Shaft

( 2 )

Overview

Gordon Parks' Shaft was like no other movie that MGM (or any other studio) had ever made. Even overlooking the obvious breakthrough inherent in its virile, aggressive, black lead character, the movie had more violence and raunchier language than almost any big studio film up to that time that wasn't a war movie. Moreover, it didn't sound like any big-studio picture ever seen before -- the Isaac Hayes score was something new and bold on its own terms, meshing perfectly with the visuals. The DVD is a reminder of ...
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DVD (Pan & Scan / Wide Screen / Dolby 5.1 / Mono)
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Overview

Gordon Parks' Shaft was like no other movie that MGM (or any other studio) had ever made. Even overlooking the obvious breakthrough inherent in its virile, aggressive, black lead character, the movie had more violence and raunchier language than almost any big studio film up to that time that wasn't a war movie. Moreover, it didn't sound like any big-studio picture ever seen before -- the Isaac Hayes score was something new and bold on its own terms, meshing perfectly with the visuals. The DVD is a reminder of just how startling this movie was in 1971. The movie made it to television in reasonably short order, shorn of its most piercing language and dialogue, which was heavily censored. Somehow, despite having been an extraordinary box-office success, it never showed up on laserdisc, so this DVD is really the first high-quality video release that the movie has yet received. Warner Home Video has done a very good transfer, particularly the letterboxed version of the film, which can also be seen in full-screen on the second side of the double-sided disc. The film itself is an above average crime thriller that wastes perhaps five minutes that it needn't have used out of its 100-minute running time. On the other hand, almost everything here is essential in the introduction of an entirely new kind of screen hero in the guise of John Shaft, as portrayed by Richard Roundtree. The DVD enhances the viewing experience not only with a fine visual representation but an excellent soundtrack. The new mastering is very clean and brings Isaac Hayes' music out more dramatically than it has sounded since the original theatrical release; additionally, the volume pumps up without distortion. The DVD, in addition to presenting the movie both full-frame and letterboxed (1.85-to-1 aspect ratio), offers a couple of nice bonuses. The first is a selection of original trailers, but the real highlight is the featurette Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location, which was made at the time of the production and shows both director Gordon Parks and composer Isaac Hayes at work, as well as the shooting of certain key scenes. The only flaw to this short is that it is precisely that, running less than 12 minutes. One wishes that Warner Home Video could have been more ambitious and perhaps commissioned a commentary track, but this is a handy addition in its own right. The menu is simple and easy to use and pops up on start-up of the disc, and the list price is a very reasonable $15.
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Special Features

Behind-the-scenes documentary "Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location"; Interactive menus; 3 theatrical trailers; Scene access; Languages & subtitles: English & Français
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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: 6/6/2000
  • UPC: 012569505124
  • Original Release: 1971
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1), Theatre Wide-Screen (1.85.1)
  • Presentation: Pan & Scan / Wide Screen / Dolby 5.1 / Mono
  • Sound: Dolby Digital, monaural
  • Language: English, Français
  • Time: 1:40:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 28,592

