The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Screening on Film
$12 Special Event Tickets
Directed by Ivan Dixon.
With Lawrence Cook, Paula Kelly, Janet League.
US, 1973, 35mm, color, 102 min.
Print source: University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Beginning with its provocative title, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is perhaps the most powerfully political look at US race relations in the early 1970s to have received a theatrical release. Directed by Ivan Dixon, the film tells a credible tale of a Black CIA agent who rebels against his role as a racial token and uses his training in counterrevolutionary tactics to organize a guerrilla group in Chicago to fight racism. The story proved so controversial that United Artists was content to let The Spook Who Sat by the Door sink out of sight, although it did attract an avid following among scholars and fans of African-American cinema, as did the soundtrack by Herbie Hancock. Hancock’s use of funk and Afrofuturism provide a powerful voice for Black Pride in the film, which has lately been rediscovered to take its place alongside the canon of the 1970s American New Cinema. 

The Spook Who Sat by the Door introduction and post-screening discussion with Haden Guest and Herbie Hancock. ©Harvard Film Archive

Part of program

Read more

Soundtrack by Herbie Hancock

Current and upcoming programs