One of the most iconic films of all time, Gordon Parks’ Shaft is perhaps best-known for its “revolutionary funk/soul masterpiece” soundtrack from Isaac Hayes. But this franchise-launching blaxploitation classic is so much more than its music. Boasting a killer performance from Richard Roundtree who changed cinema with the so-called “first black action hero of film”, the film is a slick, cool crime thriller that may be beginning to show its age – but there’s no denying Shaft’s intensely raw power that resonates to this day. An influential and pioneering film, Shaft remains essential viewing.
With a stunning new restoration from Criterion, the film has been given a definitive release in a package that also very generously includes the film’s sequel Shaft’s Big Score!
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While the Black Power movement was reshaping America, trailblazing director Gordon Parks made this groundbreaking blockbuster, which helped launch the blaxploitation era and gave the screen a new kind of badder-than-bad action hero in John Shaft (Richard Roundtree, in a career-defining role), a streetwise New York City private eye who is as tough with criminals as he is tender with his lovers. After Shaft is recruited to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Harlem mob boss (Moses Gunn) from Italian gangsters, he finds himself in the middle of a rapidly escalating uptown vs. downtown turf war. A vivid time capsule of seventies Manhattan in all its gritty glory that has inspired sequels and multimedia reboots galore, the original Shaft is studded with indelible elements—from Roundtree’s sleek leather fashions to the iconic funk and soul score by Isaac Hayes.
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Alternate uncompressed stereo soundtrack remastered with creative input from Isaac Hayes III
- 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!
- PLUS: An essay by film scholar Amy Abugo Ongiri
- New cover by Bill Sienkiewicz
SHAFT is available now on Blu-ray from Criterion