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
Victor Arnold Charlie
Eddie Barth Tony
Dominic Barto Patsy
Ed Bernard Peerce
Sherri Brewer Marcy
Drew Bundi Brown Willy
Donny Burks Remmy
Antonio Fargas Bunky
Edmund Hashim Lee
Arnold Johnson Cul
Tony King Davies
Damu King Mal
Al Kirk Sims
Tommy Lane Leroy
Joseph Leon Byron Leibowitz
Robin Nolan Waitress
Jon Richards Elevator Starter
Rex Robbins Rollie
Shimen Ruskin Dr. Sam
Lee Steele Blind Vendor
Dennis Tate Dotts
Adam Wade
Margaret Warncke Linda
Alan Weeks Gus
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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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Standard
0. Scene Selections
1. Times Square Credits [4:15]
2. Looking for Shaft [4:52]
3. Office Visitors [2:39]
4. Super-Heavy Number [7:00]
5. Bumpy's Family Matter [7:51]
6. Hitting the Streets [3:18]
7. Shaft Got It [3:30]
8. Uptown [2:28]
9. Neither Judas nor Tom [6:26]
10. Nothing Owed [2:50]
11. Looks Like War [3:23]
12. Money Matters [8:20]
13. Tending Bar [7:22]
14. Arrangements [8:30]
15. Caffe Reggio [3:49]
16. 24 Hours to Deal [9:27]
17. New Hired Help [2:05]
18. Attack Positions [7:55]
19. Outta There [1:55]
20. Case Closed [2:07]
Side #2 -- Widescreen
0. Scene Selections
1. Times Square Credits [4:15]
2. Looking for Shaft [4:52]
3. Office Visitors [2:39]
4. Super-Heavy Number [7:00]
5. Bumpy's Family Matter [7:51]
6. Hitting the Streets [3:18]
7. Shaft Got It [3:30]
8. Uptown [2:28]
9. Neither Judas nor Tom [6:26]
10. Nothing Owed [2:50]
11. Looks Like War [3:23]
12. Money Matters [8:20]
13. Tending Bar [7:22]
14. Arrangements [8:30]
15. Caffe Reggio [3:49]
16. 24 Hours to Deal [9:27]
17. New Hired Help [2:05]
18. Attack Positions [7:55]
19. Outta There [1:55]
20. Case Closed [2:07]
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Menu

Side #1 -- Standard
   Play Movie
   Special Features
      Cast & Crew
         Richard Roundtree - John Shaft
      "Soul in Cinema: Filming 'Shaft' on Location"
      Awards
      Theatrical Trailers
         "Shaft" (1971)
         "Shaft's Big Score" (1972)
         "Shaft in Africa" (1973)
   Languages
      Soundtracks: English
      Soundtracks: Français
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: Off
Side #2 -- Widescreen
   Play Movie
   Special Features
      Cast & Crew
         Richard Roundtree - John Shaft
      "Soul in Cinema: Filming 'Shaft' on Location"
      Awards
      Theatrical Trailers
         "Shaft" (1971)
         "Shaft's Big Score" (1972)
         "Shaft in Africa" (1973)
   Languages
      Soundtracks: English
      Soundtracks: Français
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: Off
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 1 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    This movie is Afrolicious!,

    I always see this movie as a great Harlem detective story. Shafts pulsate with street-level lingo and a deep sense of conviction you can help but admire. In the great tradition of detective movies Shaft is clearly a hard-bitten loner who spars with friends and foe alike, then gets just what he wants from everyone. Even though "Shaft" was an MGM release it was clearly intended for the black audience Hollywood had always ignored. The attitude of Shaft is what set it apart - it made no effort to court the white audience at all. John Shaft kept his mouth shut for nobody, and wasn't interested in carrying a civics lesson or being an ambassador from an alien race. He was openly promiscuous, keeping at least a couple of steady women on his string, and taking in the occasional admiring prostitute. He talked dirty, told white cops where to get off, pushed around the toughest of the black mobsters, and made mincemeat of adversaries both black and white. A year before "The Godfather," the Mafia of Shaft consisted of fairly accurate Italian goombah types Shaft had no trouble letting loose with the ethnic slurs either. In other words, "Shaft" was a fresh dose of reality, in 70s parlance, 'telling it like it is.' This script showed no influence of studio influence, whatsoever. Shaft has a good New York look. The overall atmosphere is great, a mixture of dingy, claustrophobic hotel rooms and neglected city streets. A lot of the action appears to take place around Times Square, which was quite a different place in 1970 - much rougher, much more rundown. Shaft must hold the record for the number of movie marquees on view in one film I'd guess it was filmed in late Summer-Early fall with what's playing in downtown Manhattan. Roundtree fills out the role believably while the surrounding cast work well together, even if the stereotype line is occasionally breached. Several nice moments in the script carry the film over its dull passages, all leading up to a great ending.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 1 of 2 Customer Reviews