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SHAFT

USA, 1971 (MIFF 1998, Funky! Freaky! Foxy! - Blaxploitation Cinema)

Director: Gordon Parks Jr.

Times Square. The Sony logo. Marquees: He and She, The Animal, School for Sex, The Wild Females. 1971. Welcome to New York City in 35mm winter. Turf of John Shaft - or that smooth-skinned Essence-subscribing ex-model, Richard Rowntree. Nice guy, quick gun, loud wah-wah. All the jokes are about Issac Hayes' inimitable score and theme song (Oscar for Best Song, 1971 - only time the Academy were ever right). The film is different. More laid-back, a touch gritty, doco-textured with the smell of the streets. Rowntree is always a bit too clean, but that's the trip. Clean up the streets without getting your plaid flared suit ruffled or your polo neck tussled. He dresses like those guys in old ads you still see in tailors' stores. He says "right on" as convincingly as Benny Hill. Despite all this, Shaft is a solid, mainstream example of inventively reworking the 40s private dick with racial overtones and funky undercurrents. Plus, this has to be the brown-est movie ever made. Can you dig it? - Philip Brophy

See also...

SUPERFLY

Gordon Parks Jr removes the smoothness from Shaft and reshapes it into diamond strength hardness in Superfly. Shot with pimp-funding, a largely black crew and with the illegal use of street pole ... More »

THREE THE HARD WAY

Three cities: LA, Washington and Detroit. Cesspools of the 70s urban black. A pseudo-Nazi plan will cleanse these American citadels of the Negroid gene. Their water supplies will be injected with a ... More »

TRUCK TURNER

No doubt. Truck Turner is the best Blaxploitation film. Many come near but this one rides high on top. This is Issac Hayes (Mack 'Truck' Turner) inside and out: from his dropped-octave murmuring to ... More »

FOXY BROWN

"Superbad. Dig it. The lady is Superbad." Willie Hutch's theme song says it all - with drum machines, even. Pam Grier is Foxy Brown and all that. A sassy woman whose performances have defined the ... More »

THE BLACK GESTAPO

The black community with the aid of white money forms the People's Army. In some white eyes, that could only spell - The Black Gestapo. Whitey wears plaid leisure suits and white loafers. Brothers ... More »

BLACK CAESAR

Larry Cohen's two Blaxploitation flicks - Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem - are often accused of ripping off the genre whitey-style. But Cohen is a sharp genre-crossing exploitation master. He ... More »

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