Shaft’s 2017

Well, here we are again. Another year on and it seems to have gone so quickly. At this time last year I gave a summary of activity in the world of John Shaft. It came at the end of an exciting two years, which saw the publication of two original comic books as well as a new novel, all written by David F Walker, relaunching Ernest Tidyman’s detective in literary form.

Walker had done a superb job at introducing the character to a new audience. His work proved to be a real treat for fans of the original books and films. Despite critical acclaim, these books did not sell in sufficient quantities to satisfy publishers Dynamite Entertainment and a planned reprint of Tidyman’s original novels stalled after the first release. The Italian reprints through SUR, however, did at least continue with the publication of the second book, Shaft Among the Jews, in January (retitled Shaft Tragli Ebrei).

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Tim Story.

Also in January, further news on the proposed new Shaft movie emerged when Tim Story was announced as director. The fact that Story has a string of comedic action tales to his credit added further fuel to the fire that the producers were moving away from the original concept.

In February, Walker’s Shaft: Imitation of Life comic book was nominated for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. Whilst the book failed to win the award, it was further acknowledgement of Walker’s achievements. The writer would go on to produce high profile work away from Dynamite with a new Luke Cage series for Marvel along with Power Man and Iron Fist and Occupy Avengers and a comic series book series of Planet of the Apes for Boom.

All went quiet in the Shaft world until August, when in an interview Story confirmed, “My Shaft movie is going to be definitely not straight action. We’re going action-comedy or comedy-action, I’m not exactly sure which one comes first. We’re going to definitely make sure the stakes in the world are real, and then you’ve got these characters who are dealing with kind of a father/son situation, we’re going to see them put a family back together.”

Jessie T Usher and Samuel L Jackson

Pre-production was mobilised and casting commenced with Jessie T Usher confirmed as the son of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft, who in turn is the nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original. The film, provisionally titled Son of Shaft, is therefore a sequel to John Singleton’s 2000 Shaft, which starred Jackson and was a belated sequel to the original Shaft trilogy from the early 1970s. What modern audiences will make of these nods to the character’s cinematic legacy remains to be seen, but it feels like this is Shaft in name only. Usher’s character is described as being at odds with the old-school methods of detection employed by his father – being a more tech-savvy sleuth working for the FBI. With the tone set for an action-comedy, the result is likely to be far-removed from Tidyman’s gritty novels and Gordon Parks’ iconic 1971 interpretation.

Alexandra Shipp and Regina Hall, the latter as Shaft Jr’s mother, were also added to the cast and shooting commenced in Atlanta in December with a scheduled move to New York planned in early 2018. A June 2019 release date has also been slated and a distribution deal has been agreed by New Line with internet movie provider, Netflix.

Image result for shaft blu-ray hmvSo, with 18 months to wait before we get to see any new Shaft on screen, what else is happening? Well the answer is not much. Whilst the original Shaft was finally released on Blu-ray in the UK in October, we still await BD releases of Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa anywhere in the world. My guess is these will be released in 2019 to coincide with the new movie. Whether, Dynamite will follow suit by reprinting the remainder of Tidyman’s novels remains to be seen.

I remain hopeful hype around the movie will bring the Shaft legacy into the public eye once more – despite my reservations about its tone and subject matter.  Dynamite still owns the literary rights, so maybe interest will be rekindled in commissioning more original literary work whether in comic book form or prose, hopefully with Walker on board.

Regina Hall joins cast for Shaft sequel

Variety has reported that actress Regina Hall has joined the cast of the latest Shaft sequel – provisionally titled Son of Shaft – currently filming in Atlanta and New York. It is reported she will play the former love interest of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft (nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original Shaft) and mother to Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. Hall has worked with producer/writer Kenya Barris on Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016), Girls Trip (2017) as well as the TV series Black-ish.

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Filming commenced this month in Atlanta and will later move to New York. The film is slated for release on 14 June 2019.

Son of Shaft synopsis and casting news

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Alexandra Shipp.

A number of websites and trade papers are reporting New Line’s negotiations with actress Alexandra Shipp to join the cast of Tim Story’s new Shaft sequel. What role Shipp (who recently appeared as Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse) will take is not yet known. Jessie T. Usher has already been signed to play the son of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft – the nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original John Shaft.

In addition DenofGeek.com report a newly released synopsis for the movie provisionally titled Son of Shaft:

Working for the FBI, estranged from his father and determined not to be anything like him, John Shaft Jr. reluctantly enlists his father’s help to find out who killed his best friend Karim and bring down a drug-trafficking/money-laundering operation in NYC.

Production is due to commence in December, meaning a winter shoot emulating the original Shaft movie which started shooting in January 1971. Larry Blanford who worked with Story on Ride Along and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, will be the director of photography.

Shaft re-appraised following UK Blu-Ray release

Shaft (hmv Exclusive) - The Premium Collection (Image 1)Gordon Parks’ 1971 adaptation of Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft was released on Blu-Ray in the UK on 2 October via HMV’s “premium Collection”. The release has led to modern viewers and critics re-appraising a film that these days is seemingly better remembered for its theme song.

Casimir Harlow at AVForums had this to say on 19 October: “…a surprisingly low budget, straightforward affair that doesn’t appear anywhere near as flashy and funky as it’s theme song would have you believe, instead riding high not only on Hayes’ lyrics but also on the swagger and sheer screen presence of Richard Roundtree, an underrated star.”

Chris Hick at FilmWerk : “Despite his lack of real acting ability, Roundtree dominates every scene with his sculpted afro, big moustache and cool clothes including raincoat length leather jackets. The action is violent and in your face and shot in a seedy New York virtually unrecognisable today which has an obvious parallel with the superior The French Connection, that was coincidentally made the same year; the pair of films having many similarities with the snowy dirty and cold mean streets of the Big Apple.”

Rob Simpson, writing for TheGeekShow says, “More so than any film, this can be credited for the popularisation of 1970s black cinema with its mix of street culture, social commentary, phenomenal music, action, and crime jam-packed into a massively entertaining and punchy bundle.”

I am hoping Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa will follow onto Blu-Ray soon. But the likelihood is if at all the trilogy will be re-released to coincide with New Line’s cinema release of the latest Shaft sequel next year.

Netflix in deal for latest Shaft sequel

Deadline.comImage result for netflix is reporting that New Line, producers of the latest Shaft sequel – mooted by some sources to be titled Son of Shaft – have made a deal with Netflix to fund half the $30m budget in exchange for international rights. The deal reportedly means Netflix will be able to stream the movie just 2 weeks after its release.

The movie is due to begin production in December. Since it was announced that Jessie T. Usher would star and reports suggested the involvement of both Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree, no further announcements on casting have been made.

I am keeping track of all updates on this project here.

Casting rumours/speculation for Shaft reboot/sequel

It is being reported in Variety, that Samuel L jackson has been approached to reprise his role from 2000’s Shaft with Jessie T. Usher being lined up to play his son.
Samuel L Jackson and Jessie TIt’s the usual “sources tell us…” approach to reporting, so we’ll wait and see. The film is set to be directed by Tim Story from a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow.

UPDATE (19/8): A further report in Deadline states the title of the film will be Son of Shaft and that Richard Roundtree is also lined up to appear with production due to start before the end of autumn. Usher’s John Shaft III is reported to be an FBI agent and cyber expert whose methods will clash with the old school approach of his father.

Film Review – EARTHQUAKE (1974)

Image result for earthquake 1974Earthquake (1974; USA; Technicolor; 123m) **½  d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Williams.  Cast: Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Richard Roundtree, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Matthau, Ava Gardner, Genevieve Bujold, Lorne Greene, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Victoria Principal, Monica Lewis, Gabriel Dell, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Lloyd Gough. Various stories of various people as an earthquake of un-imagineable magnitude hits Los Angeles. A triumph of special effects over characterisation and plot. Heston plays the square-jawed hero in his usual style. Performances are variable with Gardner and Gortner particularly guilty of hamming up their roles. The finale lacks any real resolution. Oscar winner for Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.) and Special Achievement Award for visual effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock). Additional footage shot for 160m TV version. [PG]

Film Review – SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973)

shaft-2-poster-0Shaft in Africa (1973; USA; Metrocolor; 112m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant; ph. Marcel Grignon; m. Johnny Pate.  Cast: Richard Roundtree, Frank Finlay, Vonetta McGee, Neda Arneric, Debebe Eshetu, Spiros Focás, Jacques Herlin, Jho Jhenkins, Glynn Edwards, Cy Grant, Jacques Marin. P.I. John Shaft is recruited to go undercover to break up a modern slavery ring where young Africans are lured to Paris to do chain-gang work. Whilst the producers try to turn Shaft into a black James Bond, this still remains an enjoyable action thriller. Roundtree has considerable charisma and the plot concerning people trafficking is still topical. Followed by a TV series (1973-4) and then SHAFT (2000). [18]

Film Review – SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! (1972)

Image result for Shaft's Big score 1972Shaft’s Big Score! (1972; USA; Metrocolor; 105m) ∗∗∗½  d. Gordon Parks; w. Ernest Tidyman; ph. Urs Furrer; m. Gordon Parks.  Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Drew Bundini Brown, Joseph Mascolo, Kathy Imrie, Wally Taylor, Julius W. Harris, Rosalind Miles, Joe Santos, Angelo Nazzo, Don Blakely, Melvin Green Jr., Thomas Anderson, Evelyn Davis, Richard Pittman. Shaft investigates the murder of a friend and gets mixed up in a feud between gangsters. Follow-up to SHAFT benefits from a higher budget, which is notably apparent in the protracted chase finale where Roundtree is pursued by villains by car, boat and helicopter. This set-piece is the highlight of a movie that comes close to matching the original. Most of the same crew returned and the snow-filled winter streets provide some excellent photographic scenes for Parks and his cinematographer Furrer. Roundtree is the epitome of cool as Shaft, whilst Mascolo makes the most of his role as a Mafia boss with a sense of style. Followed by SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973). [15]