Jun 102022

There’s no doubt the cinematic and cultural significance with Shaft, the movie itself is a bit slow but Richard Roundtree in the lead was fantastic and made the film more than worth checking out.



— The Criterion Collection —

Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Action, Crime
The Criterion Collection | R –10 0 min. – $49.95 | June 21, 2022

Date Published: 06/10/2022 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: Gordon Parks
Writer(s): Ernest Tidyman (novel); Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black (screenplay)
Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Victor Arnold, Sherri Brewer, Drew Bundini Brown

Features: Featurettes, Interviews, Trailers
Slip Cover: No
Digital Copy: No
Formats Included: 4K, Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 3

Audio (4K/BD): English (PCM 1.0), English (PCM 2.0)
Video (4K): 2160p/Widescreen 1.85
Video (BD): 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Subtitles: English SDH
Codecs: HEVC / H.265 (4K), MPEG-4 AVC (BD)
Region(s): A, B, C (4K Only)

The Criterion Collection provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

Note: The screen captures were taken from the included Blu-ray disc.

THE MOVIE — 3½/5

Plot Synopsis: John Shaft (RICHARD ROUNDTREE) is 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 a 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.

Quick Hit Review: Shaft is a movie that has eluded me in watching despite having seen both the 2000 and 2019 versions, so I was looking forward to watching the original version. While I can’t say I was wowed with the story or even performances from the supporting cast, Richard Roundtree was amazing and his Shaft character was so charismatic and shows why the franchise has endured throughout the years, including two direct sequels and, didn’t know about this one, a short-lived television series.

The film was directed by Gordon Parks (who would go on to also helm the sequel, Shaft’s Big Score) and is based on a novel from Ernest Tidyman, who also co-scripted. There’s no question the cultural impact Shaft had for the African American community and seemed to be a sort of bridge to a wider audience as well. Roundtree for his part was excellent and really the main reason to watch even when the film tended to drag a bit in the middle.



This three-disc release from The Criterion Collection is housed in a clear HD keep case. Inside is a fold-out booklet with essays.

Shaft’s Big Score (1:45:27) — The sequel to Shaft is available here in 1080p HD. Since this was already released on its own via the Warner Archive Collection, this is probably the same transfer.

Listen to a Stranger (19:12) is an interview with Director Gordon Parks conducted following the completion of Shaft’s Big Score.

A Complicated Man: The Shaft Legacy (44:10) is a documentary from 2019 split into three parts but has a Play All option. Features interviews with Richard Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson and others.

John Shaft and the Black Detective Tradition (25:56) — Produced by Criterion in 2022, features scholar Kinohi Nishikawa and writer Walter Mosley.

Behind the Scenes (9:15) — This footage, shot on the set of Shaft’s Big Score, during the filming of the car chase sequence, features Richard Roundtree speaking about his collaboration with director Gordon Parks.

Trailer (3:05)


4K VIDEO – 4¾/5, BLU-RAY VIDEO – 4¾/5

The Criterion Collection releases Shaft onto 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray where it’s presented in the original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and 2160p and 1080p high-definition transfers, respectively. Per the included booklet, this new digital transfer was created in 16-bit 4K resolution from the 35mm original camera negative; some of the footage was damaged and was replaced using a duplicate negative. For these sections, the original yellow, cyan, and magenta separation masters were independently scans and recombined to replace the inferior duplicate footage.

As such, the picture on both formats, though I watched the movie in its entirely on 4K UHD, looks fantastic… for the most part. Detail is sharp and well defined throughout and while colors are on the darker side in keeping with the tone of the story, does show some flashes while black levels are nicely balanced without appearing crushed. On the downside, there was one scene that did look off, it’s a darkly lit location anyway but not terribly sharp and in fact looked a bit rough (you can see the screen capture here).

AUDIO – 4½/5

Both discs include 1.0 and 2.0 PCM tracks with the former being the default option and thus how I viewed the movie. This is a good sounding lossless track dialogue coming across with fine clarity and even being a mono track, there is decent depth especially with the gunplay and sounds of 1970s New York City.

OVERALL — 4½/5

There’s no doubt the cinematic and cultural significance with Shaft, the movie itself is a bit slow but Richard Roundtree in the lead was fantastic and made the film more than worth checking out.

On the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, while there are no real bonuses with the movie, this does include the sequel, Shaft’s Big Score which does have features, making that alone an upgrade over the Warner Archive release.




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