Shaft in Africa (1973)

R | 112-113 mins | Drama | June 1973

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HISTORY

In a lengthy Mar 1973 LAT article on the film’s production, the filmmakers related that the screenplay was “inspired” by an actual incident “reported in a French newspaper some 18 months ago,” in which a truck crossing into France from Italy was found to contain approximately thirty Africans who had been smuggled into the country “on their way to virtually unpaid work.” Several reviews of the film remarked on the picture’s timely commentary on human trafficking in Europe.
       A written statement in the end credits reads: “African sequences filmed entirely in the Kingdom of Ethiopia.” Studio press releases and other contemporary sources add that Addis Ababa was “the production center” with the Mediterranean scenes shot at Massawa, inland scenes shot at Harer and rustic countryside sequences set in Arba Minch. According to contemporary sources, the filmmakers had two audiences with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to gain his approval for the location shooting. The Reshaida and Konsoos tribes aided in location filming, according to studio publicity. The LAT article and studio publicity related that the production company received extensive cooperation from the Imperial Ethiopian Army, Navy and Air Force, both for transportation and protection “in the north, where there is a lot of unrest because of the independence movement,” and from Ethiopian Airlines. Additional location shooting was conducted in Madrid, with second-unit filming done in New York City and Paris, according to a 7 Feb 1973 Var article.
       Shaft in Africa marked the third and final entry in the "Shaft" series, and was the only one of the films not to be shot entirely in New ... More Less

In a lengthy Mar 1973 LAT article on the film’s production, the filmmakers related that the screenplay was “inspired” by an actual incident “reported in a French newspaper some 18 months ago,” in which a truck crossing into France from Italy was found to contain approximately thirty Africans who had been smuggled into the country “on their way to virtually unpaid work.” Several reviews of the film remarked on the picture’s timely commentary on human trafficking in Europe.
       A written statement in the end credits reads: “African sequences filmed entirely in the Kingdom of Ethiopia.” Studio press releases and other contemporary sources add that Addis Ababa was “the production center” with the Mediterranean scenes shot at Massawa, inland scenes shot at Harer and rustic countryside sequences set in Arba Minch. According to contemporary sources, the filmmakers had two audiences with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to gain his approval for the location shooting. The Reshaida and Konsoos tribes aided in location filming, according to studio publicity. The LAT article and studio publicity related that the production company received extensive cooperation from the Imperial Ethiopian Army, Navy and Air Force, both for transportation and protection “in the north, where there is a lot of unrest because of the independence movement,” and from Ethiopian Airlines. Additional location shooting was conducted in Madrid, with second-unit filming done in New York City and Paris, according to a 7 Feb 1973 Var article.
       Shaft in Africa marked the third and final entry in the "Shaft" series, and was the only one of the films not to be shot entirely in New York City. Roundtree continued his role as the detective for a series of seven, ninety-minute television movies that aired on CBS from 9 Oct 1973 to 19 Feb 1974. For more information about the "Shaft" series, please see the entry above for the 1971 film Shaft . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Jun 1973.
---
Box Office
2 Jul 1973
p. 4603.
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1973.
---
Ebony
Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1972
p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 1973
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1973
p. 3, 11.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
27 Jun 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Mar 1973
p. 20, 25, 27.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jun 1973.
---
Motion Picture Herald
4 Jul 1973.
---
New York Times
21 Jun 1973
p. 53.
Variety
7 Feb 1973.
---
Variety
28 Feb 1973.
---
Variety
20 Jun 1973
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Stirling Silliphant-Roger Lewis Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Casting
Scr consultant
Unit pub
Unit pub
Interpreter
STAND INS
Stick fighting staged by
Action scenes coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Ernest Tidyman.
SONGS
"Are You Man Enough," words and music by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, sung by Four Tops.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
June 1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 June 1973
Los Angeles opening: 27 June 1973
Production Date:
11 December 1972--late February 1973 in Ethiopoa and New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42625
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
112-113
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Paris, European racketeer Vincent Amafi learns that one of the individuals in the new group of men he has smuggled in from Africa is the son of Emir Ramila, an Ethiopian tribal chief. Knowing that the youth is acting as a spy to investigate Amafi’s human trafficking, which has resulted in thousands of Africans being used as slave labor throughout Europe, Amafi orders ruffian Angelo to kill him. Soon after, in New York City, African-American private detective John Shaft is entering his office building when he is confronted by a large, stick-wielding man in traditional African garb. Shaft momentarily loses the man but he soon bursts into Shaft’s office, along with another man who renders Shaft unconscious with a dart gun. When Shaft awakens, he has been driven to a country estate and stripped. He grabs a fighting stick and engages in a battle with the large man, and despite Shaft’s skill with the fighting stick, he is knocked out. Waking, Shaft finds himself in a concrete room, the floor of which is covered with deep sand while the ceiling is covered with glaring heat lamps. A voice informs the detective that the room’s temperature is 110 degrees, and that if he survives the next eight hours, he will be fully apprised of his situation. Although Shaft has been ordered to walk to prove his stamina, he realizes that to protect himself, he must burrow into the sand. Pleased by Shaft’s intelligence, the voice praises him and the lights are turned off. When the door opens, Emir Ramila introduces himself and Osiat, his bodyguard and the man with ... +


