As far as I know Shaft broke new ground as a movie starring a black man in 1971. Shaft was the perfect example of a rogue cop, taking orders from no one and tracking down the crooks no matter where they hid in the city.
Recommended for fans of Richard Roundtree and quality jazz.
Gunner February, 2008
on August 20, 2004
"Who is the man who would risk his neck for his brotha' man? SHAFT!!"
Blaxploitation? That's like calling "Bullit" 'Cracker-jacking' [I rate Bullit a 2/5 stars] or 'The Godfather' "Wopploitation' [am Italian myself-so clearly my criticism is the asinine labeling of SHAFT as an "exploitation film" simply because a strong lead character is a black man-but he is FIRST a strong MAN]
I LOVE this film; saw it prior to teen years and was a wonderful "adrenaline pump" WITH A STORY. Violence? sure; gratuitous? no; the mean streets of Harlem are a turf war NOT driven by racial hatred but by MONEY [via heroin trade].
A unique [and I have never read it mentioned] is that this film is an "equal opportunity offender"; the mob-white crooks, want to sell heroin in New York turf and have to overpower the long-time "crime boss" of the area- "Bumpy", a black career criminal whose CV reads from the petty[numbers] to the Class A felony[murder], who besides being a "crook" has a downright nasty disposition-betraying local black activists [civil rights ala Malcom X "any means necessary youths] into fighting his "drug war" for him!! Caught in the "middle", Shaft negotiates a deal for all parties involved-"Bumpy" will pay $10,000 a man [a very 'on target' critique of the indemnity policy paid in Vietnam to American soldiers killed, 80% of whom were black] for "Ben's" activist "soldiers" to battle the mob. The "lie" revolved around Bumpy's daughter [Marcy] being nabbed by the mob-this was how Shaft [the black private (...)who is sex machine to all the chicks] was brought into the imbroglia in first place.
This film won the Oscar for its pounding, fantastic soundtrack, but I think deserved several; the screenplay was great- besides the handful of "well-known" quotes, there are TONS of other memorable lines [the confrontation between Bumpy and Ben about the respective merits of civil rights and 'numbers, drugs and [prostituses] is very profound even in brevity], the demographic of "strong black women" in an elderly black woman intervening between Shaft and Ben and preventing a fight; and many others.
The only "weaknesses" [and obviously, I LOVE this movie!!] are Shaft's relationship with the cops; what the hell forged their bond, and the actor who played the cop Shaft interacted with sucked; there was NO character development of the mobsters "moving in"; and the women in the film were given a very demeaning role-"No one understands him but his woman"? Shaft gets it on with a white 'one-night stand' gal, implicitly a frequent activity of his; does his "woman", totally under-developed character played by a capable actress, accept this infidelity or is she "clueless"?
The ending does not really cast Shaft in a "heroic" light; his courage is 100%, but he basically "takes the money and runs", making fun of his "cop pal" as Marcy is returned to the horrid Bumpy, several of Ben's men are killed, and war has broken out in earnest between Bumpy and the mob which Shaft tells the cop pal "it's your problem" and exits via the downbeat of the guitar chords and percussion breaking out to end the film.
In all, a favorite of mine, great, great action, many "undertones" in the messages incidental in the film, and Shaft IS one BAD Mutha' .....!!!!
on April 8, 2008
Just a note to buyers:
All three SHAFT films presented as this triple feature are NOT the widescreen versions. Case cover lists them as "Full Frame."
on November 15, 2004
Here I am talking about Shaft again.I just did the music review a few days ago.So I said to myself I might as well do the film to.Back in the day when James Bond was kicking butt in movies like Goldfinger and Thunderball he was the main man.But he was also a white man.Now there's NOTHING wrong with that.But the time was due for us black folks to get some representation.And that's when private detective John Shaft hit the streets of Harlem.With his leather coat and the music of Isaac Hayes playing in the background.Another main man was on the scene.Shaft was just as handsome as Bond,just as smart as Bond and just as cool as Bond.And he didn't take s#!t from anyone.And that made Shaft one bad motherf-SHUT YOUR MOUTH-.The film Shaft was directed by muti-talented Gordon Parks.And it's star was a good-looking new comer by the name of Richard Roundtree.I read somewhere that Isaac Hayes wanted the starting role of Shaft but he didn't get it.But Mr.Hayes went on to win a academy award for the soundtrack.And Mr. Roundtree went on to have a successful movie career."All well that ends well" as they say.Now Shaft was about a Harlem mob boss by the name of Bumpy (played by Moses Gunn) daughter being kidnapped and Shaft is hire to rescue her.Along the way we become acqainted with some good guys,some bad guys and there's also a little romance (Shaft's girlfriend Ellie was played by Gwenn Mitchell,and she was one fine babe and my favorite Shaft girl).And if you're a action fan there's plenty of it throughout this film.Shaft begins with a man flying out of a window.And ends with Shaft flying into one.So all you lovers of black cinema of the 70s please check out Shaft you will not be disappointed.Shaft over the years as become a true icon.
