The SHAFT series goes global, with a weak story line, zero thrills, and one-dimensional characters. New York private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is hired by foreign diplomat Emir Ramila (Cy Grant) to help bust a gang illegally supplying Africans for menial labor at meager wages in Europe. Shaft undergoes training in local languages and customs...read more
The SHAFT series goes global, with a weak story line, zero thrills, and one-dimensional characters.
New York private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is hired by foreign diplomat Emir Ramila (Cy Grant) to help bust a gang illegally supplying Africans for menial labor at meager wages in Europe. Shaft undergoes training in local languages and customs before posing as a native to lure the
recruiters. But Ramila's underling Wassa (Debebe Eshetu) is a double-agent, and the criminals know Shaft's identity from the beginning. After several attempts on his life, Shaft kills Wassa while accompanying a group of Africans to a crowded tenement in France. When he slips off to give Ramila his
report, thugs burn the tenement and kidnap one of the Africans. Shaft follows several leads to discover that Vincent Amafi (Frank Finlay), the leader of the criminals, has a number of Africans imprisoned in the dungeons beneath a chateau formerly used as a Gestapo prison, which he intends to blow
up. In the end, the Africans escape and kill Amafi, and Shaft blows up the empty chateau.
The conclusion of SHAFT IN AFRICA supplies a badly written finale to a badly written film, with Shaft an entirely unnecessary character, present merely to provide the postscript. Actually, there's not a moment's suspense or a single original twist in the entire film. From the beginning we know who
the bad guys are, who the traitor is, the fact that Shaft's cover is blown, and the fact that Shaft knows his cover is blown. None of this affects his plodding along with his original mission anyway, moving from chase to gunfight in as formulaic a manner as possible. The basic concept is of course
entirely preposterous, with the terminally urbane Shaft passing as a native. He says as much to his employers, but they insist he can learn all he needs in no time--and so he does. Following a scene of Shaft's fighting naked early in the film, the by-now obligatory examples of his sexual prowess
are squeezed into the plot in ever more ludicrous ways. Amafi's girlfriend Jazar (Neda Arneric) is a nymphomaniac who shows up on board the ship ferrying the Africans to Europe. Marveling at the heft of Shaft, she lures him into bed for what she later declares to be the best lovemaking of her
life, afterward naturally helping him to escape--and dying as a result. Ramila's daughter, Aleme (Vonetta McGee) resists Shaft's charms in America, then shows up out of the blue on the African plain, to make love and then disappear again--after saying that because of him, she is going to forego
the traditional clitoridectomy of her tribe.
Never exciting, the film at least keeps up a modest pace and avoids getting boring, with the location filming providing a nice diversion. The parallel between low wages and slave labor is a bit of a stretch, but the script's heart would appear to be in the right place, even if Shaft's is suspect.
Despite his humanitarianism in the previous film, he takes this job purely for the money, not for any moral reasons, showing little interest in the plight of the Africans--but becomes incensed and springs into action when one of the bad guys kills a dog. Logic is entirely absent, from the very
first scenes of Shaft keeping his car parked in Manhattan's Central Park straight through to his being given a secret spy camera that he keeps inside the stick he's continually hitting people with.
Writer Stirling Silliphant had been involved with the SHAFT series since the inception, his production company having made the first film. A former executive in advertising and promotions at Disney and Fox, he had scripted or co-scripted numerous notable book adaptations (NIGHTFALL, VILLAGE OF THE
DAMNED, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT) as well as working in television on "Naked City" and "Route 66." The year before SHAFT'S BIG SCORE, he adapted the novel THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) into a blockbuster film; the year after, he did the same with THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) for SHAFT'S BIG SCORE
director John Guillermin. Guillermin would go on to even bigger disasters with the KING KONG films, while SHAFT moved to television for a short-lived series before grinding to a halt. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)
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