3.0 2
Director: Gordon Parks

Cast: Gordon Parks, Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Gwen Mitchell


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Richard Roundtree cuts a startlingly new and powerful heroic figure as John Shaft, "the cat who won't cop out, when there's danger all about" in Gordon Parks' seminal action film, Shaft. John Shaft is a black private eye with a small office near Times Square. On his way there one day, he gets pumped for information by Lt. Victor Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), aSee more details below


Richard Roundtree cuts a startlingly new and powerful heroic figure as John Shaft, "the cat who won't cop out, when there's danger all about" in Gordon Parks' seminal action film, Shaft. John Shaft is a black private eye with a small office near Times Square. On his way there one day, he gets pumped for information by Lt. Victor Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), a friend of his on the police force, about something big going down in Harlem involving black crime kingpin Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn). Shaft can't help him and leaves, only to just miss being waylaid by two of Bumpy's strong-arm men at his office, one of whom ends up dead on the pavement eight floors or so below. Squeezed by the cops, who are holding a potential manslaughter arrest over his head, Shaft contacts Bumpy, who reveals that his teenage daughter, whom he's always kept away from his business, has been kidnapped. There's been no ransom demand and no clue as to who did it, and he wants Shaft to find the culprits, insisting that he start with a group of Harlem-based black militants led by Shaft's onetime friend Ben Buford (Christopher St. John). No sooner does he find Buford, holed up in a decaying part of Harlem, however, than his friend's comrades are mowed down by submachine gun fire, and Shaft and Buford barely escape. With Shaft angry and out for blood, everyone is forced to come clean -- Bumpy knows that it's the Mafia that kidnapped his daughter, as they want in on the Harlem drug trade that he controls; they're holding her somewhere else outside of Harlem, where his men are no good to him, which is why he wanted Shaft to hook up with Buford. Androzzi tells Shaft that a dozen Mob trigger men from out of town have been spotted in Greenwich Village. He doesn't know why they're there, but he does know that if fighting breaks out between Bumpy's men and the Mafia, it's going to look like a race war, and the whole city could erupt. Shaft doesn't like the way he's been manipulated, but he sees Androzzi's point -- he links the trigger men to the kidnapping and finds the girl, but loses her again, getting shot in the process. Even though he's wounded, Shaft heads for a final confrontation with the kidnappers, supported by Ben's friends in an armed assault on the building where they're holed up.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
"Who's the black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks?" asks Isaac Hayes in his chart-topping theme song to this early "blaxploitation" classic. That's easy: We're talkin' 'bout Shaft -- John Shaft, an ultracool P.I. who brought the archetypal hard-boiled detective to the ghetto and transformed him into a baaaad dude, 1971-style. In the screenplay adapted by Ernest Tidyman from his own novel, Shaft (Richard Roundtree in a star-making turn) undertakes his toughest case: rescuing the kidnapped daughter of Harlem crime boss Moses Gunn in an attempt to stave off full-scale gang warfare. His unlikely allies include white cop Charles Cioffi and black militant Christopher St. John. Exhilarating, blood-soaked action sequences staged by director Gordon Parks, along with Roundtree's memorable characterization of this hip new hero, made Shaft the year's sleeper hit and brought blaxploitation into the mainstream. Three decades later, it still stands head and shoulders above most other films in the genre.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Gordon Parks' Shaft was something startlingly new and unexpected when it appeared in 1971 -- indeed, it was unique with its lead character, a tough, aggressive, attractive black man, played with great charisma by Richard Roundtree. Up to that time, the only black leading men in any Hollywood studio films had been genial, articulate personalities who were acceptable to moderate white audiences: Sidney Poitier most recently, and James Edwards in a few from the late '40s to the early '60s. Richard Roundtree, however, played John Shaft as a character who didn't care whether whites found him acceptable or not -- he was angry, proud, and fiercely sexual, but also displayed intelligence and street smarts of a kind that were a new mix on the screen. Certainly MGM had never released any movie like Shaft before, not only in the persona of its lead character but also in its in-your-face urban setting and the immediacy and urgency of its script's politics. Shaft had more violence -- not to mention talk of violence and the threat of violence -- than had ever been seen in any major studio film with a modern setting, apart from a few war movies, and the violence and threats of violence all took place within the ethos of racial politics and hatreds that were put right in viewers' faces. Even more startling for a movie from MGM is that the film presented the black point of view as the norm, the point of reference, in most of these arguments in Shaft -- this from a studio that 34 years earlier wouldn't let Fritz Lang, when he was directing Fury, cast black actors as anything other than railway porters and shoeshine boys. Even whites who weren't sympathetic to the black point of view had to see the movie for its vibrant use of real locations in an action context. New York City didn't look remotely as good here as it did in the studio's previous major use of its streets as a film setting (in 1949's On the Town), but its streets and buildings and alleyways pulsed with excitement in Shaft. The fact that the movie also had a good mystery at its core, coupled with the newness of the images and the setting, made Shaft a seminal action thriller, more bracing and involving at the time than the bigger-than-life antics of Roger Moore's James Bond. The film also spawned a new screen genre, the "blaxploitation" (or black exploitation) movie; other producers and directors quickly started grinding out crime movies and action thrillers with ghetto settings and black heroes at their center. Few had scripts that were remotely as good, and none had the benefit of Isaac Hayes' pumping, pulsating score (including the Oscar-winning "Theme From Shaft") or Richard Roundtree's ultra-cool performance, which may explain why Shaft was the only movie in this vein to spawn two proper, successful sequels and a television series. Shaft ended up being the most popular movie that director Gordon Parks ever made, but his work was more diverse than that, as demonstrated by his only prior film, the delicate period drama The Learning Tree.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
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Special Features

Behind-the-Scenes Documentary: Soul In Cinema: Filming Shaft on location; ; Shaft: The Killing (1973 TV Episode); 3 Theatrical Trailers

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Roundtree Shaft
Moses Gunn Bumpy Jonas
Gwen Mitchell Ellie
Christopher St. John Ben Buford
Charles Cioffi Lieutenant Victor Androzzi
Camille Yarbrough Dina Greene
Lawrence Pressman Sgt. Tom Hannon
Dominic Barto Patsy
Ed Bernard Peerce
Donny Burks Remmy
Edmund Hashim Lee
Tony King Davies
Al Kirk Sims
Joseph Leon Byron Leibowitz
Robin Nolan Waitress
Shimen Ruskin Dr. Sam
Lee Steele Blind Vendor
Dennis Tate Dotts
Adam Wade Actor
Alan Weeks Gus
Eddie Barth Tony
Jon Richards Elevator Starter
Antonio Fargas Bunky
Tommy Lane Leroy
Drew Bundi Brown Willy
Margaret Warncke Linda
Rex Robbins Rollie
Arnold Johnson Cul
Damu King Mal
Sherri Brewer Marcy
Victor Arnold Charlie

Technical Credits
Gordon Parks Director
Joseph G. Aulisi Costumes/Costume Designer
Martin Bell Makeup
John D.F. Black Screenwriter
Lee Bost Sound/Sound Designer
Robert Drumheller Set Decoration/Design
Joel Freeman Producer
Urs B. Furrer Cinematographer
Emanuel Gerard Art Director
David Golden Producer
Isaac Hayes Score Composer
Isaac Hyes Songwriter
Hugh A. Robertson Editor
Ernest Tidyman Screenwriter
Ted Zachary Asst. Director

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