on June 16, 2000
Of course, if you're reading this, you probably already know that "Shaft" is an above-average blaxploitation flick with Richard Roundree as a private detective hired to track down a Harlem gang boss' missing daughter. With dialogue like "You got problems, Shaft?" "Yeah, two of 'em. I was born black and I was born poor." you really can't lose.
So on with the DVD. The film itself is nicely letterboxed (I think for the first time), and while it's not made from the greatest print (there are a couple scratches), it's a perfectly acceptable presentation.
Extras include trailers for all three Shaft flicks . This is great--I wish Warner had done the same with their "Dirty Harry" DVD. (They did with the VHS version.) There's also a 1971-produced short "Making of" film and the option to view the movie in French (a surreal experience, to be sure.)
The cast and crew bios, however, are pretty meager, offering only a relatively complete portrait of Richard Roundtree. Where's Moses Gunn? Or Gordon Parks? The "Awards" option is pretty worthless as well, showing that the movie won the Oscar for "Best Original Song."
Oh, yes, and there's no commentary track with Director Parks as is described on the Amazon site. Forgivably, it's not mentioned on the DVD box, so this is probably just something that didn't pan out at the last minute.
It's still lots of fun, but not what it could have been.
'Shaft' , the classic detective film from 1971, is just as good as 'The French Connection' or 'Bullitt' but with a style all it's own. A good story, convincing action and a gritty realistic look plus Issac Hayes and his driving score and you really have a time machine slice of the early 70's. I really hate this film being called the first "Blackploitation" film. Whether or not the main character is played by a black man, 'Shaft' is a cool and hip urban detective thriller with loads of action, a bit of humor, plot twists and even romance here and there. (ok, how about just some casual sex but hey, I'm talkin' about Shaft!) This is a really cool movie and has stood the test of time!
With that said, this review is going to focus on the picture and sound quality and if this Blu Ray is a solid upgrade from your DVD or VHS copy.
Shaft is presented on a BD-25 in full 1080p with a good solid transfer. Strong primary colors abound and while there is an abundance of film grain, for the most part it is just not obtrusive. There are 2 or 3 short scenes where the film elements have badly degraded and they are easy to spot. For an example, look at the master shot where Shaft is ready to leave after drinking his espresso. Another is in Bumpy's office when his wall hangings seem to come alive with dancing mosquito noise. But all in all, this is a good solid transfer. A bit of edge enhancement exists but it helps support the overall rendering in this case. DNR is just not an issue with 'Shaft' on Blu. You get all the grain, the good and the bad. Compared to the Blu Ray of '48 Hours' this is demo material, so don't think it is really bad. It isn't.
The motion is smooth and artifact free and while grain sometimes darkens the contrast levels just a bit too much, overall 'Shaft' looks really fantastic on Blu Ray, especially given the fact it was a low budget production. I was really happy watching it and felt I was watching a film and not some digital piece of garbage. A good solid 3 and 3/4 stars out of 5 and sometimes it strays into a solid 4 and beyond.
So how is the audio? What you get here is a Mono DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. Before you get up in arms over the soundtrack being in Mono, the original audio elements used to create this films soundtrack were not available and as such the mixed elements from the original Mono track had to be used. They have been cleaned up and are presented in Lossless Audio and they sound as good or better than they ever did in the theater where 'Shaft' had always been presented in nothing but Mono. Because things are so clear sounding, you can pretty much spot every time the dialogue had to be looped (dubbed later due to problems with the original production sound) but they don't stand out too badly. The music has plenty of dynamics and while stereo would have been SO MUCH better, this rendering is just fine. A few lines here and there seemed a bit buried in the mix, but this IS the original mix and you can rest assured you are hearing things much better than people did back in '71.
You get a few cool extras with 'Shaft" as well but they are unfortunately all in SD. You get a full length 1973 Shaft TV episode and a short documentary called'Soul In Cinema' plus trailers for all 4 'Shaft' films.
