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Shaft was/is/will be the man
gary freeman5 March 2007
I am an old-school man from Motown, and I was at the premiere showing in June of 1971 at the Palms Theatre. The impact and impression that is left in your mind dictates how one feels about anything. Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree, made it's mark on me then, and does now. From the opening scenes in the streets, to the end theme, when John Shaft came through the the time, no Black man exercised such a strength of will and character as he did. the music score of Issac Hayes did/does/will be as timeless as the movie. The storyline was compelling, characters well-developed and colorful, the direction of Gordon Parks set a new standard, and even the fashion and wardrobe made a statement. Can you dig it?
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Can you Dig it?
MisterWhiplash27 June 2000
I can. Because this is not only the greatest black-exploitation film ever, but also one of the best films of the 70's era. Richard Roundtree brings out Ernest Tidyman's John Shaft like no one else can (not even Samuel L. Jackson in the new shaft can compete) as the ultimate bad-a** who must investigate a kidnapping. One of the most memorable films ever made, especially by the Oscar winning song (and nominated score) by Isaac Hayes, which made his breakthrough as his funk thing grew. A+
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Roundtree's performance
winner5515 June 2007
This is not a great film, but it is one of the most important films in American history.

The film suffers primarily because Parks isn't sure whether he wants to direct a 'relevant' black crime drama - for which he doesn't really have the money - or a film of the genre that became infamous as "blaxploitation", which had at that time not yet achieved definition. In other words, Parks is breaking new ground, and he wasn't sure exactly what ground he is breaking. So the film tends to amble, and sometimes even stagger, as it tries to define a goal for itself.

Nonetheless, this is the first film where a strong black man in a truly heroic role - without the props of white liberal social blather, and without being borderline criminal - is portrayed without excuses or apologies. Shaft is truly a hero of his time, part Sam Spade (& no jokes here, please), part James Bond - and all man - intelligent, fast to act, direct and always true to himself - he's nobody's "boy".

Although these qualities are in the script, the communication of the message depends entirely on Richard Roundtree - one of the truly great action actors of Hollywood history - hey, I'm a white boy, and I still want to be this John Shaft! he's that cool. The marginalization of this savvy and witty actor, due to the racism of Hollywood, is a real crime.

Well, for now, never mind; his performance alone carries this film, and makes it a treasure; and no matter how badly Hollywood marginalizes black action cinema, Roundtree's performance will continue to stand tall, for many generations to come.
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There is a good deal of the Bogart characterization in Richard Rountree's portrayal...
Nazi_Fighter_David15 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Shaft is a black private eye in the sleazy, downtown part of Brooklyn, and of all the new gumshoes trying to fill the Marlowe shoes, he probably comes nearest to the type of character devised by Dashiel Hammett in "The Maltese Falcon" and sharpened by Raymond Chandler in "The Big Sleep."

He is the kind of man of whom Chandler wrote: "But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid."

If Shaft is ever afraid, he does not show it… He moves through city streets on foot with the slim grace of a panther… He can hold his own with black man or white…

To the white police detective who looks sardonically at him and comments: 'You ain't so black," Shaft is quick to pick up a white coffee-cup, hold it alongside the cop's face, and reply: "And you ain't so white either baby."

The mood of the film is set in the beginning when Shaft, striding along the pavements, is asked where he is going. "To get laid," he says without pausing… At the end, almost the same situation recurs… He is asked: "Where've you been, man?" and he says: 'I got laid. "

