Starring: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn
Director: Gordon Parks
Distributor: Warner Brothers
“Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks? Shaft.” The fabulous Oscar winning theme song by Isaac Hayes is perfectly in synch with Urs Furrer’s camera as it zooms in from a rooftop on 42nd Street to catch John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) emerging from the subway onto Times Square. Wearing a long brown leather coat, cream polo neck sweater tucked into his pants and woollen jacket hiding his holster he strides off to his first encounter of the day. His pal, the blind newspaper man gives him the news; two guys were there ten minutes earlier looking for him.
Turns out they’re mafia types nudging in on Harlem boss Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) and they’ve kidnapped Bumpy’s daughter as part of the negotiations. Following a few key leads, our main man tracks them down to the No-Name Bar where Mr Hayes and his rhythm section, The Bar-Keys and Movement have laid down some funky source music to underscore Shaft’s operational style. Cooler than cool, Shaft trades places with the gay barman, rolls up his polo and sidles up to the two gangstas. He pours them a whisky and, because he’s got the whole thing sewn up, pours himself one too then proceeds to take them out with minimal blood and maximum style.
There are some days when Shaft just wants to unwind with his baby. And others when he takes a groovy white chick back to his bachelor pad for some steamy shower action. It’s “a new expression of blackness in film” boasts the original trailer, and one of the most successful ‘Blaxploitation’ films ever made. Director Gordon Parks builds his action to a killer shootout and with the slick as slacks art direction by Emanuel Gerard enriching the vision, it’s pure ’70s chocolate heaven.