'Shaft" comes to Blu Ray in a very respectable package, with a better than average transfer for a catalog title and solid sound as well. This is not demo material, but it presents this film as good or better than it ever looked at the movies, unless you saw a brand new print on the first run. Now if they would get busy and release the other 3 that would be quite the collection.
Recommended for fans of 'Shaft' and fans of older films in general!
on November 15, 2004
This film was just before my time, but when I first saw it in the late 80's or ealry 90's, I wanted more and could not get enough! I could not believe that such ill (hot, cool) films like this were being made in the ealry 70's.
I don't want to get into the story, but this is a must have film in any collection if you like action films. The Sam Jackson Shaft was better than I thought, but it CANNOT stand up to the origianl or it's sequel(notice how sequel is singular...). They should never try to remake a classic film. I hear that they want to remake "Uptown Saturday Night" and "The Warriors!" I hope someone stops them before they get started! Come up with your OWN ideas for your time, don't bite.
This film is classic, but the only problem I have is that it was not as remastered as it could have been. No royal treatment. It does have a featurette though, somthing I had never seen before. The other problem wit this film like "Superfly," is that both films have legendary soundtracks/scores that did corssover with white audiences - so why no surround sound or at least stereo remaster? That is the least they should do. I want "Shaft" and "Superfly" special editions with at least stereo! Classic soundtracks should get the royal treatment.
on August 24, 2012
Man, I bought the original Shaft, dual-sided DVD back around 1999 or 2000 and kept it all the way until today - it even survived a house fire! Since then, I must have watched it at least 500 times, that's how much I love this film. Since Blu-Ray came out (I bought in a year later), I always imagined this film on BD and how it would look. I EXPECTED surround sound given the classic soundtrack as well as superb picture, even though the film grain I knew would be a problem.
I have gone through different DVD and Blu-Ray players up until now. I have had HD upconverting players and various BD players that upconvert to varying degrees. I now have a Sony BDP-S1000ES which as far as I am concerned, is as good as it get's without having Farrari money! So I have seen Shaft on different Players and I know this film and every detail like I know myself. Of course I could not wiat to see if this was an improvement or not. "Professional" reviews gave the picture quality 4.5 stars out of five, which looked strange since their screen shots looked murky. I still had to have it regardless.
The Good: It is on BD so this is a plus, but of course the heavy grain follows it as well. I expect the grain since much of the film's scenes are dark. When scenes are filmed in darker areas you get more grain, when in lighter areas there is less grain and much more detail. The colors did not really get a BD boost and they still look similar to the DVD, but with a little bit more pop - but not much! I can say that I can now make out the finer detail in the clothing (but not like other BD's) and I can now appreciate the suits as fine wears. You know 70's gear is always laughable, but Bumpy's suit and coat looked really fine in the scene where he asked Shaft to find his daughter while in Shaft's office. I could make out that he had a green hat, tan outer coat of which I can now see vertical lines, fine tailoring and nice buttons. It changed my perception of some 70's clothing.
The sound was clearer of course, but still kind of muddy, but you can hear each sound clearer than before. The music sounds way better than the DVD, but it would have been nice to get at least stereo like I had written Warner Brothers for years asking for! I am still hoping for at least stereo for the Superfly BD!
The Bad: It had no surround sound or at least stereo! I expect that these days, this is not a 1930's film and it had an Academy Award winning soundtrack! This is not acceptable, but I do not expect them to d anything about it. They could have also put this in a box set with all three films as I expected them to do.
They could have at least designed a new cover or used elements of the original theater poster art of promos - those were hot! I know that the idea is to not make and old film look old for this day and age or get lost on the shelf with too much detail, but after having stared at the DVD cover for the last 12 years, it would have been nice to seen something different! The actual disc art is not here at all! The disc is just a black disc with the word Shaft on it! Talk about cheap! I guess that is how they are doing these BD's these days. It is the studio's fault for cheapening them up and now people expect $10 BD's!
Final: Is this a major jump from DVD to BD? Not really - except for the last third of the film where it is filmed in a better lit area like the hotel where Marcy was being held. There, you can see finer details that you expect on a BD disc. Again, the dark scenes will have too much grain no matter what so that cannot be helped. It is likely that this will be as good as it can possibly get unless that take the best print of the film and do a restoration of some sort, but when 4K becomes common, I will not make the upgrade - if this is offered.