The real point about Shaft, however, is that though the character does happen to be a black man, he could just as easily be white, red or yellow… Yes, some of the dialog would have to be altered if he were turned into a Charlie Chan, but that is not at issue… There is a good deal of the Bogart characterization in Richard Rountree's portrayal, blended with a touch of the Paul Newman's...
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Timely Take On The Standard Private Detective Formula.
ColemanDerrick20 July 2001
It is an innovative effort, and serves as a snapshot of the times. Shaft, written by Ernest Tidyman, stands as one of the best modern detective dramas. Written and filmed at a time of extreme social unrest throughout the U.S.; the movie shows how Jon Shaft uses his private detective status and ethnicity to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of a notorious Harlem kingpin. While the plot pieces of black militants, and a potential race war in New York City, may not be as relevant in 2001 as they were in 1971, the cast and crew do a good job to convey the importance of Shaft's mission. Shaft, indeed, is one cool cat. Not only is he a ladies' man, but he's also a man about town. He knows every iota of New York City, and uses his detective skills to the fullest. Ducking the city police, and handling his business with the crooks, Shaft plays it cool to the very end. Many people like to bundle the blaxploitation pictures into a neat little package; one to laugh at and check out the music score. Shaft proves there was more meaning to these films, and ends up as a classic display of substance with style.
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The movie that kicked in the 1970s blaxploitation and changed the face of Hollywood forever!
Infofreak27 April 2003
Gordon Parks' 'Shaft' may not have been the first blaxploitation movie but it was the most important and commercially successful of the initial batch, and it kicked open the door for other dynamic 1970s screen heroes like The Hammer, Coffy, Black Caesar, Foxy Brown and The Jones' (Black Belt and Cleopatra). In some ways it is one of the most conventional of the blaxploitation genre in the sense that all it really is is a black man (the charismatic Richard Roundtree) playing a part that up until then would have been played by a white one (Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, even Sean Connery). A super cool, hard as nails hero/anti-hero who is as handy with his fists as he is with the ladies. But of course, that is what made 'Shaft' so revolutionary and influential at the time. Personally my favourite blaxploitation movie is 'Superfly', released the following year and directed by Gordon Parks' son, but I can't deny that if you accept 'Shaft' for what it is, and not what it COULD be, it's difficult to fault, and still one of the coolest and most entertaining action thrillers of the 1970s, as good as 'The Getaway', 'Dirty Harry' or 'The French Connection' (the latter being also written incidentally by Ernest Tidyman who created the John Shaft character in a popular series of novels). The main reason 'Shaft' really works is because of the casting of virtual unknown Richard Roundtree, and the music score by soul legend Isaac Hayes. Roundtree probably had more potential than any black star of the period to cross over into major Hollywood stardom, but for some reason (typecasting, bad breaks) he faded away quickly, and ended up playing small character roles, usually cops, in cult favourites like Larry Cohen's 'Q' and William Lustig's 'Maniac Cop', and more recently bit parts in 'Se7en' and John Singleton's ill advised "remake" of 'Shaft' itself. Hayes' title theme is an utter classic, and one of the most recognisable and imitated pieces of music from the early 70s. Hayes had already released the brilliant 'Hot Buttered Soul' before this, but 'Shaft' made him a superstar, and even gave him a career as an action here himself for a while with 'Truck Turner'. I don't think overall Hayes' score for the movie is as consistently impressive as Curtis Mayfield's work on 'Superfly', but the main theme is still a sensational piece of music. Roundtree is backed up with a strong supporting cast, including Moses Gunn ('Rollerball') as Bumpy, a great baddie, Charles Cioffi ('Klute') as Androzzi, the cop who is frequently exasperated with Shaft's behaviour, and Muhammad Ali associate Drew Bundini Brown as Willy, a former childhood friend of Shaft who is now a black panther and disgusted with his decadent lifestyle. Also keep an eye out for a small bit by Antonio Fargas, who is best known as Huggy Bear in 'Starsky And Hutch' and also went on to appear as Pam Grier's brother in 'Foxy Brown', and as Doodlebug in 'Cleopatra Jones'. 'Shaft' is a movie that changed the face of Hollywood forever, and is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys 1970s movies, music or fashions.
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Classic bit of black-ploitation
bob the moo27 May 2002
John Shaft is a private detective in Harlem. He is hired by pimp and drug dealer Bumpy Jonas to find Bumpy's daughter who has been kidnapped by an unknown party. Shaft investigates the local Panther organisation but ultimately finds that an Italian mob is trying to move in on Bumpy's territory. With all parties at conflict Shaft must keep his cool to get the girl back.

Ay the start of a decade filled with cheap movies aimed at getting the black audience a product aimed at them in particular. Many of these were poor but Shaft stood out because it could have been a film in it's own right. The story is a normal detective movie with a black twist and that helps – because it's not forced at all. The story is gritty and tough as befits the setting and the hero.

Shaft is tough but hadn't yet turned into 007 (as he did in Shaft's Big Score), this makes him tough but also keeps him down to earth. Roundtree handles himself sexily and looks great – the film very much revolves around his performance and he holds the attention easily.

The film eventually gets into gun fights and an exciting conclusion but really this is all about mood and funk. And it delivers both.
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Right On!
refinedsugar21 August 2001
Blaxploitation at it's best. A simple story with a twist done right. That is Shaft. The concept of a black man as a cool ultra slick, lady lovin' private detective. For once in the world of cinema the black man was tops and unlike other genre entries this one clicked with people of both colors. They had created a solid character in John Shaft that the population took a shinning to. For once it wasn't something exploitative being sold to a one-sided market audience exclusively.

But look I'm getting sidetracked. Shaft isn't this huge epic struggle of the black man through the generations. It's a solid, satisfying picture that gets by on pure character. Shaft. The black private detective has endlessly been imitated, but never duplicated since. With much of the character's success having to be attributable to Richard Roundtree, a perfect fit for the material. He wasn't so much playing a character named John Shaft, but rather he was John Shaft. Perhaps to the detriment of his career, I still can't watch a movie with Richard Roundtree in it without thinking of Shaft. The plot is on auto pilot - you've seen it before - maybe even done better - but this movie has Shaft and that's all there is to say.
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A Few Good Moments But "Shaft" Is Too Slowly Paced, Runs Out of Gas, and Ends Absurdly
writerasfilmcritic9 September 2007
"Shaft" starts with promise, opening with the popular tune by Isaac Hayes as the camera explores a business district in New York City. For example, we see a theater playing 'Little Fauss and Big Halsey,' a motorcycle cult classic starring Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard, and Lauren Hutton, then Shaft wends his way across a busy boulevard with no regard for the fact that it's strictly "DON'T WALK" time, a feat reminiscent of the arcade game, "Frogger." Soon, we are introduced to the police lieutenant who is so understanding and laid back that Shaft's disdainful attitude toward him as just another cog in the honky establishment seems a bit difficult to comprehend. Actually, Shaft tends to mix with white society rather easily, even taking a white chick home with him and screwing her in the shower, then letting her sleep it off while he goes out for a few hours to take care of business. We've already seen him with his regular girl, who is attractive in her form fitting body suit, their love scene having been photographed imaginatively. His discussion with the black hoodlum whose daughter has been kidnapped is also interesting, as are other conversations, and the initial action in his office, where a thug practically dives out a high window, displays some interesting camera and editing techniques. On balance, however, this movie is too slowly paced for an action flick. With the number of times one might wish to stop and replay certain bits of important dialog, it tends to drag a bit, but I disagree with those who think the talk is too dated or not believable. Generally, it's the best thing about this movie, which isn't half bad, at least up until the ending, which is completely ridiculous. Midway through the concluding scenes, I turned to my wife and said, "What is this, 'Mission Impossible?' It's really absurd the way the supposed Black militants who are aiding Shaft seem thoroughly unfamiliar with the proper handling of weapons or what tactics to employ in a dicey situation, and the way they "go up against the mob" is just plain laughable. Here, the gangsters are holding the young black woman as hostage and yet there are just a few dumb palookas guarding her, none of whom seem to be paying sufficient attention. Nobody's on tenterhooks watching out for a rescue attempt, nor does anyone appear to be running the operation from Thug HQ. The primary function of these morons appears to be that they are racists who like to insult black people on general principles. It's a disappointing conclusion to what might have been a much better movie had it been more skillfully written and directed. Richard Roundtree, as Shaft, hands in a credible performance and the police lieutenant is pretty good, too. He's the same guy who played the middle-aged nut-job in "Klute," but in this movie, he's a much more likable character. The way he extends his hand for Shaft to slap is an interesting bit of cinema. They are supposed to be at odds but the guy obviously is one of the black private eye's biggest fans, without coming off as phony, insincere, or patronizing, even though Shaft still treats him with unrelenting disdain.
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A historic film, but not a good one
James Hitchcock3 April 2004
`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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Has worn worse than the clothes
jbacks3-125 May 2006
Okay so there's a huge pile of films from the late 60's and early 70's that haven't worn well--- "Easyrider" leaps first to mind, but after seeing "Shaft" on TCM, we've got a new contender. I realize this is one that started the onslaught on our racial consciousness and while it's better than "Superfly," "The Mack," "Shaft in Africa," "Cleopatra Jones," et al, it's a shock to see how tacky things were 36 years ago. The hip lingo is horribly dated, the incessant reminders that us Caucasians are hopeless honkies is irritating and yeah, there's the wardrobe. I can't help it, it's distracting seeing middle aged guys wearing plaid suits with wide polyester ties (Starsky & Hutch fashion icon Antonio Fargas even has a cameo as a sidewalk informant) wearing laughable hats. Why did they have to throw in Shaft verschtionking a barfly when he's got a loyal (and far classier) woman back at the ranch? The plot is incredibly simplistic and is an ominous indicator of the even worse things to come in the Blaxploitation genre. Alright then, what's right? The late Gordon Parks could construct great complex exterior shots and draw out a fairly credible performance by the inexperienced Richard Roundtree. He could have been a whole lot worse. The best actor here is Moses Gunn (seen to better advantage in "Ragtime"). Ignoring Issac Hayes' title track lyrics that asks the rhetorical question, "who's the big Black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks?" (yeesh... but I'm just talking' about SHAFT!), the soundtrack is pretty decent. So there's a lot to be embarrassed about for those involved but there's also some redeeming qualities to the movie. I rate it a 3 for 10.
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Shaft. John Shaft.
Mr. Pulse16 December 2000
I first saw this movie three years ago with a bunch of friends. We laughed ourselves to death, and it was the start of a budding interesting in watching poorly made films as a death sport (Trust me, the worse they are, the more they are a battle with your own mortality). In any event, we had a ball laughing at the time capsule elements of the film; the hair, the clothes, the dialogue, and above all as many puns on the name Shaft as we could think of ("Uh oh! The police want Shaft! H'yuck!"). Watching the film now I find it rather interesting; as far as bad movies go, there are movies that are infinitely worse, and as far as good movies go, there are movies that are infinitely better.

