August 31, 2011 1 Comment
That’s right I’m talking about Shaft. You know my love of Blaxploitation films so I am not gonna waste my breathe on bestowing the love all over again about how this genre of films created not only some of the most entertaining and culturally important film movement, but also some of the best soundtrack music ever. You can dig it if I keep the post for today brief as I don’t want to repeat myself with talking about the love affair I have with blaxploitation films, but I do want to talk a little bit about Shaft. You dig?
John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a black private eye detective in New York and while on his way to work, he gets pumped for information by Lt. Victor Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), a friend of his on the police force about some happenings down in Harlem. Black crime kingpin Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) has enlists Shaft’s help because his daughter has been kidnapped and he wants Shaft’s help in getting her back. Bumpy leads Shaft to a black militant group who is run by a long-time friend Ben Buford (Christopher St. John). As soon as Shaft arrives, machine gun fire kills the group, but Shaft and Buford escape. Shaft, Buford and Bumpy end up having to take on the Italian mob who is behind the kidnapping and using the girl as ransom to get into the Harlem drug trade. Shaft, Buford and Bumpy take the fight to the kidnappers to end the standoff.
Shaft is an incredible, shining example of Blaxploitation movies. You have a strong, independent African America who takes charge and is an authority figure cleaning up the streets. Shaft is a charismatic lead with just the right amount of swagger and depth to him that makes him an incredible character on film. Roundtree, in my eyes, will always be remember for his role as Shaft.
Shaft is not only a great detective movie, mixing in elements of the gumshoe noir and a fresh step in the detective genre, but the film is a cultural icon. Even if you have never seen Shaft, you know who John Shaft is. By and large, the soundtrack by Isaac Hayes is one of the best soundtracks out there and also the grooviest, funkiest track out. It won a damn Grammy and a fucking Oscar for “Best Original Score”. It set the standard for soundtrack music and in turn the song itself became a cultural icon much like the movie. It has made AFI’s 100 Years 100 Songs list at 38. You are probably thinking about the song right now. The guitar licks, constant cymbal bass line and the orchestral accompaniment. You hear when you walk down the street think you are the baddest motherfucker alive and rightly so. The music made and enhanced the movie, making John Shaft’s character larger than life and the rhythmic lead up to the chorus line of the song. God fucking amazing.
Aside from the music, the movie itself has influenced pop culture and the Blaxploitation genre. Many movies tried hard to copy the swagger and feel of Shaft, but few came close. It changed the game in terms of detective films as you had a movie that showed a cultural side we haven’t seen before film. The black culture has usually been portrayed in a negative light in detective movies, where most of the crime happens and it’s a white cop who tries to clean up the street. Shaft gave that culture a voice, not by hiding that there are seedy elements, but showing that there are people out there looking help. Shaft is the strong character and hero that people needed at the time and his actions spoke louder about the plight of the people in that area.
Even if you have no ambition in seeing the movie, you got to appreciate that this movie has influenced music and pop culture for ages to come. Hell the movie even got remade by the next baddest motherfucker around, Samuel L Jackson. While not a terrible movie, still doesn’t hold a candle to the original. Damn now I need to go out on a high note.
Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft