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While the first two movies featuring Shaft, the badass New York private detective are super cool, the third installment, SHAFT IN AFRICA ($25), turns out to be the series most action packed and entertaining. In SHAFT IN AFRICA, Richard Roundtree makes his third appearance as John Shaft, the role that turned him into a cinematic icon. SHAFT IN AFRICA finds New York City’s badest, blackest private investigator on his toughest case yet. However, instead of having to deal with a Harlem crime lords or other mob syndicates, Shaft is engaged by international law enforcement officials to pose as an African native, so that he can track down the head of the Africa to Europe slave trade. Unfortunately, the second Shaft leaves the mean streets of New York; he finds that his cover has been blown, with assassins making repeated attempts on his life. Of course, our man Shaft still manages to entertain a few ladies in between dealing with killers. SHAFT IN AFRICA offers a somewhat more complex plot than the first two films in the series, plus the African and European locations lend an exotic flavoring to the proceedings. The cast of SHAFT IN AFRICA also includes Frank Finlay, Vonetta McGee, Neda Arneric, Debebe Eshetu, Spiros Focás, Jacques Herlin, Jho Jhenkins, Willie Jonah, Adolfo Lastretti and Marne Maitland.

Warner Home Video has made SHAFT IN AFRICA in both full screen and wide screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. Since the full screen version crops away huge portions of the scope aspect ratio, it really isn’t worth anyone’s time. Fortunately the great looking 16:9 enhanced version of SHAFT IN AFRICA restores the film’s proper 2.35:1 framing. The wide screen aspect ratio really takes in the local scenery, which makes SHAFT IN AFRICA the most visually interesting of the three movies in the series. There is little apparent film grain and the element used for the transfer displays few age related blemishes. The image is relatively sharp and well detailed, plus the colors are nicely reproduced. Reds tend to be a bit more saturated than the rest of the colors, although the greens of the jungle do hold their own. In addition, flesh tones usually appear nice and healthy. There are no problems with chroma noise or colors bleeding beyond their boundaries. Blacks are accurately rendered and the level of shadow detail is respectable for a 1973 film release. Digital compression artifacts did not affect the image in any appreciable way.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is quite good, when one considers the film’s age and budgetary constraints. Dialogue is always intelligible; at least the English language portion was to my ear. There are some frequency limitations that make themselves known during musical passages, but the sound is never harsh or shrill. A French language soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Other than musical accompaniment, the interactive menus are rather basic. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a modest amount of extras. The DVD includes theatrical trailers for all three Richard Roundtree SHAFT movies, plus biographical information for the man himself.

SHAFT IN AFRICA is a better than average blaxploitation flick. If you are a fan of John Shaft, then this is a DVD you will want to spend some time with.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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