The original Shaft movie celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Exactly fifty years ago today (on Wednesday 23 June 1971) SHAFT premiered in Detroit (the Palms Theatre). Reports originally promoted a dual premiere with Chicago (The Roosevelt Theatre), but that opening actually took place one week later on 30 June. The Roosevelt ran showings from 8:45am through to midnight and the film reportedly grossed $108,000 in its first week in that theatre alone.

Detroit Free Press, 9 July 1971.The film premiered on the east coast in Baltimore on Thursday 24 June 1971 and in Los Angeles (amongst other cities) on Friday 25 June at the Fox theatre. Gordon Parks and Richard Roundtree attended the St. Louis premiere on the same day. In New York there was a benefit screening at 8pm on Tuesday 29 June at the DeMille Theatre (in aid of the widows of seven police officers slain during the year) before its opening on 2 July at both the De Mille and the Playhouse. SHAFT became a huge success across the USA as it went into a staggered wider release across 120 cities from 2 July.

Gordon Parks (second left), Gwenn Michell (centre) and Richard Roundtree (third right) at a screening of SHAFT in Atlanta.

Director Gordon Parks witnessed for himself the round-the-block queues on Broadway in New York as he told Roger Ebert back in 1972: “Ghetto kids were coming downtown to see their hero, Shaft, and here was a black man on the screen they didn’t have to be ashamed of. Here they had a chance to spend their $3 on something they wanted to see. We need movies about the history of our people, yes, but we need heroic fantasies about our people, too. We all need a little James Bond now and then.”

Ad in the Evening Standard, 20 November 1971.

It was not until Friday 19 November 1971 that the movie opened in the UK and reportedly broke box office records at the Ritz in Leicester Square, London, having grossed $5,428 in its first three days. By July 1972, the movie had grossed more than $18 million against a budget of $1.1 million and is attributed with saving MGM from bankruptcy.

Whilst by no means perfect, the film (based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel published the previous year) is rightly regarded as a landmark in cinema history. SHAFT opened Hollywood up to black filmmakers, actors and technicians and an explosion of “Blaxpolitation” movies dominated cinema for the next two or three years. Largely unknown male model/actor Richard Roundtree’s, who gave a superb muscular performance as John Shaft, became an overnight star. SHAFT was recognised at the 1972 Academy Awards, with Isaac Hayes’ theme winning the Oscar for Best Song and his soundtrack also nominated. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Ad in the Baltimore Sun, 20 June 1971, promoting the east coast premiere attended by Gordon Parks and Richard Roundtree.

The success of SHAFT led to two immediate sequels – SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! (1972) and SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973) as well as a short-lived series of seven TV movies (1973-4). The franchise was revived in 2000 by director John Singleton with Samuel L Jackson playing Roundtree’s nephew – later established, in Tim Story’s misguided 2019 continuation of the series, as his son. Roundtree would reprise his role in both films.

Whilst today the hype around the film’s original release may seem a long way away, recent events have demonstrated that the social and civil issues that inspired the creation of a black hero who was his own man, respected in both white and black communities, remain relevant and therefore so is the character of John Shaft.

Here in the UK, the 50th anniversary is being celebrated by screenings of SHAFT at a number of Everyman theatres across the country on Monday 28 June at 8.45pm.

EDITED ON 28 JUNE: Thanks to Michael Coate for further and some corrective information on premieres and openings. A link to Michael’s article on the 50th Anniversary is given below:

