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 community...at 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.
by Mark Deming synopsis