Blu-Ray Review: Shaft

Hollywood has always been a very white place. Whilst some purposeful steps have been made this century, at least in front of the camera, there is still a long way to go. When black people appeared on screen in the early 1970s, they were usually the bad guy or, at best, a sidekick. There were very few African-American leads. The Blaxploitation movement began to slowly change this, eventually opening up to wider audiences. Shaft was one of the first films to really breakthrough the race barrier.

John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a private eye pounding the streets of Harlem and ‘the Village’, with a foot in both the worlds of law enforcement and crime. He’s summoned by a crime boss, Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn), who has a special job for him. His precious daughter has been kidnapped and he’ll do anything to get her back. Shaft sets about tracking her down with the help of a former colleague and now militant activist (Christopher St. John).

Shaft is a fascinating and unique crime drama which provides a snapshot of a time and place in history. It has become iconic in its representation of black culture in ‘70s America, and the theme, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song, is still part of popular culture. Gordon Parks’ film remains one of the most important breakout movies of the Blaxploitation era and a rough and ready curiosity with crossover appeal.


  • 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!

Shaft is released on Blu-ray as part for the Criterion Collection on 27 June.

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