John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy (Moses Gunn), the leader of the black crime mob, then against black nationals, and finally working with both against the white mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumpy by kidnapping his daughter.
Gordon Parks's "Shaft" gave us the first really convincing black private eye. Movies about private detectives have always been among my favorites --t hey seem to be better than most other formula movies -- and John Shaft, as played by Richard Roundtree, belongs in the honorable tradition of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and company. He belongs because, like them, he keeps no regular company. Private eyes (in the movies, anyway) are loners in a way that defines the word. They live in dingy walk-up offices, sipping bourbon from the office bottles and waiting for the phone to ring.
Gordon Parks was the first black director to make a major studio film, and his "The Learning Tree" (1969) was a deeply felt, lyrically beautiful film that was, maybe, just too simple and honest to be commercial. It didn't find a large audience, and I suspect that Parks turned next to "Shaft" for commercial survival.
Parking is available in the Senate parking lot on Gilbert, as well as on Michigan Avenue and Gilbert Streets.