Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks? Shaft! Damn right... from the Isaac Hayes signature soundtrack to the movie Shaft. Ernest Tidyman named the lead character after seeing a fire shaft outside his publisher's window. Later Tidyman received an Academy Award for scripting The French Connection.
Richard Roundtree starred as John Shaft. At the time, Hollywood type cast blacks as street toughs, pimps, hookers, and drug dealers. The character of John Shaft broke that mold. He was billed as the black James Bond! In the world of film characters, he was actually tougher. The undertone of Shaft is racial. A crime was is about to break out in Harlem. Later in the film, Shaft leads a group of black revolutionaries on an assault against the Mafia.
Often credited as heralding the Blaxploitation movement, the actual origins lie in Sidney Poitier's early successes and Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song. Were these revolutionary films? Not in the traditional sense. However, they did herald the recognition that black America possessed purchasing power first at the box office and then within a white economy.
In 2000, John Singleton remade Shaft. The new Shaft stars Samuel L Jackson. Jackson had made a name for himself in the Tarentino bloodbath Pulp Fiction. He continued to play very stylized characters after that, including a role as a Jedi Master in 1999's Star Wars, Episode I.
The new Shaft is a nephew of the original Shaft, still played by a now older Richard Roundtree. Vanessa Williams plays an updated Pam Grier. Race is still an issue. The new Shaft film features a racial motivated slaying, cooperation between a drug dealer and the white killer, and plenty of confrontation.