Shaft [Blu-Ray] Gordon Parks

Shaft [Blu-Ray] Gordon Parks
At the risk of being told to "shut my mouth," this release begs the familiar question: "who's the black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks?" If you answered, "John Shaft," then you can dig it. The 1971 blaxploitation classic gets the Blu-Ray treatment and while it is somewhat anachronistic to see the pristine transfer of an intentionally gritty film, it still retains all of its appeal. For those of you unable to "dig it," John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a private detective, but not just any private detective; he's the baddest mother on any street or alleyway of NYC. A suave, tough-talking ladies man, he takes on a case to rescue a mob boss's (Moses Gunn) kidnapped daughter. The trail eventually leads to the Mafia, as it often does, and Shaft utilizes the assistance of a group of black nationalists to try and take them down and get the girl. Along the way, he runs afoul of the local police, romances several women and throws people out of windows, all while never losing his cool or proclivity for the perfect one-liner. Roundtree is so entrenched with the role that it's hardly worth mentioning how perfectly suited he is for it, capturing all of the alluring machismo of an urban James Bond. It's impossible to overstate the cultural significance of a character like this, as it was breaking down traditional archetypes in ways that resonated with audiences enough to spawn sequels and a serviceable 2000 re-make starring Samuel L. Jackson. The story is little more than a run-of-the-mill crime yarn leading up to a big showdown, but it only provides the backdrop for the main character to emerge and claim his esteemed place in pop culture history forever. The disc includes a too-short making-of that's most memorable for some studio footage of Isaac Hayes and his band, who it must be said, look like the coolest cats alive, rehearsing the Oscar-winning title song and other pieces from the soundtrack. The inclusion of an episode from the inevitable television show that was later developed is appreciated, as it is nearly feature-length, though it doesn't quite live up to the original. Director Gordon Parks and writers Ernest Tidyman and John D.F. Black deserve much credit for accomplishing a rare feat: introducing the world to a true maverick and opening the eyes of many in the process. (Warner)