Shaft (1971)

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Released 13-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Soul In Cinema: Filming 'Shaft' On Location
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 96:09
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gordon Parks

Warner Home Video
Starring Richard Roundtree
Moses Gunn
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Isaac Hayes

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You may have wondered what Isaac Hayes did before he descended to South Park. One thing he did was win an Oscar for Best Song in a Motion Picture in 1971. That song was the theme to the movie Shaft. He also wrote the score, which was nominated, but didn't win.

    Shaft is about a private investigator called John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) - billed as "Hotter than Bond. Cooler than Bullitt". The references are apt - Bond-like, he seems to spend half his time taking lovely ladies to bed, and Bullitt-like, he mouths off to authority.

    This movie begins with Shaft being attacked in his office, and one of the attackers falling to his death from the window. The attackers work for "Bumpy" Jonas (Moses Gunn), a Harlem hoodlum (try saying that fast) who wants Shaft to locate his kidnapped daughter.

    This is quite emphatically a movie of its era - the language, and some of the concepts, feel very dated today. Perhaps the strangest thing, though, was the use of telephones - Shaft is often ringing people, and it seems odd how he must go looking for a phone to ring on, rather than whip out a cellular phone. Despite the differences in culture, the basic story is as valid today as then - this movie has a decent plot.

    This movie was enough of a success to spawn two sequels: Shaft's Big Score, and Shaft In Africa - all three are being released on DVD at once. If you only want to choose one of them, then pick the original - this one. If you like it, consider getting the other two.

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Transfer Quality


    Bear in mind that this movie was made on a reasonably low budget in 1971 - 30 years ago. Considering that, we have received a wonderful video transfer.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. The other side of the disc offers the movie in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (Full Frame). For some strange reason the slick claims that the movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on both sides, with one being 16x9 enhanced, and the other being 4x3 - this is simply not true, except for the credits. Don't let the cover confuse you.

    The video starts off fairly grainy, but the grain subsides after the first five minutes or so. We never get the quality that is possible with modern film-stocks, but it is as sharp as the grain allows, which is really quite good. Shadow detail is fairly good, and there is very little low-level noise - something we can appreciate during the night-time scenes.

    Colours are a little muted, partly because of the film-stock used. What blood we see looks awfully fake - the wrong colour red - but I think the blame for that lies with the special effects people, not the film.

    There are quite a few film artefacts, but they are almost all tiny, and barely noticeable. There are no MPEG artefacts, and aliasing is rarely a problem - the variable softness helps conceal it. There are some scenes with quite noticeable camera shake - this movie was made before the invention of Steadicam, and it shows.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks on this disc; English, French, and Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtracks. I listened to the English soundtrack.There are a multitude of languages for subtitles, including both English and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. I thought it a little unusual that the opening song is subtitled, but it is understandable.

    The sound level seems abnormally low - I had to boost the volume by 10dB from my usual listening level.

    The dialogue is mostly clear, and you can usually make out what words are being said - the only real barrier is the slang! A few lines are a bit muffled. At 17:50 there is one line where the lip movements and the line do not match. I suspect that this is not an audio sync problem, but rather a replacement of dialogue for censorship reasons. Other than that, I didn't notice any audio sync problems. There are some poor examples of ADR work, mostly obvious from the resonance of the voice, rather than sync.

    Isaac Hayes' music is very much a part of this movie. Without it, the movie would not be the cultural icon that it is. It is not surprising that it was Oscar-nominated.

    No uncertainty about the surrounds and subwoofer - on a straight mono soundtrack like this one they get the day off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, with the musical version of the theme running in the background.

Cast and Crew

    I expected biographies - nope - this is a single page listing the stars and some of the crew.

Featurette - Soul In Cinema (10:50)

    This is an interesting little documentary piece, which shows the rigging of a stunt scene, Isaac Hayes and his group working on the theme, and the director and editors working together. Genuinely interesting. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with mono sound.


    Another single page of text that mentions the Oscar win for the theme.

Trailer (3:05)

    The trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement and mono sound. The transfer quality is not as high as that of the movie.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I compared the Region 4 and Region 1 discs directly. The artwork is identical, the menus are identical, and the features are identical, except for the languages of the dubs and subtitles (we get a lot more). Ours is in an Amaray case instead of a snapper. In my estimation, ours has a marginally better video transfer, but the difference is slight.

    Unless you absolutely need an NTSC disc for some perverse reason, I would strongly recommend you get the Region 4 version.


    Shaft is a good movie, with a great score, that has received as good a transfer as it could get.

    The video quality is quite good, considering.

    The audio quality is good, for a mono track.

    The extras are minimal except for the featurette - it's interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, June 18, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
shaft - michael angeles
Watch the Full Screen side. It's in the original aspect ratio. - Derek K.
Re: Watch the Full Screen side. It's in the original aspect ratio. - Anonymous