Unlike a lot of poor blaxploitation movies I've seen, this one has a decent plot, some interesting characters, and a slick look, as directed by Gordon Parks. They seem to have a pretty good idea how to make a movie. Sure they characters say stuff like "Don't jive me!" but c'mon that was the time. I guess then this film was cutting edge in its own way.

The character of Shaft fascinates me. Here's a character who uses women without remorse and without consequences, treats his one friend like a jerk, uses people, and helps out a ruthless gangster because the price is right. He's also one of the coolest characters ever presented on screen (The comparison to James Bond is actually pretty apt). I love it when a protagonist defies conventions, and man, if ever a character did, it was Shaft.

Still the plot, involving a black mobster whose daughter is kidnapped by the Mafia starts strong but loses steam by the end. The white villains are faceless (A nice change from racist Hollywood movies, but still), and while the film begins with some excellent twists, nothing suprising or very exciting happens in the last half hour. I kept expecting some characters with very questionable loyalties to double cross Shaft, but they never do. The film ends with a raid on an apartment, but the ramifications with the mob, the men who help Shaft, or the police are never shown. In a way, it works cause the film does things the way it wants, but still it's not a very satifying end to things.

I guess now older, wiser, and a tad (Just a tad, perhaps even as much as a smidge) more mature, I can appreciate Shaft as a decent crime flick, with a great (I probably should say "right on") protagonist. And yes, it is campy and out of date, but that adds to the fun. Still, I think it's a better film that I used to give it credit for. Or maybe "shaft" jokes just aren't as funny to me as they used to be.
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A truly appalling movie
irivlin18 May 2013
I saw this film when it came out. It was "different" and hence garnered attention from the movie going populace normally being fed mainstream private eye films. I didn't like it at the time but I went to the cinema with a girl I fancied and told her I liked it - as she seemed to find the film entertaining. (or did she just give that impression because she was trying to please me??) Just for old time's sake, I watched it the other night. 42 years had indeed changed my view - I detested the film! Wooden acting, desperately bad screenplay and plot. Cheap, nasty, depressing sets and photography. Everyone and his dog spitting out surly one liners that did little more than irritate. How on earth did this train wreck ever get any traction? The director, actors and everyone else involved in Shaft should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I now realize why it was entitled "Shaft"; the movie going public got shafted. - and yes, that was a surly one-liner.. UGH! UGH! and double UGH!
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I don't care if it's historically important--it's BORING!
preppy-316 February 2012
One of the first blaxploitation films...and a big hit. Sexy, muscular and handsome John Shaft (Richard Rountree) is hired by a big gang boss (well played by Moses Gunn) to get the guys who kidnapped his young daughter.

OK--I realize this is of historical importance as being one of (if not the first) blaxploitation films to hit it big. It also WAS a huge hit in its day--some NY theatres were open 24 hours a DAY to get all the crowds in! However it has not aged well at all. The script is dull and the dialogue is just terribly dumb. Even the violence was boring...but it may have been extreme in its day. It was also slow-moving and contained some truly dreadful acting. Roundtree LOOKS the part--tall, masculine, muscular and super sexy--but the guy can't act. His delivery was wooden--of course the lousy dialogue didn't help. Only Gunn showed any life in his role. Also this movie has women used as sex objects in an appalling way. Shaft has a beautiful black girlfriend but has no trouble going to bed with a white woman he meets in a bar--and this is shown as a positive thing! I have no problem with her being white. It's just that we're supposed to think nothing is wrong with him cheating on his girlfriend--but there is! On the plus side there is Isaac Hayes' Academy Award winning title song (which is GREAT) and good use of NY locations...but I was bored and fighting to stay awake. A 1 all the way.
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A classic black movie
Maziun2 October 2013
I can understand why modern viewers aren't too impressed with „Shaft". Compared to modern action movies there isn't really much action here and it isn't anything spectacular – no huge shootouts , kung fu fights , big explosions , car chases and so on. There is lot of dialogue and the pacing is rather slow.

