The Spook Who Sat by the Door

“You really wanna mess with Whitey? I can show you how.”

Actor-turned-director Ivan Dixon’s Spook harnesses racial frustrations into a biting heist-thriller — couched in the newly-fashionable cinematic language of Blaxploitation. In a politically-motivated attempt at “integration” (what can be read as not-so-subtle “tokenism”), Spook’s subjugator Dan Freeman is one of several dozen African American recruits hauled in by the hyper-white brass at the CIA for instruction in espionage. Newly armed with training in explosives, ballistics, conversion tactics, and jiu-jitsu, Freeman transposes his knowledge to an eager community of Black Freedom Fighters on Chicago’s South Side — to the chagrin of his former employer.

It can be assumed that, in real life as in the film, the U.S. government does not appreciate being made for a fool, which is why the FBI evoked COINTELPRO strategy and systematically seized and destroyed every print they could find… except one. In an incredible stroke of foresight and artistic rebellion, Dixon archived the original negative under an alternate title, the only reason we’re able to experience Spook today.

Dir. Ivan Dixon, 1973, 35mm, 102 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!