In Paris, European racketeer Vincent Amafi learns that one of the individuals in the new group of men he has smuggled in from Africa is the son of Emir Ramila, an Ethiopian tribal chief. Knowing that the youth is acting as a spy to investigate Amafi’s human trafficking, which has resulted in thousands of Africans being used as slave labor throughout Europe, Amafi orders ruffian Angelo to kill him. Soon after, in New York City, African-American private detective John Shaft is entering his office building when he is confronted by a large, stick-wielding man in traditional African garb. Shaft momentarily loses the man but he soon bursts into Shaft’s office, along with another man who renders Shaft unconscious with a dart gun. When Shaft awakens, he has been driven to a country estate and stripped. He grabs a fighting stick and engages in a battle with the large man, and despite Shaft’s skill with the fighting stick, he is knocked out. Waking, Shaft finds himself in a concrete room, the floor of which is covered with deep sand while the ceiling is covered with glaring heat lamps. A voice informs the detective that the room’s temperature is 110 degrees, and that if he survives the next eight hours, he will be fully apprised of his situation. Although Shaft has been ordered to walk to prove his stamina, he realizes that to protect himself, he must burrow into the sand. Pleased by Shaft’s intelligence, the voice praises him and the lights are turned off. When the door opens, Emir Ramila introduces himself and Osiat, his bodyguard and the man with whom Shaft fought, and Wassa, his right-hand man who tranquilized Shaft. Ramila also presents Col. Gondar, a policeman and representative of the Organization of African Unity, and they explain that thousands of Africans have been lured to Europe by the promise of well-paying jobs, but once there, they live in squalid conditions and endure back-breaking labor. If they complain, they are either deported or killed. Ramila offers Shaft $25,000 to learn the local dialect, go undercover as an Ethiopian tribesman and infiltrate a group of smuggled men to uncover the ringleader. Shaft is intrigued when Ramila’s beautiful daughter Aleme arrives, as she is to be his instructor. Shaft accepts the job and begins lessons with Aleme, who impresses him with the depth and age of Ethiopian culture. Aleme shares Shaft’s attraction but relates that due to tribal customs, she is too young to have sexual relations until her upcoming birthday, at which time she will undergo female circumcision. Soon after, Ramila proclaims Shaft ready and the detective flies to Paris. On the airplane he meets a talkative businessman named Williams, and in the concourse, is suspicious when Williams follows him. Shaft ducks into a restroom and there is shot at by a man dressed as a female janitor. Williams appears and kills the would-be assassin, then tells Shaft to catch the plane for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Meanwhile, in Paris, Amafi is displeased to learn that Shaft escaped and blames Wassa, who is betraying Ramila by providing the smuggler with inside information. In Ethiopia, Shaft is met by Gondar, who gives him a disguised camera and tape recorder. Shaft protests that he is not “James Bond, simply Sam Spade,” but Gondar insists that he gather hard evidence. Gondar then tells him that he will be met by a bodyguard named Kopo in the countryside, and that they are to travel until they can find a group being recruited. On the bus to the country, Shaft is attacked by one of Amafi’s hoods but is able to kill him and escape. Befriended by a stray dog, Shaft wanders until he is found by Aleme, who flew from New York. The couple spends a romantic night together in a nearby hut and Aleme confides that she has decided not to undergo the circumcision ritual. In the morning, the couple says goodbye and Shaft meets Kopo, who takes him to a small village. There, they learn that the village youths have been lured by white men to