Shaft

Shaft

Director: Gordon Parks Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Gwen Mitchell
3.0 2

DVD (Pan & Scan / Wide Screen / Dolby 5.1 / Mono)

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Overview

Shaft

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.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/06/2000
UPC: 0012569505124
Original Release: 1971
Rating: R
Source: Warner Home Video
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Full Frame, Wide Screen]
Sound: [Dolby Digital, monaural]
Time: 1:40:00

Special Features

Behind-the-scenes documentary "Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location"; Interactive menus; 3 theatrical trailers; Scene access; Languages & subtitles: English & Français

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

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]

Customer Reviews

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Shaft 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
ChandlerSwain More than 1 year ago
"Shaft" as a soundtrack album is a cool entertainment experience; as a film it is less so. Directed by famed photographer Gordon Parks in a frustratingly plodding fashion and with curiously little feel for his urban settings, the film is further handicapped by a tepid script by Ernest Tidyman (from his own novel) that is a patchwork of all the tired plot devices already done to death by the era's television crime dramas. (Mannix, anyone?) Richard Roundtree plays tough private eye John Shaft as fashion model; walking down the street in his leather jacket, he looks cool (being underscored by Isaac Hayes' music helps), but the second he opens his mouth he sounds like a prissy fusspot, with his "heated by-play" with police detective Charles Cioffi coming across as amateurish and embarrasing. The plot, involving the kidnapping of the daughter of a Harlem gangster, (played by the usually reliable Moses Gunn, who in this case simply looks weary) plays out by-the-numbers until it's not-so-thrilling climax. The film's reputation, built on a breakthrough portrayal of a black protagonist who won't take any crap from "the Man" is unwarranted (compare any scene in this film to the thrilling moment in "In the Heat of the Night" when Sidney Poitier's Virgil Tibbs slaps the face of a Southern White powerbroker-a seminal moment in racially cowardly Hollywood) as Shaft merely seems like a guy who's cranky with everyone, regardless of race, and in need of a good night's rest. (Listening to the lyrics of Haye's iconic theme song, one suspects the inspiration for Shaft might be Chester Hime's classic detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones,but to little effect.) The film is credited with the explosion of Blaxploitation cinema in the early 1970's (this is ignoring the previous year's "Cotton Comes to Harlem" and earlier films by Melvin Van Peebles), but the film is actually only responsible for a pair of unfortunate sequels. The DVD is grainy but that perfectly reflects the original theatrical experience. Extras include an interesting short of Gordon Parks directing scenes from the film, and a smashing short of Hayes and his musicians seemingly improvising parts of the score before the camera that is worth the price of the disc alone.