The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

The Spook Who Sat by the Door




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Sam Greenlee's cult favorite novel of political unrest was brought to the screen in this drama, which also earned a small but loyal following. A congressman hoping to attract African-American voters during an election year decides to make political hay by pointing out that the Central Intelligence Agency has no black agents. Bowing to subsequent public pressure, the CIA admits a number of black applicants to their training program, but they purposefully make the process difficult and unpleasant enough to winnow out nearly all the African-American students. Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook), a strong, intelligent but soft-spoken man, somehow makes it through the gauntlet to become the black CIA agent; however, rather than being given important field assignments, Freeman is put in charge of the agency's copying machines and gives tours of their facilities to give the offices a progressive front for visitors. After a few years, Freeman leaves the agency to move back to his hometown of Chicago and do work with the least that's what he tells his superiors. In fact, Freeman has used his time at the CIA collecting information on how to launch a political revolution, and not long after he arrives in the Windy City, he begins recruiting an army of leftist radicals and black nationalists fed up with the system. With their help, Freeman launches the first stage of an armed revolt with the stated goal of bringing the white-dominated power structure to its knees. The Spook Who Sat by the Door was a rare feature directorial assignment for Ivan Dixon, best known as an actor (he played Sgt. "Kinch" Kinchloe on Hogan's Heroes), Dixon has an extensive resume of directorial credits, but primarily in episodic television. Spook is his second theatrical release.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Sam Greenlee, Melvin Clay
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 27, 2004
United Artists


Lawrence Cook
as Dan Freeman
Paula Kelly
as Dahomey Queen
Elaine Aiken
as Mrs. Hennington
Don Blakely
as Stud Davis
Paul Butler
as Do-Daddy Dean
Larry Cook
as Dan Freeman
David Lemieux
as Pretty Willie
Byron Morrow
as General
Jack Aaron
as Carstairs
Joseph Mascolo
as Senator Hennington
Bob Hill
as Calhoun
Martin Golar
as Perkins
Joe Mascolo
as Senator
Jeff Hamilton
as Policeman
Tom Alderman
as Security Officer
Stephen Ferry II
as Boy Guardsman
Frank Lesley
as Commentator
Audrey Stevenson
as Mrs. Duncan
Sidney Eden
as Inspector
Cora Williams
as Woman #1
Doug Johnson
as Trainee #1
Mark Williams
as Trainee #3
Robert Franklin
as Trainee #5
Jim Heard
as Trainee #7
Lenard Norris
as Trainee #2
Walter Lowe
as Trainee #4
Harold Harris
as Trainee #6
Kenneth Lee Orme
as Trainee #8
Don Greenlee
as Trainee #9
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Critic Reviews for The Spook Who Sat by the Door

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (2)

It is such a mixture of passion, humor, hindsight, prophecy, prejudice and reaction that the fact that it's not a very well-made movie, and is seldom convincing as melodrama, is almost beside the point.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Possibly the most radical of the blaxploitation films of the 70s, this movie was an overnight success when released in 1973, then was abruptly taken out of distribution for reasons still not entirely clear.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Unabashedly bigoted, stridently hateful, it wants to be incendiary and controversial, but only manages thuggish and dull.

Full Review… | April 28, 2009
TV Guide's Movie Guide

So fiery, smart and entertaining that the lack of finesse hardly matters.

Full Review… | December 6, 2005
Film Threat

...a document of social revolt that still bristles with a timely, and timeless, impression of righteousness and intelligence.

Full Review… | November 7, 2005

One of the few uncompromised representations of black armed resistance in the United States.

Full Review… | November 19, 2004

Audience Reviews for The Spook Who Sat by the Door


One of the most radical blaxsplotation films I've ever seen.

Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

I took the message of self determination and exploiting the exploitative system to take skills and knowledge back to ones own community. Inspiring. Using counter terrorism tactics to teach the street gangs guerrilla warfare is just an example of this but it's handled well in the movie. I like that they don't throw in a tacky ending but leave it out there.

The scenes with Dan training in the CIA are confusing at first because you don't quite know where the movie is going and it did seem a little too easy for him to convince a street gang to follow him into urban revolution but that aside the sub plots like the friend who turns him in and the middle class black woman of his being scared by the revolutionary blacks make for a brilliant film.

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

A difficult film, both for someone to make in the 70's, and for a modern audience to swallow, but both Film and Novel take their subject matter seriously. This movie took guts.

The militant uprising themes are portrayed through character development, and by the end you are forced to analyze how far the protagonist has progressed, or deluded himself, depending on your point of view. Thankfully, the movie leaves it up to the viewer. To pigeonhole this film as mere propaganda is a bit harsh, as it tells a story not with ideology or metaphor but a well-rounded protagonist, and you are left free to interpret how the film ends.

Yet, the film itself is nothing but a one-trick pony, and cannot rely on gutsy thematic content alone, and the supporting cast is blatantly two-dimensional, the plot, while unique in its setting, is sub-par when you strip away its thematic overtones. The films greatness is dependent on the arguments and thoughts it provokes once it is over, and not on its cinematic merit alone.

The film is trapped in Schroedinger's box, but is well worth the time to examine for yourself, and see what emerges.

Daniel Hetteix

Super Reviewer

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