Shaft in Africa is the film that killed the initial John Shaft movies. It seems like it should have hit all of those niches right between the eyes. You have the sexuality of a human slave trade film, you have the big budget exotic nature of location shooting and then you have Shaft. Unfortunately, none of that worked out.
While rewatching the film, the creepiness of some scenes got to me. Before Shaft is paid to go to Africa to break up a slavery ring, he has to get hot boxed. He only survives this Africa simulation in a NYC room by burying himself in sand. Why? Well, because some white people thought this was essential for the baddest black man in NYC’s trip to Africa.
Director John Guillermin is famous for directing a series of Tarzan and Kong movies. Naturally, putting him in charge of the third Shaft movie had messed-up implications. But, that’s OK. They gave the scripting duties to Socially Conscious writer Stirling Silliphant. He wrote In The Heat of the Night which was the socially safe film of choice back in that era.
After Shaft in Africa bombed, MGM tried to make their money back by turning Shaft into a CBS mystery series. Well, it was more a collection of TV movies. Who said you couldn’t put Blaxploitation Jesus on a weekly rotation with a Jimmy Stewart detective show and not have a hit? Well, both Shaft and Hawkins got cancelled after a handful of episodes.
The end result of this experiment was that Shaft went underground for a generation. John Singleton later revived the series in 2000 with a better than expected film. But, let’s take a look at the disc from Warner Archive.
The Blu-ray comes with no special features. However, the A/V Quality is impeccable. I’ve watched this film on VHS, VCD, a snapper case DVD release and now Blu-ray. For being the least loved Shaft film, Warner Archive continues to work its A/V magic. The 2.40:1 transfer looks it was made yesterday. Plus, the original audio mixed into DTS-HD 2.0 Mono is the closest to restaging the original exhibition.
Pick up Shaft in Africa to see what put Shaft into a Pennywise style coma for 27 years.
The Summer of Shaft continues with John Singleton’s Shaft (2000).