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The working title of this film was The Big Bamboo. The picture was a sequel to the hit 1971 film Shaft, which also was directed by Gordon Parks, featured a screenplay by Ernest Tidyman and starred Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn and Drew Bundini Brown. A sequel to the high-grossing Shaft was announced by M-G-M as early as May 1971, before Shaft's July 1971 release. The May 1971 New York Times news item announcing the sequel noted that producers Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant had signed B. B. Johnson to write the screenplay, although Johnson was not mentioned in any other contemporary sources and it is unlikely that he contributed to the completed picture.
In July 1971 tradepapers, it was reported that Lewis was completing the sequel's screenplay. In a July 23, 1971 Daily Variety article, Lewis was quoted as stating that the second film would be set in and shot on location in Jamaica, and that he would have "a black adviser to go over his screenplay," which he hoped would establish the "Shaft" character as a "black James Bond." Tidyman receives sole onscreen screenwriting credit, however, and the extent of Lewis' contribution to the completed script has not been determined. Although an August 11, 1971 Variety news item announced that actress-singer Lena Horne was being approached to play Shaft's mother, neither Horne nor the character appears in the film. A December 15, 1971 Variety news item reported that the filming location had been switched from Chicago to New York.
As with the first Shaft film, Shaft's Big Score! was shot entirely on location in New York City. According to an April 1972 Motion Picture Herald article about the production, shooting locations included the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Manhattan and the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens. The article also noted that many of the crew members from the first Shaft film worked on the sequel, and that stunt coordinator Marvin Walters performed many of Roundtree's stunts.
According to the July 1972 Washington Post review, composer Isaac Hayes, who won an Oscar for Best Song for his "Theme from Shaft," refused to write the score for Shaft's Big Score! because M-G-M "declined to pay Hayes as much as he demanded." Although Hayes did contribute one instrumental number to the film, the score was written by Parks, himself a noted composer.
Tidyman, who wrote several original novels featuring the Shaft character, wrote a book version of his screenplay for Shaft's Big Score!, which was published as a paperback under the same title by Bantam Books. According to contemporary articles, Tidyman delayed publication of the novelization because he was angered that Silliphant and Lewis, his partners in Shaft Productions, Ltd., would share in the royalties, as would M-G-M. Tidyman argued that the novel was not merely a novelization but a "complete and individual novel based on a character I created," according to a May 1972 Variety article. Although the exact resolution to the dispute has not been determined, the paperback was published on July 3, 1972, according to a Variety news item, to tie-in with the film's opening.
Shaft and Shaft's Big Score! were re-released on a theatrical double bill in 1973, according to an M-G-M pressbook located at the AMPAS Library. Although a 1972 July Newsweek article reported that Tidyman's contract with M-G-M called for three more screenplays featuring the Shaft character, only one more theatrical film in the series, 1973's Shaft in Africa, was produced. For more information about the series, please see the entry above for Shaft.