ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

John Shaft was an iconic bad ass character from 1970s cinema.

Originally played by Richard Roundtree, he was a street-hardened tough guy who was a touch Mike Hammer, with some James Bond added in for flair.

Shaft had the distinction of being one of the first distinctive, fictional, African-American private investigators. Others, largely via pulp fiction, were mere cardboard cutouts of racial stereotypes.

John Shaft worked the streets of New York where he had the most stylish clothes and apartment and always made it known that he was no one to mess with.

Made in 1971, it was a successful film. Isaac Hayes won an Oscar for Best Original Score for the Theme from Shaft.

Subsequent sequels were made in 1972 and 1973. Seven 90-minute made-for-TV-movies ran on CBS during 1973-74.

John Shaft also spawned several novels.

In 2000, John Shaft made a comeback with Samuel L. Jackson playing the nephew of the original character though they both shared the same name. Another distinction was that the Mr. Jackson’s version of John Shaft was an NYPD detective instead of a PI.

This man exudes intensity.
This man exudes intensity.

Producers considered Shaft 2000 a sequel and not a reboot.

To say the entertainment world got considerable mileage out of John Shaft is an understatement. The score card would be four feature-films, seven TV movies, and seven novels.

Then earlier this year came word that plans are underway for a fifth Shaft feature-film. If you count all the TV movies, it would be-technically-Shaft Twelve.

It doesn’t matter because Hollywood suffers from advanced sequel syndrome.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the latest developments on the Shaft reboot front are that New Line Cinema has tapped Black-ish sitcom creator, Kenya Barris and Goldbergs sitcom scribe slash executive producer Alex Barnow to write the screenplay.

The H-R also mentioned the newest Shaft screenplay will be chock full of action but also have comedic elements as well.

While it goes without saying that it’s the property and prerogative of New Line Cinema but it seems that a rampant side effect of Advanced Sequel Syndrome is to delete history.

Let’s be clear, there was nothing funny about any of the prior Shaft productions. They were as serious as the proverbial heart attack with intensity and loads of action.

At any rate, the comedic addendum leads me to the rather obvious…but overlooked…question.

Who will be the new Shaft?

There are any number of suitable candidates who possess action and comedic attributes. (Mentioning the possibilities will be the focus of a future posting.)

I do think that if they stray too far from the original formula it will be to New Line Cinema’s detriment but then one wonders how much they appreciate the character’s history.

Obviously, Hollywood doesn’t care about formula or history.

Potential greenbacks makes their eyesight and memories fuzzy.


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