'Shaft' , the classic detective film from 1971, is just as good as 'The French Connection' or 'Bullitt' but with a style all it's own. A good story, convincing action and a gritty realistic look plus Issac Hayes and his driving score and you really have a time machine slice of the early 70's. I really hate this film being called the first "Blackploitation" film. Whether or not the main character is played by a black man, 'