Shaft in Africa

Last updated
Shaft in Africa
Shaft in Africa.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed by John Guillermin
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Based onCharacters
by Ernest Tidyman
Produced byRoger Lewis
Starring Richard Roundtree
Vonetta McGee
Cinematography Marcel Grignon
Edited by Max Benedict
Music by Johnny Pate
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 20, 1973 (1973-06-20)(New York) [1]
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1.5 million [2]
Box office$1 million (US/Canada rentals) [3]

Shaft in Africa is a 1973 American blaxploitation film directed by John Guillermin, and the third film of the Shaft series, starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft. Stirling Silliphant wrote the screenplay. [4] The cost went up to $2 million, but its gross fell to $1 million.[ citation needed ] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer quickly sold the property to television, but the television series was cancelled after just seven episodes.

Contents

Plot

At home in his New York City apartment, John Shaft is drugged with a tranquilizer dart, then kidnapped and persuaded by threats of physical force, the promise of money, and the lure of a pretty tutor to travel to Africa, assuming the identity of an indigenous language-speaking itinerant worker. His job is to help break a criminal ring that is smuggling immigrants into Europe, then exploiting them. But the villains are tipped off that he is on his way.

Shaft initially passes a test before being hired for the job; the test involves him surviving in a small, overheated room without water, and a floor covered in deep sand, mimicking the supposed conditions of Africa. Shaft covers himself with the sand, thereby avoiding heatstroke and winning the contract from his new employer. Shaft then embarks on a mission to infiltrate and destroy a human trafficking and slavery ring in Africa and France.

Cast

Production

The film was announced in October 1972. [5] The following month it was reported that Stirling Silliphant was writing the script, which would be about the modern day slave trade, and that John Guillermin would direct. [6]

Silliphant had been inspired by a newspaper article he read in 1971 about a truck crossing from Italy into France which was discovered with 30 Africans being smuggled inside; they were to be used for virtually unpaid labour. [7]

"We felt it was important to get Shaft out of New York for the third picture," said producer Roger Lewis. "But we still had to keep him in an area that had appeal - in a way this picture is a big gamble." [7] Richard Roundtree said "the change in atmosphere is a very good thing, a real shot in the arm. Also, the script's better in this one." [7]

It was Guillermin's second film in a row for MGM, following Skyjacked. [8]

It was decided to shoot the film in Ethiopia due to its access to locations such as Arba Minch, Massawa, Harar and Addis Ababa. There would also be filming in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and New York. Filming started on 11 December 1972. Richard Roundtree and Vonetta McGee were presented to Emperor Hailie Selassie shortly before filming. [2] Lewis said it was only the third film shot in Ethiopia, after The Sailor from Gibraltar and a French movie about Rimbaud. [7]

The film was made without the involvement of Shaft creator/screenwriter Ernest Tidyman. He was openly dissatisfied with aspects of the first film, and his growing dislike for the direction Hollywood was taking his character led him to focus on the Shaft novels, Shaft newspaper strip, and other movie projects. [9] "All I do is get the cheques," he said. "I was to be co-producer but I don't really like the idea. Africa's kind of a strange place for a New York boy to be; it didn't seem to fit in with the character." [10] However he still took one third of 29% of the film. [11]

In January 1973, before the film had been released, it was announced that MGM had sold a Shaft TV series to CBS which would be made after Shaft in Africa. [12] Filming was to begin in June. [7]

Soundtrack

Reception

Critical

Critics gave the film lukewarm reviews. New York Times critic Roger Greenspun wrote, "It is still quite good — fairly violent and very sexy. But it is less daring, less ethnically sophisticated, more antiseptic, more comfortably middle-class." [13] [14] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "Sterling Silliphant's script, from the Ernest Tidyman character trove, is surprisingly good, and holds up despite the inherent episodic perambulation of the plot." [15] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "a curiously schizoid movie: On one hand, a solid streak of '70s kinky sex; on the other, a mess of '40s white dialog placed in the mouth of, on surface appearance, a contemporary black dude." [16] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "in addition to being fine escapist fare ... it offers pungent, pertinent observations of white exploitation of blacks outside the United States and suggests a need for international black solidarity." [17] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that "the latest Shaft episode does not find any more inspiration in Africa than it found in Harlem. Screenwriter Stirling Silliphant and director John Guillermin certainly cannot be accused of developing the undercover premise with any conviction, excitement or humor." [18]

Review aggregation website critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a B−, describing it as "crude and slight but simplistically made entertaining adventure story" that resembles a James Bond thriller. [19] On the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "fresh" rating of 60% based on reviews collected from 10 critics. [20]

Box office

Shaft in Africa failed to approximate the financial success of the two hit films which preceded it, in large part because in 1973 theatres were heavily saturated with blaxploitation films, as opposed to how the first two Shaft film had debuted with virtually no competition in the genre. [9] Prior to the film's release, there were hopes for more Shaft movies. Lewis said during filming, "You could literally take Shaft anywhere, almost like a James Bond, but everything in the future depends very much on this one. We couldn't have said 'no' to another one based on the contract we had, but now that Metro is going into the TV show, it could satiate the market to a degree. Nevertheless, if this one is really successful, I guess we'll have Shaft with us for a time to come." [7] However, there would be no more sequels until Shaft in 2000.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Shaft</i> (1971 film) 1971 film directed by Gordon Parks

Shaft is a 1971 American crime action film directed by Gordon Parks and written by Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black. It is an adaptation of Tidyman's novel of the same name and is the first entry in the Shaft film series. The plot revolves around a private detective named John Shaft who is hired by a Harlem mobster to rescue his daughter from the Italian mobsters who kidnapped her. The film stars Richard Roundtree as Shaft, alongside Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John and Lawrence Pressman.

Ernest Tidyman American author and screenwriter (1928-1984)

Ernest Ralph Tidyman was an American author and screenwriter, best known for his novels featuring the African-American detective John Shaft. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of Shaft with John D.F. Black in 1971.

Richard Roundtree American actor

Richard Roundtree is an American actor and former model. Roundtree is noted as being "the first black action hero" for his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film Shaft, and its four sequels, released between 1972 and 2019. For his performance in the original film, Roundtree was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor in 1972.

<i>Across 110th Street</i> 1972 film by Barry Shear

Across 110th Street is a 1972 American action crime film directed by Barry Shear and starring Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa and Paul Benjamin. The film is set in Harlem and takes its name from 110th Street, the traditional dividing line between Harlem and Central Park that functioned as an informal boundary of race and class in 1970s New York City.

John Shaft Fictional private investigator

John Shaft is a fictional character created by author/screenwriter Ernest Tidyman for the 1970 novel of the same name. He was portrayed by Richard Roundtree in the original 1971 film and in its four sequels, Shaft's Big Score! (1972), Shaft in Africa (1973), Shaft (2000) and Shaft (2019), and the seven 1973–74 Shaft television films, with Samuel L. Jackson portraying his son, named John Shaft II, in Shaft (2000) and Shaft (2019), and Jessie Usher portraying the character's grandson in Shaft (2019). The blurb on the paperback on which the original film is based states Shaft is "Hotter than Bond, cooler than Bullitt."

<i>Shafts Big Score!</i> 1972 film by Gordon Parks

Shaft's Big Score! is a 1972 American blaxploitation action-crime film starring Richard Roundtree as private detective John Shaft. It is the second entry in the Shaft film series, with both director Gordon Parks and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman reprising their roles from the first film. Moses Gunn and Drew Bundini Brown also return from the previous film, alongside new appearances from acting veterans Joseph Mascolo, Julius Harris and Joe Santos. Composer Isaac Hayes turned down an offer to score the film, so Parks, himself a musician, composed and performed the score himself.

Stirling Dale Silliphant was an American screenwriter and producer. He is best remembered for his screenplay for In the Heat of the Night, for which he won an Academy Award in 1967, and for creating the television series Naked City, Perry Mason, and Route 66. Other features as screenwriter include the Irwin Allen productions The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.

<i>Blacula</i> 1972 film by William Crain

Blacula is a 1972 American blaxploitation horror film directed by William Crain. It stars William Marshall in the title role about an 18th-century African prince named Mamuwalde, who is turned into a vampire by Count Dracula in the Count's castle in Transylvania in the year 1780 after Dracula refuses to help Mamuwalde suppress the slave trade.

<i>Shaft</i> (TV film series) Series of TV movies

Shaft is a series of television films that aired along with Hawkins and other TV films during 1973–74 television season on The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies. Broadcast every third week, the series is a continuation of the three films beginning with Shaft (1971), starring Richard Roundtree as private detective John Shaft and Ed Barth as Al Rossi; Barth replaces Angelo Gnazzo, who portrayed the character in Shaft's Big Score! (1972).

<i>The New Centurions</i> 1972 film by Richard Fleischer

The New Centurions is a 1972 American Panavision action crime neo noir film based on the 1971 novel of the same name by policeman turned author Joseph Wambaugh.

<i>Scream Blacula Scream</i> 1973 US blaxploitation horror film by Bob Kelljan

Scream Blacula Scream is a 1973 American blaxploitation horror film. It is a sequel to the 1972 film Blacula. The film was produced by American International Pictures (AIP) and Power Productions. This was the acting debut of Richard Lawson.

<i>Marlowe</i> (1969 film) 1969 film by Paul Bogart

Marlowe is a 1969 American neo-noir film starring James Garner as Raymond Chandler's private detective Philip Marlowe. Directed by Paul Bogart, the film was written by Stirling Silliphant based on Chandler's 1949 novel The Little Sister.