the nearest large city. Upon their arrival, Shaft and Kopo locate the smugglers, who are lining up men to sign contracts they do not understand. When one of the criminals, Zubair, beats the men, Shaft’s dog attacks him, and Zubair kills the animal with his fighting stick. Enraged, Shaft duels with him, beating him and winning the respect of the others. Shaft and Kopo sign up for the journey, then go to the town’s outskirts to bury the dog. The white recruiter, Sassari, ambushes them, fatally shooting Kopo, but Shaft overcomes him. Shaft rejoins the Ethiopians as they are taken by Zubair to meet an Arab named Ziba, who will escort them through the desert to the coast. While Shaft is learning to ride a camel, Wassa confesses to Amafi that the American again escaped their thugs and will be boarding their smuggling boat, captained by Vanden. Amafi orders Wassa to kill Shaft on the boat, but Amafi’s bored, nymphomaniac mistress, Jazar, is intrigued and demands to have sex with Shaft before he is executed. Amafi agrees and soon Jazar is on Vanden’s boat, watching as the Africans are locked in the hold. That night, the men are allowed on deck briefly, and Jazar entices Shaft to enter her stateroom. There, as she attempts to seduce him, she informs him that Wassa is the leak who has been betraying him, and that Amafi is the syndicate’s head. After Jazar agrees to lead Shaft to Amafi, he succumbs to her charms and they spend the night together. Wassa sneaks in to kill Shaft, but the detective draws his weapon first and shoots him. Shaft and Jazar then prepare to leave on the launch, but a knife-throwing thug misses Shaft and kills Jazar. After Shaft shoots him, he tenderly places Jazar in the motorboat and sets it adrift, then, knowing that the Parisian criminals cannot recognize him without Wassa, rejoins the men in the hold. Amafi is furious upon learning from Vanden about the thug’s death and Jazar’s disappearance, while on the street, Shaft and the other men are taken to Perreau, who escorts them to a cramped boardinghouse, for which they will be charged an exorbitant rent. Shaft slips out to the street, where he finds a pay phone and calls Gondar. Meanwhile, Amafi’s hoods arrive at the building and beat the men while looking for Shaft. As they tear up the rooms, a fire starts, killing many of the trapped Africans. At the police station, Shaft is met by Aleme and introduced to Parisian police inspector Victor Cusset, who praises his work but asserts that he must let the authorities take over. Shaft refuses, stating that he is personally invested in the case, and upon returning to the burned tenement, is horrified to see the dead. Infuriated by the French government’s refusal to stop the smuggling and abuse of the immigrants, Shaft storms off with Aleme. They burst into Amafi’s town home, only to discover that it has been ransacked. Finding no clues, Shaft is frustrated until Aleme uncovers, in the courtyard, a signal from her brother indicating that Amafi’s secret lair is the Chateau Montfort. There, Angelo is torturing one of the Africans who traveled with Shaft, trying to uncover his whereabouts, while Amafi prepares to blow up the chateau’s subterranean tunnels, in which forty immigrants transported earlier are imprisoned for trying to escape. Shaft bursts onto the grounds, shooting the sentries, while in the tunnels, the tortured man succeeds in killing Angelo and freeing the captives. As Amafi and Shaft confront each other, Amafi warns that he will demolish the tunnels if Shaft does not surrender. Behind him, however, the captives sneak up and overwhelm him, drowning him in a nearby fountain. After ensuring that the tunnels are empty, Shaft sets off the explosives so that they can never be used again. Cusset and the police arrive, and after Cusset shrugs off his vigilantism, Shaft boards a New York-bound plane, on which he is joined by Aleme. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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