Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)

Production Company
: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Shaft Productions Ltd.
Released: 8 June 1972 (USA)
Running Time: 104 mins
Budget: $1,978,000
Gross: $10,000,000 (USA)
Rentals: US: $3,971,126 (at 31/8/1975) Foreign: $1,825,854 (at 31/8/1975)

Director: Gordon Parks; Writer: Ernest Tidyman; Executive Producer: Stirling Silliphant; Producer: Roger Lewis, Ernest Tidyman; Associate Producer: David Golden; Original Music: Gordon Parks; Cinematography: Urs Furrer (35mm, Metrocolor, Panavision, 2.35:1); Editor: Moe Howard; Casting: Judith Lamb; Art Director: Emanuel Gerard; Set Decorator: Robert Drumheller; Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi; Makeup: Martin Bell; Assistant Director: William C. Gerrity; Sound: Lee Bost, Hal Watkins (Mono).

Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Moses Gunn (Bumpy Jonas), Drew Bundini Brown (Willy), Joseph Mascolo (Gus Mascola), Kathy Imrie (Rita), Wally Taylor (Johnny Kelly), Julius Harris (Capt. Bollin), Rosalind Miles (Arna Asby), Joe Santos (Pascal), Angelo Nazzo (Al), Don Blakely (Johnson), Melvin Green Jr. (Junior Gillis), Thomas Anderson (Preacher), Evelyn Davis (Old Lady), Richard Pittman (Kelly’s Hood #1), Robert Kya-Hill (Cal Asby), Thomas Brann (Mascola’s Hood), Bob Jefferson (Harrison), Dan Hannafin (Cooper), Jimmy Hayeson (Caretaker), Henry Ferrentino (Det. Salmi), Frank Scioscia (Rip), Kitty Jones (Cabaret Dancer), Gregory Reese (Foglio), Marilyn Hamlin (Mascola’s Girl), Cihangir Gaffari (Jerry), Joyce Walker (Cigarette Girl), Gordon Parks (Croupier).

John Shaft helps the grieving sister of an insurance broker, with a side-business in organised crime, who is hit by a rival gang sparking a search for missing loot he withdrew from the business before his death.


  • Initial reports in The New York Times, on 29 May 1971, suggested producers Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant had approached B.B. Johnson (Joe Greene), creator of Richard Abraham Spade “Superspade” in a series of pulp novels, to script the follow-up then titled Shaft #2. Tidyman rejected the script.
  • On 11 June 1971, Lewis and Silliphant produced a 6-page outline entitled Shaft Gets it On. Lewis himself went on to write a screenplay treatment, now being developed under to working title The Big Bam Boo, with the story being based in Jamaica.
  • Tidyman, still unhappy with the script, eventually took over and produced his own outline on 21 October 1971 under the title Gang Bang and produced various drafts between 24 November (at 140 pages) and 9 December, with Tidyman also agreeing publishing rights for a novelisation with Bantam.
  • Tidyman submitted his revised screenplay, now titled Shaft’s Triple Cross on 22 December at a length of 120 pages with further revisions on 5 January 1972 under a new title Shaft’s Triple Cross (Gang Bang), a third on 10 January this time entitled Bury Me Deep, John Shaft then a fourth and final draft on 31 January after shooting had begun. During filming, on 29 March, MGM confirmed the title change to Shaft’s Big Score!
  • Most of the production team from the first film were re-hired for the sequel. Interior and studio sets were again designed by Emanuel Gerard and shooting took place between January and April 1972 at locations including Brooklyn Navy Yard, Manhattan and the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens.
  • New York filming locations include: Laguardia Place 520; Laguardia Place/Bleecker Street; Brooklyn Navy Yard; Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens.
  • Shaft’s firearms include: (1) Smith & Wesson Model 36 with pearl grips, which replaces his Colt Detective Special from the previous film. (2) High Standard Model HS-10B shotgun used during the Brooklyn dockyard chase sequence. The shotgun was designed circa 1970 and was originally a law enforcement only firearm.

Shaft: [after beating two men unconscious] Let’s get the hell outta here.
Willy: You gonna leave him like that? A man can fall out the window, you know. And him, too.
Shaft: Man, don’t you know we already got enough shit on the sidewalk?

Shaft’s Big Score! is tough, violent and witty. There is certainly an increased confidence evident in the production helped by a bigger budget – notably in the admittedly over-extended chase finale involving cars, a speedboat and a helicopter. This lively finale also demonstrates some of the problems with the film – the editing could have been tighter and Parks’ direction is a little lazy in places. For example, during the finale we see Shaft alternate between limping from a leg injury to full on sprinting and then back again. Whilst it lacks some of the intimate focus of the original, by broadening its scope it offers up potential for the future direction of the character on screen. The challenge would be taken up by the third film in the series – Shaft in Africa.

“The movie is intended as mass-audience escapist entertainment, and works on that level better than Shaft did. There is also less baiting of white characters this time, and more humour.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

 “… Gordon Parks keeps improving, as a technician, and SHAFT’S BIG SCORE is far more ambitious and professional than the original SHAFT. But it is also more mechanical and more exploitative of the material. And so it becomes less responsible, less detailed, less personal, less serious and less fun.” – Roger Greenspun, New York Times, 22nd June 1972

“This time around, there is a lot more production and nurturing of the project, not all of which is to the good, however… The first Shaft had a running-scared excitement not only in the characters, but also throughout the whole picture. The new film seems more self-conscious, contrived, ambitious, and sluggish.” – Variety

 “Disappointing sequel to the likeable Shaft… The film has developed an 007 complex, and instead of being Chandler in Harlem, threading its way through a maze of quirky characters and dark mysteries, it makes a dreary beeline for its prolonged climax: a duel between superman Shaft and a hovering helicopter.”  – Time Out

Region 1 (US) – 6 June 2000; Extras: 3 theatrical trailers.
Region 2 (UK) – 5 March 2001; Extras: As Region 1 release.

Region Free (US) – 21 May 2019.
Region Free (UK) – 27 July 2020.