I love technology, so I had to have this film on BD. If you are one of those who just turns things on, likes that it is clear and does not care how it works, then this is for you. If you were looking for a BD upgrade of the DVD similar to a Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon or The Green Mile, then this may not be for you as you do not see such a jump throughout the film, but it is a step up. If you have the DVD and you are not the upgrading type and you have an upconverting DVD or BD player (that does it well), then you can keep your disc, unless you really want to get rid of that dual-sided disc like I wanted to! If you do not have the DVD, then of course get the BD and forget about the DVD! If you love Shaft (and Shaft's: Big Score!) like I do, then you will get this regardless.
Lastly, they included one of the TV films on this disc, which they could have made clearer. It is not as bad quality as some make it sound, but it is not even DVD quality. They could have at least made it DVD quality along with making the trailers true HD and all bonus materials on ALL BD's that were not shot on film HD. It is supposed to be HD, so that is all that I expect to see. Since this is on a single layer, 25GB disc, it goes to show that all they did was put the DVD transfer onto BD as opposed to going all out and doing a new file for BD. You can tell they did this because of the size of the disc and because of the same cover art - which they used for the menu! Also, maybe they did it because of the amount of film grain and figured it would not matter to most, but 50GB is the standard. When they talking about 100GB discs being the future (I have not see on yet, of the Deep Color!), there was really no exucse for not giving us a 50GB disc.
on May 19, 2001
Shaft(1971)is an incredible film and was unjustly regarded by critics as being just a style-over-substance film with heavy doses of violence. Watching this movie, I see a work that is easily the equal of "The French Connection", a film with the same writer. John Shaft(Richard Roundtree) has a social conscience(he yells at a gangster for manipulating the black community through drugs and gambling, he gives a poor kid some money to eat) and is also an intelligent man with the ability to deal with police and those around him. He is not scared of whites or the Mafia and does not back down when a mobster makes a racial comment towards him. On the other hand, he is not racist towards whites. This movie cannot just be categorized as an action movie, because it doesn't have that much action. Also, the action is fast and not drawn out, and the action scenes are not impossible and unrealistic. Shaft(1971) is also blessed with a good story. The plot involves the private eye rescuing the daughter of a gangster from mobsters, who want to take Harlem back from the black crimelords. John Shaft(Richard Roundtree) is not simply a tool of the black crimelords, and Richard Roundtree is a good actor who gives a great performance. The music by Isaac Hayes is excellent and so is the look of the movie and 1970's Harlem. The dialogue is bad occassionally, but is never horrible. Remember, no matter what the critics say, this is more than just an action film, and is instead a top-notch urban crime movie.
on August 22, 2007
Though it holds up surprisingly well over thirty years later, "Shaft" isn't so much worth watching for its quality as for its historical importance. African-Americans were just barely starting to get the respect they deserved, and mild-mannered, "respectable" blacks like Sidney Poitier had begun appearing in films like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and, with a little harder edge, in "In the Heat of the Night." Then, in 1971, "Shaft" bursts on the scene. Its protagonist is a street-smart black detective who doesn't take any crap, and frankly doesn't care what any white boys think of him. The film is shot as though being black was normal, a viewpoint many found hard to grasp back then. Considering what it was flinging at audiences, it's surprising "Shaft" didn't cause more of an outroar.
Instead, "Shaft" was a hit with audiences of all colors. The "Theme from Shaft," highlighting Isaac Hayes' funky soundtrack, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Richard Roundtree's clever, wisecracking loner detective recalled the likes of Philip Marlowe and Sam Slade and soon joined them in the annals of cinema. After all, Shaft was one bad motha(shut your mouth): tough, charismatic, and a big hit with the ladies. The director was Gordon Parks, fresh off his success with "The Learning Tree," where he had become the first African-American to direct a major studio feature. Parks fluctuated between in-your-face action and gritty street scenes, with the pacing of an old mystery film. He wasn't afraid to show conflict between blacks and whites, but he did so with a sensibility that ensured little offensiveness.
"Shaft" is a well-made movie. The most impressive scene may be the shoot 'em up finish. Refreshingly, and true to the film's attitude, there's no "clean-up" or "sorting it all out" after the climax - Shaft takes out the bad guys, does his job, and the movie's over, baby. Audiences took to Shaft enough to bring him back, though, for two sequels and a TV series, as well as a remake at the start of the 21st century. Most importantly, "Shaft" created its own genre: "blaxpoitation," hard-hitting thrillers with a ghetto setting and a mean black hero. The blaxpoitation phenomenon had died down by the end of the 70s, but all these years later, "Shaft" is still right on.