You know what ? Those are the reasons why I really like "Shaft" . It feels like a REAL LIFE story . Not every movie has to be an over the top spectacle for simple minded audience. For me less is more . I can hardly care for action hero when he's doing impossible stuff like jumping over the missile with a truck. Here the danger feels real . There is no villain . A simple bad guy with a gun can end your life and you have to be very careful . Shaft uses his muscles only when necessary . He prefers to outsmart his enemy , because violence can lead you as far. When he's fighting for life , you FEEL that he's fighting for life.

The movie captures the gritty atmosphere of 70's New York City . In this world everybody is walking a thin line between law and law of street . I also like that Shaft is a detective and the investigation actually plays important part through whole movie . Not to mention that characters here feel like they could exist in real life.

Richard Roundtree is great as the charming bad ass Shaft who is one foot in the world of black people and the other foot in the world of white people. He easily dominates the whole movie with his tough , confident and wise cracking personality. Women , both black and white are attracted to him (We get to see naked women – something you can't see in action movies anymore). The other actors give him solid support. I liked Charles Cioffi as Vic Androzzi and Moses Gunn as Bumpy.

The movie is worth watching for the delightful dialogue. Believe me – there is more tension in a scene when Shaft talks to Bumpy than in many car chases. The movie is very dialogue heavy , yet it's a true pleasure to listen how characters talk with each other . Most of the dialogue is quite humorous . You should prepare pen and paper to note .

The action scenes are nicely photographed . There is a great title song by Isaac Hayes (it won Oscar) and during the movie you can hear few other nice songs. "Shaft " is mostly entertainment , but it was also an important movie for black people. It's one of those rare movies where the black guy is a hero . The situation now changed , but long time ago it was a breakthrough movie . "Shaft" also captures really good the tension between white and black people back in the 70's.

I give it 7/10.
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Highly Overrated
kharman17 June 2000
I rented this film because of the upcoming sequel with Sam Jackson and because it was recently featured in Cinnescape as one of the top 25 action films of all time. The movie started off slow and ended abruptly, a lethal combination. Though some saw the campy corniness makes the film, the bad and meaningless dialogue makes you go insane. This movie had some great moments, but the acting, dialogue, and even the characters are bad. John Shaft doesn't live up to his theme song, but I look forward to a more plot-twisting Shaft film out of Jackson and hope he busts some ass, because this film will only appeal to Blaxploitation fanatics. I've never seen a movie that's used cat and jive so often, and consequently in the same sentence.
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The one and only original action-classic
raysond15 October 2004
"Shaft" was without a doubt one of those films that broke the mold of stereotypes and opened the floodgates to the blaxploitation renaissance of the Black Cinema Movement during the 1970's. It also introduced us to the world the Black Cinema's first-ever African-American actor as a figure of authority as well as a superhero of sorts. In other words,a man who was taking charge of his own actions and not by the MAN. Filmdom's first ever Black detective is one that was very successful in this first ever series of SHAFT movies including its two sequels and a short-lived television series. However,this film was the second feature to be directed by former Life Magazine photographer Gordon Parks Sr.,who was coming off of his most successful film,"The Learning Tree",which was released by another studio and was the first Black director to have his film financed by a major Hollywood studio at the time(Warner Bors. Pictures).

SHAFT was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the summer of 1971.

This time around,his second feature brought out his talent for capturing an image and his personal insight of life on the streets and in the ghettos to bring to the screen a hard-hitting,gritty,and edgy to the core crime-drama thriller based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman,who wrote the screenplay along with screenwriter John D.F. Black and produced by Sterling Silliphant and Roger Lewis. Its also to note out that this film introduce audiences to the world Richard Roundtree in the title role,who was a former Ebony male-model before he made his mark as an actor in motion pictures and SHAFT was basically the jumpstart from the beginning and set the tone for others blaxploitation films of the 1970's to follow. The plot,about a private detective hired by a Harlem mobster(Moses Gunn)to find his missing daughter who goes through the infiltration of the mob before finding and rescuing the girl is solid entertainment that doesn't disappoint and keeps the audience in check with hard-hitting suspense and tense action throughout. Although there several obvious racial tensions throughout the film,director Gordon Parks keeps these tensions in check who keeps his focus mainly on the humanistic elements of the character. It is also to note that the depth that goes beyond the image of the super-slick,tough as nails detective is showing other sides of his personality. At the time SHAFT was released in 1971,its studio,the great MGM was facing bankruptcy,and the studio bosses at MGM figured that SHAFT would make a lot of money. Well,it did. And did execeptionally well making it one of the highest grossing box office films of that year and one of the top five box office gross films of 1971 and it helped keep MGM in business. It is also to note that composer Issac Hayes,made history as well by being the first African-American in history to win the Academy Award for Best Musical Score,which to goes to note one of the most famous scores in music history.
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Violent , energetic movie with Shaft-Roundtree taking on nasties and investigating a kidnapping
ma-cortes15 February 2007
This known film deals with Shaft (Richard Roundtree , though Ron O'Neal auditioned for the role , he was turned down because the producers felt his complexion was too light) , an extremely tough and independent detective contracted by Harlem's drug king called Bumpy (Moses Gunn , character is based on Bumpy Johnson , an African-American mobster in the 1930s) for freeing his abducted daughter . Shaft running afoul into Harlem and confronts a sinister monsters bands in order to rescue her . The private-eye eliminates anyone who stands in this way on his objective and breaks all the rules in going after baddies , battling a variety of bullies , besides avoiding the confronting between black gangs and white gangs . He's helped by a Lt. chief Inspector called Vic (Charles Cioffi) and by group of Black Power followers (Christopher John) .

