Former New York Times writer Ernest Tidyman's knowledge of the city was not had an effect on the hugely successful film The French Connection, but also had an impact on yet another trend setting film, Shaft.

Richard Roundtree, who plays shaft helped define the role of African American males in the movies during the 1970s. Along with such luminaries as Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, and Fred Williamson, Roundtree's tough characters gave a lot of audiences - blacks in particular - someone gritty to root for. "Shaft," of course, is the movie that really typifies that time period. Roundtree's John Shaft really IS a tough guy, and in his first film he's hot on the case of a kidnapped daughter of a local crimelord. This film is just smothered in atmosphere, always important in movies that try to harken back to the days when film noir was the norm, not the exception. Shaft's stuck between the mobsters who both want to control him and use his services and the police who want to roust him. The race card's played a few times here, of course, but remember - it WAS 1971, after all. Although it was not the first, Shaft maybe one of the most important blaxploitation movies.


Please answer the following questions in your journals;

  1. How does the music set the tone for the film?

  2. Shaft was made in 1971, just three years after Martin Luther King's death. Richard Roundtree's character is not only suppossed to be tough, but one that is not afraid to challenge white authority. Is the character believable or is Shaft a characterization?

  3. Does the film use cheap and demeaning sterotypes, or is the Shaft character entertaining?

  4. What did you think of the film?

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