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Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.

Director:

Gordon Parks

Writers:

Ernest Tidyman (screenplay), John D.F. Black (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Roundtree ... John Shaft
Moses Gunn ... Bumpy Jonas
Charles Cioffi ... Vic Androzzi
Christopher St. John ... Ben Buford
Gwenn Mitchell Gwenn Mitchell ... Ellie Moore
Lawrence Pressman ... Tom Hannon
Victor Arnold ... Charlie
Sherri Brewer Sherri Brewer ... Marcy
Rex Robbins Rex Robbins ... Rollie
Camille Yarbrough Camille Yarbrough ... Dina Greene
Margaret Warncke Margaret Warncke ... Linda
Joseph Leon Joseph Leon ... Byron Leibowitz
Arnold Johnson Arnold Johnson ... Cul
Dominic Barto Dominic Barto ... Patsy
George Strus George Strus ... Carmen
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Storyline

John Shaft is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy, the leader of the Black crime mob, then against Black nationals, and finally working with both against the White Mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumpy by kidnapping his daughter. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hotter than Bond, Cooler than Bullitt. See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 July 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Les nuits rouges de Harlem See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,125,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$12,121,618, 31 December 1971
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of only three films MGM released in 1971 that made a profit, and it helped save the studio from bankruptcy. See more »

Goofs

When Shaft pushes one of Bumpy's goons into his office, the sound of glass breaking is heard, but the glass window in the office door is clearly undamaged until a short time later. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
John Shaft: [holding up his middle finger to a cab driver who is honking his horn at him] Up yours! Get out the way!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Most UK video versions, including the widescreen Maverick Directors release, feature an edited print of the film which is dubbed to remove strong language. DVD releases are fully uncut. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mary Tyler Moore: Mary's Delinquent (1975) See more »

Soundtracks

Be Yourself
(uncredited)
Composed by Isaac Hayes
Performed by Isaac Hayes
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A historic film, but not a good one
3 April 2004 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

`Shaft' was a ground-breaking film in its day, but its interest for a modern audience is largely historical. For several decades, Hollywood had operated an unofficial colour bar, with black actors being confined to minor roles, often as servants or working-class characters. Things had started to change somewhat in the sixties, with black actors starting to appear alongside whites in major roles. `In the Heat of the Night' is a good example, but even here Sidney Poitier does not carry the film on his own. A white actor, Rod Steiger, is given equal prominence alongside him. Moreover, this is an `issue' movie with a race-relations theme- the sort of film in which one might expect to find a black actor taking a leading role.

`Shaft' takes the process a stage further. Both the star, Richard Roundtree, and most of the supporting cast, are black. White actors are only seen in comparatively minor roles. Although the film is centred upon New York's black community, it is not specifically an `issue' movie about racism in the way that `In the Heat of the Night' is. A black man is seen, for almost the first time, as not only the main focus of the film but also as a strong, confident man of action. The hero John Shaft, a black private detective, triumphs over white villains; there is even a mixed-race love scene between him and a white woman, something which Hollywood would tend to shy away from even today, and which must have seemed particularly shocking in the early seventies.

Unfortunately, when seen as a film rather than as a historical landmark, `Shaft' is not particularly good. The plot, which concerns Shaft's search for a gangster's kidnapped daughter and ends with him tangling with the Mafia, is routine private eye stuff. Richard Roundtree makes a cool, stylish hero, but the rest of the cast are not up to his standard. The direction also struck me as having been poorly handled, particularly the action scenes. The film seems to have been made on a low budget, and it shows. There are similarities to other `tough guy' detective films of the era, such as `The French Connection', `Bullitt' and the `Dirty Harry' series (all of which featured white protagonists) but all of those were much more professionally handled. Many of my criticisms of `Shaft' could, in fact, be made, with even greater force, against the `blaxploitation' genre is general. Nevertheless, those films pointed the way that later black actors were to follow. When we consider that the likes of Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Samuel Jackson have become major stars in all sorts of roles, not merely as action heroes, we realise that a debt is owed to films like `Shaft'. 5/10.


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