janet League ... Joy
Paula Kelly ... Dahomey Queen
J.A. Preston ... Dawson
Paul Butler Paul Butler ... Do-Daddy Dean
Don Blakely ... Stud Davis
David Lemieux ... Pretty Willie
Byron Morrow ... General
Jack Aaron Jack Aaron ... Carstairs
Joseph Mascolo ... Senator Hennington
Elaine Aiken ... Mrs. Hennington
Beverly Gill Beverly Gill ... Willa
Bob Hill Bob Hill ... Calhoun
Martin Golar Martin Golar ... Perkins
Jeff Hamilton Jeff Hamilton ... Policeman
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Storyline

In order to improve his standing with Black voters, a White Senator starts a campaign for the CIA to recruit Black agents. However, all are graded on a curve and doomed to fail, save for a soft-spoken veteran named Dan Freeman. After grueling training in guerrilla warfare, clandestine operations and unarmed combat, he is assigned a meager job as the CIA's token Black employee. After five years of racist and stereotyped treatment by his superiors, he quietly resigns to return to his native Chicago to work for a social services agency...by day. By night, he trains a street gang to be the vanguard in an upcoming race war, using all that the CIA has taught him... Written by Baroque

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Their first mistake was letting him in. Their biggest mistake was letting him out! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | Crime

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included in the 2012 list of motion pictures for the United States Library of Congress Nationl Film Registry. See more »

Quotes

Dan Freeman: You have just played out the American dream... and now, we're gonna turn it into a nightmare.
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Connections

Spoofed in Black Dynamite (2009) See more »

User Reviews

 
Too powerful to be dismissed
17 October 2000 | by BaroqueSee all my reviews

Dan Freeman (played by Lawrence Cook) is a token black CIA operative. Trained in all sorts of espionage, he is relegated to working in the copying department as a "showcase" employee of integration. As the title suggests, he's placed by the door of the office so he's the first person everyone sees. Incensed by his mistreatment (and the racial stereotyping of his superiors), he resigns to his native Chicago as a social services worker.

Secretly, he is training a street gang into a guerrilla army to be the vanguard in a race war, using all of his training by "the man" against "the man".

The details are impressive. Freeman explains how to establish a hierarchy in an underground movement, how to recruit new members, living on the street, and forming new cells. He also details how racial stereotypes can be used to one's advantage, citing how no one ever notices a smiling black man in an office carrying a mop.

The film is a faithful adaptation of Sam Greenlee's controversial novel of the same title, and a haunting look at what MIGHT have (and maybe damned near) happened in the USA during that turbulent period of history. The film was quickly followed by a long line of "blaxploitation" films, often made with little regard for content and style. But "Spook", shot on a small budget, has a powerful message: Never underestimate anyone! Not even "the spook who sat by the door"!

As a motion picture, it does have technical weaknesses, but the drama is well-played, the plot is very tight and the characters are believable. The language, however, is very harsh. A white man (like myself) may find the diatribes against "whitey" shocking, but this film was made during a time of great racial strife, and it echos those times.

Made in 1973, it still packs a punch, and is worth tracking down and buying (Do a web-search! That's how I got my copy!).

A ground-breaking film! (Does anyone but me catch the irony of the main character's name? "Free Man"?)


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 December 1981 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Spook Who Sat by the Door See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$265,706
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Bokari See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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