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The Spook Who Sat By the Door


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Product Details

  • Actors: Lawrence Cook, Janet League, Paula Kelly, J.A. Preston, Paul Butler
  • Directors: Ivan Dixon
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MONARCH HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: January 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00013F2OA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,834 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Spook Who Sat By the Door" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Based on Sam Greenlee's controversial novel, THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR is a hard-hitting shocker that depicts a world in which the long-suppressed black man fights back with a vengeance. Director Ivan Dixon's uncompromising adaptation was relegated to bottom-rung status upon its release, and it subsequently slipped into oblivion for decades until the film was rediscovered and released on DVD in 2004. Lawrence Cook plays Dan Freeman, a head-nodding, smiling African-American who impresses his CIA cohorts with his winning demeanor. What they don't realize is that Freeman's friendly facade is nothing more than a mask for a deep seated hatred of white people. When he returns to his Chicago hometown, Freeman uses his newly acquired knowledge to organize an underground militant movement that revolts against the very army that trained him.

Dixon's matter-of-fact approach to the material makes the film an even more powerful experience. It also manages to transcend the Blaxploitation genre by making a broader statement about the devastating effects of death and war. Featuring an impassioned performance from Cook (COLORS, POSSE), THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR is a frightening, but important, cautionary tale.

Review

One of the most important Black films ever made --Tim Reid (Director of Once Upon A Time...When We Were Colored, Asunder and For Real)

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. --Jonathan Rosenbaum (The Chicago Reader)

Customer Reviews

This is one of those rare books turned movies that really doesnt lose a beat!
daGhettoCEO
This is one of the Greatest movies I have ever seen and I see why some would want to keep a film like this out of the spot light it causes you to think.
Solja Dee
It is beautiful satire of American life for those who would called African American.
MOORAZULU

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 176 people found the following review helpful By STEVEN F. SCHARFF on March 31, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The film itself gets 5 stars from me, but this DVD only 4. It is seriously lacking a commentary track, any subtitles, and is presented in full frame instead of letterbox.

(UPDATE: The disc IS in widescreen, but is optimized for the newer widescreen TV sets, so you'll have to re-set your DVD player's output. Check the owner's manual.)

But beggers can't be choosers, and I've been begging someone, ANYONE, to get a good quality print of this long-suppressed film onto DVD. And this DVD is made from the master negative that has been in a vault for over 30 years!

After watching only pirated VHS copies and badly worn Canadian releases for so long, this film looks and sounds fresh and crisp.

For those uninitiated to this film, or the book it is based upon, here's a quick summary...

A White U.S. Senator, looking to improve his standing among Black voters, sponsors a drive for the CIA to recruit Black agents. However, everyone is graded on a curve, so all are condemned to flunk...save for soft-spoken Dan Freeman. After going through grueling training in self-defence, guerilla warfare and underground operations, he is recruited to be a "reproduction chief" (he runs a photocopier in the sub-basement), and serves the CIA as a token Black employee (the term "spook" used here is both a racial slur, and a slang term for a spy).

After 5 years, he leaves the CIA to work in his native Chicago for a social services agency...by day. By night, he's using his CIA training to teach a street gang to be the vanguard in an upcoming race war...

Understandably, this film raised a lot of fears among Whites when released, and despite box office success, it vanished from distribution after only three weeks.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Michael L. White on June 1, 2006
Format: DVD
Re-released with nary a bang nor a whimper by Tim Reid's New Millennium Studios in early 2004, THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR remains one of the most striking and important films of the 1970s. Based on the novel by Sam Greenlee, SPOOK is the subversive tale of Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook) who's hired into the CIA as a "token Negro" and political tool for a Senator to appeal to black voters.

Freeman does his best to keep his head low and nose clean as he soaks up as much of the CIA's tactics as possible before taking his leave. He heads back to Chicago, adept now at pushing paperwork and, more importantly, making explosives, handling guns, and a wide range of other "covert ops." Freeman maintains his air of respectability via his Social Service job. However, his life outside of work includes organizing and leading an underground guerilla army, recruiting from the gangs with which he works. "You really want to mess with Whitey? I can show you how."

Known on the street as Turk, Freeman's group could give Al-Qaeda a run for their money. Freeman knows the "rules" and "the game" and he plays it expertly. For example, when Freeman needs funds for his domestic terrorism operation, he asks the lightest skinned members to rob a bank, knowing that such a well organized group would be mistaken for white, leading authorities on a wild goose chase. "This took brains and guts, which we don't have, right?"

An incendiary tale of revolution, SPOOK should have lit up the country--had it not been pulled from theaters almost immediately after release. The film is as chilling now in an era where people jump at their shadows for fear of terrorists, as it must have been when it came out originally when cities still smoldered after the riots of the late `60s. Only available for years via grey market dealers in a less-than-pristine video version, the DVD release of THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR has been given the deluxe treatment this must-see film deserves.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ifriqiya on August 14, 2005
Format: DVD
I bought this movie after hearing about it for a decade. Those people who informed me of the movie, had watched bootleg copies of it because it was unavailable in your local Blockbusters. If one studied the Black Nationalist Groups of the 1960's and 1970's, and how the FBI conspired to prevent the rise of the Black Messiah who would lead a Mau Mau revolution in America, and those were the FBI's words from their COINTELPRO files, then you will know why this movie was surpressed. Quite simply, this movie is powerful. It is just as potent today as it was 30 years ago. If one studies the Black Panther Movement and the Black Nationalist Groups of that era, one can see the fear that the government would have if the thesis of this movie were to take hold. The interview with Sam Greenlee, the author, was excellent. He is just as militant today as he was yesterday.

Enjoy it with the love of all things good.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 2002
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
I came across this movie by accident in Berlin, of all places, and to my surprise found an underground classic that has been kept from American audiences for three decades. It is my understanding that the movie was doing well at the box office when released in 1974, and getting strong reviews, and then after two weeks was suddenly pulled out of theaters in 8 cities. It is easy to see why. This film has the power of Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, applied to a story that advocates urban guerrilla warfare as the means for establishing a separatist black nation in the U.S. Strategy and technique are laid out with enough detail to make the idea plausible. The acting is excellent and the story-line gripping. Amazon.com should make this available to its customers.
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