Thursday, June 17, 2021

“Shaft” directed by Gordon Parks from the Ernest Tidyman novel

Last week, I wrote about the novel Shaft. This week, a few words about “Shaft,” the 1971 movie.

The story is fairly simple, private investigator John Shaft is hired by a Harlem gangster to rescue the man’s teenage daughter from Mafia kidnappers.

Some of the social and political complexities of the novel are lost, but the action is retained. The movie is nearly wall-to-wall action, with a few lulls while Shaft verbally spars with police Lt. Androzzi, and beds several women.

The movie had some excellent things going for it. It was based on a solid novel by Ernest Tidyman, who co-wrote the screenplay. It had a good cast with Richard Roundtree as Shaft, Charles Cioffi as Lt. Androzzi, and Moses Gunn as the gangster. Gunn has a terrific moment early on when hiring Shaft and trying to maintain his tough front, while his emotions overwhelm him and tears come to his eyes. 

“Shaft also had long-time magazine photographer, writer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks as director. In an interview, Richard Rountree said Parks was so cool, he was Shaft.

And, perhaps most memorable of all, “Shaft” had a musical score and song by Isaac Hayes. Hayes won an Oscar for “Theme from Shaft.” 

Say “Shaft” to people who have seen the movie, and I will bet two things happen, they hear the song in their heads and they picture Richard Roundtree walking through Times Square in that long leather coat. 

I was going to say more about the movie, but I found the following clip which says it all.


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