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 Videos & 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 … 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

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as Dan Freeman

as Dahomey Queen

as Mrs. Hennington

as Stud Davis

as Do-Daddy Dean

as Dawson

as Dan Freeman

as Pretty Willie

as General

as Carstairs

as Senator Hennington

as Calhoun

as Perkins

as Senator

as Policeman

as Security Officer

as Boy Guardsman

as Commentator

as Shorty

as Mrs. Duncan

as Inspector

as Woman #1

as Trainee #1

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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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