Quantcast

Shaft’s Big Score! (Blu-ray Review)

Exactly five years ago (to the day of this film and the other’s release), during my weekly wishlist articles, I made the request that the two 1970s Shaft sequels be released on Blu-ray. And thanks to the new film opening in theaters next week (The third film in the series to be titled merely as Shaft), Warner Archive Collection has scored another win and scratched yet another title from the wishlist. Shaft’s Big Score! and the final film of the original trilogy, Shaft In Africa, made their way to the Blu-ray format on May 21st.  For this review, we’ll be focusing on Shaft’s Big Score!, the follow up to the original, breakout (And Academy Award winning) classic!

Film 

Shaft’s Big Score! plunges Shaft into the middle of a gang war. John Shaft (Roundtree) gets a pre-dawn phone call from a panicked friend, Cal Asby, but he arrives at Asby’s funeral home just before the building blows up. Searching for Asby’s killer, Shaft discovers that Asby ran a gambling racket, doing business with Harlem gang lord Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn). Now the racket’s cash is missing; rival gangs are battling for Asby’s turf – and it’s up to John Shaft to find the killer and the missing stash of cash in time to prevent a war on the streets.

While it was never going to be as fresh and explosive as its predecessor, Shaft’s Big Score! makes a fine adventure and victory lap for the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks. As an addition case/mystery or episode in the John Shaft chronicles, its the one that makes you feel you can keep coming back for some solid drama and action. While there are some changes and sacrifices made on the technical level, the character and themes at play keep it in line with what feels true to the series being crafted with this film.

One of the most notable changes comes in the form of the score as Isaac Hayes was unable to return for the sequel (Though he does provide one song on the soundtrack). Director Gordon Parks scored the film himself, which comes across a bit more traditional and less stand out for the genre. I will give credit as the song “Blowin’ Your Mind” is fine companion to Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” and is pretty fun in its own right. Parks also appears to have more money (and possibly time) this time around as the film looks much more polished and technically proficient this time around as opposed to the first. Part of the charm of that first movie was how rough and street level it was to experience. Here we get much more established and well planned and thought out, patient scenes. Its not a knock against proficiency, just a solid notation on how it has strayed from a strength of the first movie, assuming prestige was more fitting.

One of the struggles with the film’s narrative is that there isn’t enough John Shaft. Yes, he’s there, but there are too many scenes going on behind his back with the villains that you start to wonder if you’re going to catch up with him again. Its all worth it though as the final 25 minutes of the film delivers a climax worthy of being noted as a high point of 1970s pure action cinema. Its superbly laid out, choreographed and shot to maximum effectiveness and is a standout that tops any action scene in the original with ease. We follow Shaft from a graveyard shootout, on a nailbiting car chase that leads to an impressive footchase that become a warehouse duel between John Shaft and a helicopter. Its quite the sight to behold and takes you by surprise just how epic this thing becomes. I’m not sure anything in this series has surpassed it since and it argues to be better than any sequence in the rival Dirty Harry franchise. I almost recommend just checking it out, even if you have no interest in the Shaft films. Its just that good.

Shaft’s Big Score! is the best kind of sequel you could have asked for back in the last century. No, not as good as the original (Most weren’t), but still a pretty good film in its own right and enough to build a fanbase for subsequent entries. Much of the second act can feel like it drags (And lacks Shaft), but the payoff in the third act is completely worth it and I’m still gushing over what an awesome sequence it is. No, the second Shaft adventure is not the trail-blazing original, but its a fine continuation and shows fantastic value and merit in its own right.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: While no details on the transfer for Shaft’s Big Score! seem available, you can assume a 2K transfer was done on it. And it looks magnificent. There are plenty of crisp, refreshing details in this rather sharp looking picture. Nighttime sequences can appear more soft and the letting in the opening credits looks little fuzzy, but daytime sequences are about the best you could get in a film from this era.

Depth:  Some pretty solid depth of field, with spacing especially impressive in the film’s finale as that showcases a lot of scale and distance. Motion is smooth and cinematic with no distortions of any kind distracting from the viewing experience.

Color Reproduction: Colors remain of that 1970s sheen where its a lot of browns, oranges, grays and beige. But they are certainly very bold and the chances the film has at more appealing fabrics take their shot and fluffing out and popping nicely.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent. Facial features and texture are plenty visible and discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Shaft’s Big Score! comes with its original mono track to back the ass kicking on this Blu-ray. Overall its pretty solid and about as top of the line as you could get without a major restorative effort. Deeps sounds could have packed a little more punch and when the score/songs take precedent its a bit jarring and much louder than the rest of the mix. But that’s okay, I can jam.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with a slight hint of an analog hiss if you’re looking for it.

Extras 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:07)

Summary 

Shaft’s Big Score! is some the best 1970s action-entertainment you’ll find around the block. Warner Archive Collection debuts it on Blu-ray with a pretty admirable presentation, though only supplying a trailer for supplemental content. Though, in 2019, this is probably the best you could as for in a film that is probably considered a more obscure/niche release to a major studio’s catalog. Fans should pick this up as it could possible the best we get in a physical form.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments