Reprinted by permission of Donald Bogle from his film reference
work, Blacks in American Films & Television: An Illustrated
Encyclopedia (Simon & Schuster)
Parks'' direction is neither surprising nor innovative and certainly lacks the pictorial lushness of his earlier film The Learning Tree. At times Shaft  looks downright tacky. Yet it must be admitted that Parks' strong identification with Shaft as a slick, pretty, sexy dude gives the picture unexpected heat and zip; it's doubtful if any white director would have taken as much relish in the hero's derring-do.
Curiously enough, though, no doubt because Shaft is at heart a man-of-the-law-type hero, this film in later years has proven far more acceptable to the large white audience than such features as Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song and Super Fly (neither of which has ever had a television network showing as did Shaft, both of which have true underground, outlaw heroes, free of traditional bourgeois values). Later Shaft was even turned into a routine television private eye series.
Added note: at the time of Shaft's release, its studio, the great MGM, was in the midst of financial difficulties. MGM thought Shaft might make a little bit of money. Of course, it made a mint and helped keep MGM in business. Also: Isaac Hayes won an Oscar® for Best Song, one of the most famous in movie history.
Producer: Joel Freeman, David Golden
Director: Gordon Parks
Screenplay: Ernest Tidyman, John D. F. Black
Cinematography: Urs Furrer
Film Editing: Hugh A. Robertson
Art Direction: Emanuel Gerard
Music: Isaac Hayes, J.J. Johnson
Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Moses Gunn (Bumpy Jonas), Charles Cioffi (Vic Androzzi), Christopher St. John (Ben Buford), Gwen Mitchell (Ellie Moore), Lawrence Pressman (Sergeant Tom Hannon).
C-100m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Donald Bogle