Film Review – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978) - Binge Watch Like A Pro!BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978, USA) **½
Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Glen A. Larson Productions / Universal TV; d. Richard A. Colla; w. Glen A. Larson; exec pr. Glen A. Larson; pr. John Dykstra; sup pr. Leslie Stevens; ass pr. Winrich Kolbe; ph. Ben Colman (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1 (Television ratio), 1.85:1 (theatrical ratio)); m. Stu Phillips; s. “It’s Love, Love Love” m/l. Sue Collins, John Andrew Tartaglia; m sup. ; ed. Robert L. Kimble, Leon Ortiz-Gil, Larry Strong; ad. John E. Chilberg II; set d. Lowell Chambers, Mickey S. Michaels; cos. Jean-Pierre Dorléac; m/up. Scott H. Eddo, Marvin C. Thompson, Paul Griffin, Joy Zapata; sd. James R. Alexander (Mono | Sensurround (theatrical print)); sfx. Joe Goss, Karl G. Miller, John Peyser; vfx. John Dykstra; st. Hubie Kerns Jr.; rel. 7 July 1978 (Canada), 12 April 1979 (UK), 18 May 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo), Dirk Benedict (Lieutenant Starbuck), Lorne Greene (Commander Adama), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Lieutenant Boomer), Maren Jensen (Lieutenant Athena), Tony Swartz (Flight Sergeant Jolly), Noah Hathaway (Boxey), Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh), Lew Ayres (President Adar), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Sire Anton), John Colicos (Count Baltar), Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia), John Fink (Dr. Paye), Jane Seymour (Serina), Ray Milland (Sire Uri), Ed Begley Jr. (Ensign Greenbean), Rick Springfield (Lieutenant Zac), Randi Oakes (Blonde Taurus), Norman Stuart (Statesman), David Greenan (Flight Officer Omega).

The Twelve Colonies of Man are annihilated by the Cylons. Adama (Greene), commanding the last surviving Battlestar, takes it upon himself to lead all remaining survivors aboard 220 ships to find a new home. After the Galactica’s fighter pilots successfully navigate a path through the Nova of Madagon minefield, the spoiled Sire Uri proposes to settle down on Carillon, where food and entertainment are provided by the natives. However, Adama suspects a Cylon trap. Released theatrically on the back of the phenomenal success of STAR WARS (1977), this edited version of the TV series pilot cannot escape its small-screen origins. This despite some excellent model work and a well-edited and pacey space battle in the opening scenes. The story meanders on from this point into standard episodic TV fare, with a workmanlike approach to photography and direction. Benedict’s roguish fighter pilot is an obvious riff on Han Solo, but the actor lacks Harrison Ford’s nuance, whilst Hatch makes a bland hero. There is a strong guest cast assembled, including Ayres, Milland, Hyde-White, Begley, Jr. and Seymour, which is underused. Costumes and set design are typical of genre TV of the period and there is even a disco-styled song sung by a unique female trio. The TV pilot version, broadcast in the USA on 17 September 1978 as “Saga of a Star World”, runs 133m. Followed by a TV series 1978-9, two more big-screen features MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK (1979) and CONQUEST OF THE EARTH (1980) were compiled from TV episodes. Later followed by a re-imagined and far grittier TV series 2003-9.

Marketing begins on new Shaft movie

New Line has published an advance poster (below) for the latest Shaft movie, due to be released on 14 June. The poster promises “More Shaft then you can handle” featuring Samuel L Jackson, Richard Roundtree and Jessie T Usher as three generations of Shaft – the latter being the son of Jackson’s nephew to Roundtree’s original – following this? A trailer is promised for tomorrow ( 6 February) with a teaser released today. A Twitter site has also been launched.

Christopher Lennertz to score Shaft

Christopher LennertzChristopher Lennertz is named by IMdB and Film Music Reporter as the man tasked with writing the score to the latest Shaft movie, due out in the summer of 2019. Lennertz has worked on a host of films and TV series since 1994, including the recent Lost in Space TV reboot. He previously worked with director Tim Story on 2014’s action comedy, Ride Along and its 2016 sequel. He also scored Pitch Perfect 3 and the recent remake of Baywatch. He won an Emmy in 2006 for his score for Supernatural. He has also scored several video games including the James Bond release From Russia With Love, for which he received good reviews for the way he recalled John  Barry’s style. An adaptable composer, it will be interesting to see if he can add a distinctive feel to his score for Shaft.

More casting news for Son of Shaft

Method Man PictureHollywood Reporter says musician and actor Cliff Smith (better known as Method Man) is the latest addition to the cast of Son of Shaft. He has been lined up to play an old friend of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft. he has recently been seen in HBO series The Deuce as well as hosting Drop the Mic.

Avan Jogia added to cast of Son of Shaft

Image result for avan jogiaReports today in many of the trade websites that actor Avan Jogia, who starred in the recent fantasy TV series Ghost Wars, has been added to the cast of Son of Shaft, currently shooting in Atlanta. No details yet on the character he will play in the film, which is to star Samuel L Jackson and Jessie T Usher.

Liam Neeson set to be eighth big-screen Philip Marlowe

Reports Image result for liam neesonhave been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).

The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”

The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.