This fist and guns opera features some passable acting , noisy action sequences , though no too much , and results to be quite entertaining . It's an intriguing film , plenty of thriller , suspense , kinky sex and much of the action centers around 125th Street in Harlem . Nice interpretation from Richard Roundtree , though Isaac Hayes auditioned for the title role , producers cast Roundtree , but were so impressed with Hayes that they asked him to write the now legendary score to the film . Violent , raw script in which the action keeps things moving along by Ernest Tidyman (French connection). The Ernest Tidyman novel which was the basis for the film is about a black detective and not a white one . It was rumored to be written as just another detective movie , with a white detective in the lead , but , after the success of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) , the film was rewritten and recast as a blaxploitation movie . Special mention for soul musical score that still resonates by Isaac Hayes who won an Academy Award . The picture was professionally directed by Gordon Parks , but it has a lot of violence , profanity and adult subject matter . The result is a strong entry for action buffs , plus creating the blaxploitation sub-genre . It's followed by two inferior sequels with similar players : ¨Big score¨ (Gordon Parks) with Moses Gunn and ¨Shaft in Africa¨ (John Guillermin) with Vonetta McGee and a recent version (2000 , by John Singleton) with Samuel L. Jackson and cameo by Richard Roundtree as Shaft's uncle .
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Alan Devine11 August 2000
The film has not lasted the test of time. The whole thing was boring but occasionally punctuated by some interesting fleeting seconds.

The best part of the film was the opening sequence when Shaft casually walks across the New York road avoiding cars.....a few moments of good timing.

It does perhaps have a modicum of interest for its historical or social value.
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" You want me to walk into a bloodbath without telling me which side's gonna kill me '
thinker169125 July 2010
This early Gordon Parks' film is a first in many ways. In the long list of Black movies which follow, this is the cornerstone. After the success of this film, Black actors became Gris for the Hollywood mill. It was called " Blxploitation " as in the Exploitation of the Black world. The innovative Movie is called " Shaft " and tells the story of John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) a Black Private investigator who is hired by 'Bumpy Jonas' (Moses Gunn) a ranking gangster for the Harlem district. Shaft is wrongly informed Ben Buford, (Christopher St, John) the head of the black underground has kidnapped his daughter. With a New York police detective (Vic Androzzi) Shaft enters the search only to discover the Mafia is involved. The world of John Shaft is dangerous, infested with mounting tensions and violent men. Still, this 'cool' private eye is a match against the elements and the sexy women who he seems to attract. In the annals of movie making this is a first in many ways and Roundtree is excellent in the first of several sequels and other black films which follow. ***
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Great NYC PI flick - Soul Noir
mgtbltp22 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
One neat little bonus of going on a Neo Noir hunt is finding those diamonds in the rough that come completely out of left field. Sometimes a film is hyped so fully as one thing that its never looked upon or considered as any thing else. This film especially so since its considered one of the first of its own genre.

Shaft (1971) has been called the first blaxploitation flick, screw that and it's derogatory connotations (think Sergio Leone vs the majority of "Spaghetti" Westerns as a reference point), its actually not only a great PI film, directed by Gordon Parks (acclaimed photojournalist for Life magazine ) but also shot in a very noir-ish style by Urs Furrer. Between the eye of the director and the skill of the cinematographer the film looks beautiful. The shots of Manhattan, The Village, Harlem circa 1970 are gorgeous. It's sleazy Times Square/42nd Street at fin d'une époque, before Disneyfication eradicated it all.

Establishing shot, an aerial view of 7th Avenue Manhattan looking North towards Broadway and Times Square. A cacophony of traffic blares skyward, we look down upon madly scintillating 42nd Street theater marquees, classic Hollywood product, Lancasters The Scaphuters, Redfords's Little Faus And Big Halsey competing with triple X features He And She, School for Sex and The Wild Females, this ain't Busby Berkeley Territory anymore. Isaac Hayes' soul and funk-styled iconic theme song begins to pulsate the title appears over a subway entrance as leather clad Shaft glides up to the trash littered gum stained sidewalk and jaywalks his way across the main stem. This title sequence segues into the beginning of the story when Shaft is alerted by Marty the blind news stand paper seller that two cats were looking for him.

Shaft is based on an Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black screenplay from a book by Tidyman. The dialogs are all spot on in 70's hip jive. It's co-produced by Stirling Silliphant (who wrote late classic noirs, 5 Against the House, Nightfall, The Lineup and also neo noir -ish In The Heat Of The Night).

What's sad is Shaft gets right what practically every Mike Hammer, the quintessential NY P.I, based film neglects, and that is a real feel for the gritty noir, on location, underbelly side of New York City. (save Allen Baron's 1961 Blast Of Silence, and Armand Assante's I, The Jury(1982)) and even the latter doesn't spend near enough time in the streets

Shaft is a very plausible re-imagining of the classic private eye flick. The P.I. was always about cool this go round it is about back COOL. Richard Roundtree is perfect as the suave hip protagonist John Shaft, a good detective, grudgingly getting genuine respect from all.

Moses Gunn is incredibly good as tough crime boss Bumpy Jonas showing quite a bit of range as he pleads with Shaft to take his case. Charles Cioffi as Androzzi Shaft's NYPD detective cop buddy holds his own and runs interference between Shaft and the department. Drew Bundini Brown is Bumpy henchman Willy, Christopher St. John is Ben Buford a former hood rat friend of Shaft who is now a black militant, Antonio Fargas is great as streetwise Bunky. Character actor Lee Steele plays a blind news vender. Shaft is a Neo Noir New York City wet dream, it hits on all cylinders, check it out. 10/10
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Soooo cool
SnoopyStyle18 September 2014
John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a street smart private detective. Gangsters are looking for him and he throws one out the window. Bumpy (Moses Gunn) is after him. Friendly cop Vic Androzzi gives him 48 hours before bringing him back in. Bumpy's daughter has been kidnapped and he hires Shaft to find her. His first lead is Ben Buford but he doesn't seem to know anything about it and his gang is massacred. Ben and Shaft escape. Vic tells Shaft that outsider muscle have gathered in town. The white Mafia is going to war with Bumpy which could spark a race war.

What a great song! As a blaxploitation, the story isn't half bad. It puts race front and center without the noble black man trope. It is violent. It's not exactly realistic. It is a stylized hard-boiled detective story in a black world. It is low budget action. There is quite a bit of filler. The pacing does have the 70s meandering quality. It makes up for it with a lot of attitude. That's what Roundtree brings. The man exudes attitude. It's also cool to see the gritty 70s NYC streets.
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Is it Blaxploitation or did it start Blaxploitation
thefensk27 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this film. The last time I saw it was when it came out. The flaws in the movie were the same flaws evident in a lot of late 60s and early 70s movies. Film had undergone a transition to a more gritty look ... by the 80s they seemed really bad. Now they seem almost nostalgic ... probably people felt the same way about film noir at the time and shortly after. One of the most interesting things it has going for it is due to that raw and gritty look, which included quite a lot of location shots in early 1970s NYC. The score matched the cinematography very well. In 1971 I thought it was entertaining. We didn't call it a blaxploitation film back then. I guess its moderate success spawned the genre so in that sense it was either the first or the inspiration. But I think to lump it into that basket is wrong. In reality it is a 1971 detective flick focusing on a black character, set among a lot of black characters, mostly hoods, poised against a bunch of white characters, mostly hoods. It's right there in the movie ... the police detective makes that same observation. Not Black against White ... it is a turf war between black hoods and white hoods. And between them all is John Shaft. Richard Roundtree plays it with a finesse that although almost corny now to the point of being a caricature, at the time it was easy to take it at face value. He was a hard nosed P.I. and he focused on his case. The absolutely smartest scene was when the guy helping Shaft save the girl was sent in to pose as a room service waiter in the dingy hotel where the mafia guys were holding the hostage. He seemed resentful at first but he got a look on his face sort of like, "hey, I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS." Sure, using the degrading stereotype to complete the undercover. Three drinks. Three dudes. He's got the information but he's got to play the role. He stands there waiting for his tip and gets it, generous in mafia fashion too. Anyway, I say throw the blaxploitation label out the window and enjoy the movie for what it was and what it is ... a better than average 1970s detective movie. I wish they showed it on TV more.
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That Shaft is a Bad Mother
higherall714 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Picasso is quoted as having said you either do it first or you do it better.

