Shaft in Africa

Shaft in Africa is a 1973 film directed by John Guillermin and is the third and final film in the blaxploitation trilogy of Shaft films starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft. Stirling Silliphant wrote the screenplay.[3] 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.

Shaft in Africa
Original theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed byJohn Guillermin
Produced byRoger Lewis
Written byStirling Silliphant
Based onShaft
by Ernest Tidyman
StarringRichard Roundtree
Frank Finlay
Neda Arnerić
Vonetta McGee
Frank McRae
Music byJohnny Pate
CinematographyMarcel Grignon
Edited byMax Benedict
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 20, 1973 (1973-06-20) (New York)[1]
Running time
112 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,395,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]


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.




Critics gave the film lukewarm reviews. New York Times critic Roger Greenspun wrote, "It is still quite good—fairly violent and very sexy. But it is less daring, less ethnically sophisticated, more antiseptic, more comfortably middle-class."[4][5] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "Sterling Silliphant's script, from the Ernest Tidyman character trove, is surprisingly good, and holds up despite the inherent episodic perambulation of the plot."[6] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "a curiously schizoid movie: On one hand, a solid streak of '70s kinky sex; on the other, a mess of '40s white dialog placed in the mouth of, on surface appearance, a contemporary black dude."[7] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "in addition to being fine escapist fare ... it offers pungent, pertinent observations of white exploitation of blacks outside the United States and suggests a need for international black solidarity."[8] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that "the latest Shaft episode does not find any more inspiration in Africa than it found in Harlem. Screenwriter Stirling Silliphant and director John Guillermin certainly cannot be accused of developing the undercover premise with any conviction, excitement or humor."[9]

Review aggregation website critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a B−, describing it as "crude and slight but simplistically made entertaining adventure story" that resembles a James Bond thriller.[10] Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively gives the film a rating of 50% based on reviews collected from 8 critics, with an average rating of 5/10.[11]

See also


  1. "Shaft in Africa - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974, p. 60.
  3. "70s rewind: john guillermin's shaft in africa". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
  4. Greenspun, Roger (1973-06-21). "Screen: And Now It's 'Shaft in Africa':Roundtree on Track of a Labor Smuggler". The New York Times. p. 53. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  5. "Shaft in Africa". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
  6. Murphy, Arthur D. (June 20, 1973). "Film Reviews: Shaft In Africa". Variety. 20.
  7. Siskel, Gene (July 10, 1973). "Shaft in Africa". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 4.
  8. Thomas, Kevin (June 27, 1973). "Black Bond With Relevance". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 11.
  9. Arnold, Gary (July 5, 1973). "'Shaft in Africa': Last Gasp". The Washington Post. C11.
  11. "Shaft in Africa". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
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