The Murder Machine

Production Code: (3813?)
Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 19 February, 1974; 9:30-11:00PM ET
Writer:  William Read Woodfield
Director:  Lawrence Dobkin

Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt Al Rossi), Clu Gulager (Richard Quayle), Judie Stein (Laura Parks), Fionnuala Flanagan (Louise Quayle), Mills Watson (Kassner), Joe Warfield (Gerald Wallace), Sheldon Allman (Higget), Bill Walker (Moon), Danny Wells (Bookie), Janice Durkin (Girl), John Garwood (Plainclothesman #1), Glenn Robards (Plainclothesman #2).

Shaft puts himself up as bait for hit-man Richard Quayle (Gulager) who inadvertently murders the fiancee of a friend whilst carrying out the assassination of a state witness.


  • Final drafts of the script were prepared on 20 November and 3 December 1973.
  • Production notes confirm an early title was The Killing Machine. This is a reference to a line by Shaft in Woodfield’s script describing Gulager’s character.
  • This episode would be Roundtree’s last screen appearance as Shaft until he reprised the role in John Singleton’s remake in 2000.

The final episode broadcast is an interesting departure for the series in that it is basically a character study with Gulager getting the most screen time. The pace is deliberate as Shaft sets himself up as bait. The material is drawn out and as a result not much seems to happen once the hit has been performed and what does happen happens very slowly. Whilst this was a bold departure, the lack of action and slow pacing may have been the final straw for the network who decided to axe the series after just seven stories.

“Another solid cast in this one, but Gulager really shines and brings a villain with some depth, a proper bad guy to send off the series with.” –, 21 October 2017