'Shaft', directed by the great Gordon Parks, does it first and leaves for succeeding generations to do it better, Later on, in 'Devil in a Blue Dress', we see Easy Rawlins as a more fully developed Bogart-like characterization. But one can easily make the case that this film broke the ground for the African American male in the private eye genre.

The 'Bad ------' as a mythic heroic figure has been with us for a long time. He is found in folklore as High John De Conqueror and another figure who is sung about in blues songs named Stag-o-lee. 'High John' laughs a lot and is playful and somewhat happy-go-lucky, but when you cross him he will not hesitate to go for his guns. 'Stag-o-lee' does not clown around. He just goes for his guns and send you straight to - 'hush yo' mouth - '! All my life I heard tales about this 'Bad ------'; mostly from my folks when talking about a relative or an Uncle who was wrapped less tightly than the rest of us. He usually possessed a hair-trigger temper and was not adverse to beating down half a dozen burly whites before being torn in half and thrown into the Mississippi River. You could also slap a nickle off his fingertip and lose your life in the process. Richard Wright attempted to write about this personality type in his novel 'Native Son', but choked when it came to having his protagonist confront white males as representatives of the White Power Structure. This is what a real 'Bad ------' cuts his teeth on. A subtler version of this character is known as Ananzi the Spiderman, who shares attributes with the Greek hero Odysseus; but looming behind them all is one of the baddest 'Bad ------' types who ever lived, Shaka Zulu, but this is not the time or the place to discuss HIM. Meanwhile, truth was proving to be stranger than fiction as a myriad of 'Bad ------' types were being generated out of the Civil Rights Movement and the Revolution for Black Self Determination. Perhaps most prominent among these figures were Muhammud Ali and Malcolm X.

This is not to discount the fact that Gordon Parks could be easily classed as a 'Bad ------' in his own right. This becomes quite evident in one of his autobiographies, 'A Choice of Weapons'. But it is important to understand how 'Shaft', along with Melvin Van Peebles 'Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song' and 'Superfly' came out of the highly charged cultural upheavals of the sixties and seventies. The impact of 'Shaft' depends to a certain extent on understanding it in context with its times and is definitely enriched should you have lived through the period as I have done.

This period of cultural foment is so highly charged nobody seems to notice that one of the characters; Bumpy Jonas' daughter, actually has not one line of dialog in 'Shaft'! She is the object of the search and rescue mission conducted by private eye John Shaft and yet besides some moaning and sobbing, we find out absolutely nothing about her.

The truth is Gordon Parks' 'Shaft' lacks an exposition or at best an inciting incident where we see the actual kidnapping of Marcy; Bumpy Jonas' daughter. Since we're making comparisons between John Shaft and Sam Spade, it would not have hurt him to have an attractive Gal Friday holding down the fort at the office. The lovemaking scene between Shaft and his main squeeze probably would have also gone better near the beginning of the movie. It would not have hurt also to show Bumpy's gang attempting to rescue Marcy unsuccessfully before hiring Shaft and then bringing in Isaac Hayes' theme music. It is also a mystery why the hit men after Shaft don't have a photograph of him or physical description of some kind to go by as they seek him out. I also think the first confrontation between Shaft, Bumpy's daughter and the mob should have probably been all dialog.

What redeemed this film for me was the convoluted and well thought out Endgame that Shaft and his cohorts execute upon the kidnappers. When Shaft successfully pulls this off and gives the Police Lieutenant Vic Androzzi his High John De Conqueror laugh, I still feel a palpable thrill. After that, he strides off too cool for school as Isaac Hayes' Oscar winning Theme Music takes us into the credits.
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"Cut the crap, man. This is Shaft."
utgard1420 April 2014
Super cool private eye John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is hired by a drug lord (Moses Gunn) to find his missing daughter. Blaxploitation classic is justifiably considered one of the genre's best, if not THE best. It's a smart, tough crime film with a memorable performance by Roundtree as the iconic title character. For modern audiences used to seeing tough macho leads in action movies, they might be underwhelmed when seeing this. But this wasn't commonplace at the time and it especially wasn't commonplace to have that lead character be a black man. So it's important from a film history perspective, as well as the obvious entertainment value. It's well-acted and directed with a terrific soundtrack. There would be two sequels that were not as good but still entertaining. The movie from 2000 with Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft's nephew was an attempt to relaunch the franchise and should be avoided.
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