Vonetta McGee American actress

Vonetta Lawrence McGee was an American actress. She debuted in the Spaghetti Western The Great Silence and went on to appear in blaxploitation films such as Hammer, Melinda, Blacula, Shaft in Africa, Detroit 9000, and 1974's Thomasine & Bushrod alongside her then-boyfriend Max Julien. In 1975, she was Clint Eastwood's co-star in The Eiger Sanction. She was a regular on the 1987 Universal Television situation comedy Bustin' Loose, starring as Mimi Shaw for its only season (1987–88).

Blaxploitation Film genre

Blaxploitation is an ethnic subgenre of the exploitation film that emerged in the United States during the early 1970s. The term, a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation", was coined in August 1972 by Junius Griffin, then president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP branch. He so named it because he claimed the genre was "proliferating offenses" to the black community in its perpetuation of stereotypical characters often involved in criminal activity. However, the genre does rank among the first after the race films in the 1940s and 1960s in which black characters and communities are the heroes and subjects of film and television, rather than sidekicks, villains, or victims of brutality. The genre's inception coincides with the rethinking of race relations in the 1970s.

Christopher St. John, sometimes credited as Chris St. John, is an American film and television actor. He is also a film producer, film director and screenwriter and played a minor role in the television series Remington Steele.

<i>El Condor</i> (film) 1970 film

El Condor is a 1970 American Western film directed by John Guillermin.

John Guillermin French-British film director, writer and producer (1925–2015)

John Guillermin was a French-British film director, writer and producer who was most active in big budget, action adventure films throughout his lengthy career.

The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies was a weekly 90-minute motion picture made expressly for television. The series aired on CBS from 1971 to 1974. During its first two seasons, the program was similar to ABC's Movie of the Week, which presented a brand-new full-length feature film in a regular weekly time slot with no connecting theme or arc among the films. In the fall of 1972, the series moved from Friday nights to Tuesdays, with its Friday night slot given back to traditional previously released theatrical films under The CBS Friday Night Movies banner.

Rosalind Miles (actress) American actress and model

Rosalind Beatrice Medlock–Miles, known professionally as Rosalind Miles was an American film and television actress and fashion model. Miles was most known for her roles in film during the early to late 1970s. Miles appeared in mostly American blaxploitation films such as; Shaft's Big Score!, The Black Six and Friday Foster.

<i>Shaft</i> (franchise) 1971 American film

The Shaft franchise is a series of five action-crime feature films and seven television films, centered on a family of African-American police detectives all sharing the name John Shaft. The first three features may be described as blaxploitation films, the television films are mysteries, and the fourth feature installment is a crime thriller. By contrast the fifth film installment, released to Netflix, is a satirical buddy-cop comedy.

References

  1. "Shaft in Africa - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . American Film Institute . Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. 1 2 A 'Shaft' Movie Filmed in Africa New York Times 12 Dec 1972: 62.
  3. "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety , January 9, 1974, p. 60.
  4. "70s rewind: john guillermin's shaft in africa". Twitch Film . Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
  5. Carl Foreman Is 'Finding Ernie': Carl Foreman By A. H. WEILER. New York Times; 15 Oct 1972: D15
  6. Silliphant Writing a 'Shaft' Sequel Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times 2 Nov 1972: d26.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Johnson, Molly (25 March 1973). "Roundtree Retraces Slavery Route for 'Shaft in Africa'". Los Angeles Times. p. o20.
  8. Vagg, Stephen (17 November 2020). "John Guillermin: Action Man". Filmink.
  9. 1 2 Walker, David F. (August 2020). "Fifty Years of Shaft". RetroFan. United States: TwoMorrows Publishing (10): 7–8.
  10. MISCELLANY: Race reshuffles The Guardian 13 Feb 1973: 15.
  11. Ventilating Shaft: Alex Hamilton meets the man who made black box office Hamilton, Alex. The Guardian 17 Feb 1973: 10.
  12. Richard Roundtree in Shaft Warm-up Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 2 Jan 1973: f12.
  13. Greenspun, Roger (1973-06-21). "Screen: And Now It's 'Shaft in Africa':Roundtree on Track of a Labor Smuggler". The New York Times . p. 53. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  14. "Shaft in Africa". DVD Talk . Retrieved 2011-06-12.
  15. Murphy, Arthur D. (June 20, 1973). "Film Reviews: Shaft In Africa". Variety . 20.
  16. Siskel, Gene (July 10, 1973). "Shaft in Africa". Chicago Tribune . Section 2, p. 4.
  17. Thomas, Kevin (June 27, 1973). "Black Bond With Relevance". Los Angeles Times . Part IV, p. 11.
  18. Arnold, Gary (July 5, 1973). "'Shaft in Africa': Last Gasp". The Washington Post . C11.
  19. http://homepages.sover.net/~ozus/shaftinafrica.html
  20. "Shaft in Africa". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 5, 2021.