‘Whose the cat that wont drop out, when theres danger all about?’ You know who. The great Richard Roundtree and the even greater character he played and molded John SHAFT. Featuring the original film, with its Oscar winning score and with trailblazing director Gordon Parks at the helm, ths is the sort of film that put blaxsplotation on the map. Shaft was a New York City private eye who, was always into deep and still ready for the action. So when the kidnapped daughter of a Harlem mob boss (Moses Gunn) is needed to be found, he is the man. However messy the story or indeed the plot gets, from Italian gangsters, to black power groups, Shaft can and does, hold his own and kicks every arse in between.

Now Shaft and the Criterion SHAFT set are not a one film programme however, and after the first success Shaft returned with the sequal SHAFTS BIG SCORE, which is on the set. Honestly, the better of the two for a bunch of reasons (looks slicker, written tighter and more blacker). This sees Shaft take hold of a dicey case. John Shaft must investigates the murder of his friend who ran a money laundering racket with an unaccounted $200,000 off the books. Two rather angry gangs wnat it settled and as he gets embroiled in a battle between them, the money and its whereabouts are far more dubious. Now another film SHAFT IN AFRICA was spawned for Roundtree and two also for the newer incarnation of Smauel L Jackson, but they do not appear here.

Criterion should be applauded for what they have delivered on to us. First the extras treatment is stellar, featuring as it does, experts and real intergral contributors to the film. The Documentary on the making of Shaft is actually not a wet, studio piece but a solid piece of research and revelation. The new program on the Black detective and the legacy of John Shaft, featuring scholar Kinohi Nishikawa and novelist Walter Mosley, is really good as well. It mentions some of the great and under appreciated black contributions to Noir and the detective. The booklet, which is also available free online, is excellent as a resource for those interested in black cinmea! I would also note, to those who care that Chester Himes fiction is funkin good. Finally, the second film, is treated less well, but wins on being a better film in total. So it can live without being given the podium in terms of treatement.

The 4K we have to discuss. There is a UHD in the US that I didnt see here in the UK. What I did see is a really good transfer of the original, which does suffer from a slight leak on the early scenes that is not excessive and will be saved on smaller screens but will hurt on the bigger screens.


New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

Alternate uncompressed stereo soundtrack remastered with creative input from Isaac Hayes III

In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features

Shaft’s Big Score!, the 1972 follow-up to Shaft by director Gordon Parks

New documentary on the making of Shaft featuring curator Rhea L. Combs, film scholar Racquel J. Gates, filmmaker Nelson George, and music scholar Shana L. Redmond

Behind-the-scenes program featuring Parks, actor Richard Roundtree, and musician Isaac Hayes

Archival interviews with Hayes, Parks, and Roundtree

New interview with costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi

New program on the Black detective and the legacy of John Shaft, featuring scholar Kinohi Nishikawa and novelist Walter Mosley

A Complicated Man: The “Shaft” Legacy (2019)

Behind-the-scenes footage from Shaft’s Big Score!


English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

PLUS: An essay by film scholar Amy Abugo Ongiri


New cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

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