Shaft in Africa

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Shaft in Africa
Shaft in Africa.jpg
Original theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed by John Guillermin
Produced by Roger Lewis
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Starring Richard Roundtree
Frank Finlay
Neda Arnerić
Vonetta McGee
Frank McRae
Music by Johnny Pate
Cinematography Marcel Grignon
Edited by Max Benedict
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 14, 1973 (1973-06-14)
Running time
112 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,395,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Shaft in Africa is a 1973 film directed by John Guillermin and is the third film in the blaxploitation trilogy of films starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft. Stirling Silliphant wrote the screenplay.[2] The cost went up to $2,142,000, but the gross fell to $1,458,000. MGM quickly sold the property to television, but the television series was cancelled after just seven episodes.


At home in his New York City apartment, John Shaft is drugged with a tranquilizer dart, then kidnapped and persuaded by threats of physical force, the promise of money, and the lure of a pretty tutor to travel to Africa, assuming the identity of a native-speaking itinerant worker. His job is to help break a criminal ring that is smuggling immigrants into Europe then exploiting them. But the villains have heard that he is on his way.

Shaft must pass a test before being hired for the job; the test involves him surviving in a small, overheated room without water, and a floor covered in deep sand, mimicking the supposed conditions of Africa. Shaft covers himself with the sand, thereby avoiding heatstroke and winning the contract from his employer. Shaft must then embark upon a mission to infiltrate and destroy a human trafficking and slavery ring in West Africa and France.

He was hired by diplomat, Emir Ramila for this mission. Shaft then goes undercover to get into criminal empire of the evil Vincent Amafi by getting in a crowded base of a slave ship. Vincent Amafi murdered Emir Ramila's son when he was attempting to expose the illegal operation. Emir Ramila chose Shaft because his investigation was exposed so he needed someone that was unfamiliar to help bring Vincent Amafi and his business down. Later, after Shaft's cover is blown, by the high-ranking Wassa, he is faced with dodging assassins’ bullets to continue the mission. Shaft continues the mission by trying to free the slaves that are held in former Nazi prison below a French chateau.[3]


Who are the Actors?[edit]

  • Richard Roundtree is mainly remembered for his acting as John Shaft in the Shaft movies. He is currently still living and present in the acting community. He was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year-Actor. Roundtree was diagnosed with the rare male breast cancer in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. He played football in high school and they were undefeated, New Rochelle High school. His is also known as the leading man in early Blaxploitation films.
  • Frank Finlay was originally born Francis “Frank” Finlay on August 6, 1926 was laid to rest on January 30, 2016. He was nominated for an Oscar for a supporting role in the film Othello. He got in first leading role as Casanova in 1971. He continued to stay in the acting community until 2008.
  • Vonetta McGee born Vonetta Lawrence McGee on January 14,1945 was laid to rest on July 9, 2010. She is best known for her roles in blaxploitation films in the 1970s. She was active in the acting community until 2007 and died of cardiac arrest at the age of 65.


Track Listings

  • A1- You Can’t Even Walk In The Park (Opening Theme) by Johnny Pate
  • A2- Are You Man Enough? (Main Title) by The Four Tops (Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
  • A3- Aleme Finds Shaft (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • A4- Shaft in Africa (Addis) (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • A5- Headman (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • A6- El Jardia (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • B1- Are You Man Enough? (Single Version) by The Four Tops (Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
  • B2- Jazar’s Theme (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • B3- Truck Stop (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • B4- Aleme’s Theme (Soundtrack) by Johnny Pate
  • B5- El Jardia (Reprise) by Johnny Pate
  • B6- Are You Man Enough? (End Title) by The Four Tops (Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)

Major Themes[edit]

Black Heroes and Black Power

When this film was made, white studios had just recognized the appeal of black action heroes to black audiences. However, non-black men were still in control of most of the essential aspects of the productions of this film and even the previous Shaft movies. Major studios produced and packaged these films to black popular audience and the theme was Black action films. They invested in black heroes with mainstream values. They basically did what they do with doll, paint an original white character into difference races. The case of Shaft is no different. The studios decided to create an African American James Bond. Shaft in Africa was the one out of the three films that was the most like James Bond.[4]

Shaft was more appealing to the middle class and that was their original intended audience. They portrayed Shaft as a middle-class hero. He lived in a middle-class neighborhood but still knew his ways around the streets. In the aspects of, he bettered himself but never forgot where he came from. Their portrayal of other African Americans in the film was created by the white production team. Other men of African descent were portrayed in a negative way, like gangsters or naive, uneducated, and unemployed men. The studios also hired a black-oriented advertising firm to help with appealing to the black audience. Eventually, by the third movie, the audience was bored of the black James Bond.[5]

However, these films helped white studios develop black-oriented themes and black heroes- black sexuality, anger, and violence- into the American action film genre. This opened the gateway to more black oriented genres and themes.[6] These films often highlight black masculinity, a portrayal that the Black Power Movement wanted to improve. This films showed many positive attributes to the movement, but some negative ones as well. Shaft was shown as a person who achieved confidence, control of his life, and freedom which was liked by the African American audience. However, it also brought back the subjects of kidnapping, slavery, exploitation, working for the brutal white bosses. Labor reform and employment were key aspects in the Black Power movement.


Shaft in Africa contributed memorable musical numbers of jazz, funk, soul, and blues. Johnny Pate composed and arranged the score, as well as conducted the orchestra. The reviews for the soundtrack were generally positive. However, just like the film, the audience gave the score mixed reviews. Many critics said it did not compare to the original Shaft’s soundtrack by Isaac Hayes but failed to realize the film’s attempt to turn its focus to a more international view along with Pate’s traditional view of the music. This album is highly recommended to collectors of Blaxploitation and exotica. The Blaxploitation elements that are present in the soundtrack are: African percussion, bold panoramic horn driven melodies, exotic tone colors and plenty of wah-wah guitars and clarinets for everyone.[7]

Historical Context[edit]

A list of Historical events that occurred during the production and release of the film.

  • May 29, 1973- First Black Mayor in Lost Angeles Tom Bradley becomes the first black mayor elected in the city of Los Angeles.[8]
  • October 16, 1973- First Southern Black Mayor Maynard Jackson becomes the first black mayor of Atlanta, and the first African-American mayor of a major southern city.
  • November 04, 1973- Edward William Brooke III was the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate.[9]
  • November 06, 1973- Clarence Lighter was elected Raleigh, North Carolina's first Black mayor on this date.[10]


Critics gave the film lukewarm reviews.[11][12]

Shaft in Africa turned out to not be as successful as the two Shaft films that were released before it even though it had a greater budget. The reviews on the film was met with mixed reviews from its audience. Following this film, there was a release of a short-lived TV Series. Shaft (TV series), which only ran for seven 70-minute episodes between October 1973 and February 1974.[13]


The film was shot in various locations in New York, France, and Ethiopia by veteran cinematographer Marcel Grignon (Is Paris Burning? [1966]). Shaft in Africa was written by Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night [1967]) and not by Ernest Tidyman who was the original novel writer and screenwriter for the previous two movies and series. It was produced by Roger Lewis by A Stirling Silliphant-Roger Lewis Production. The film was directed by John Guillermin also known for his production of the 1970’s western El Condor.[14] It was distributed and presented by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974, p. 60.
  2. ^ "70s rewind: john guillermin's shaft in africa". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  3. ^ Richard Harland Smith, TCM, Shaft in Africa, 1973,
  4. ^ Reid, Mark A. "The Black Action Film: The End of the Patiently Enduring Black Hero." Film History 2, no. 1 (1988): 23-36.
  5. ^ Reid, Mark A. "The Black Action Film: The End of the Patiently Enduring Black Hero." Film History 2, no. 1 (1988): 23-36.
  6. ^ Reid, Mark A. "The Black Action Film: The End of the Patiently Enduring Black Hero." Film History 2, no. 1 (1988): 23-36.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1973-06-21). "Screen: And Now It's 'Shaft in Africa':Roundtree on Track of a Labor Smuggler". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  12. ^ "Shaft in Africa". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  13. ^ Richard Harland Smith, TCM, Shaft in Africa, 1973,
  14. ^ Richard Harland Smith, TCM, Shaft in Africa, 1973,

External links[edit]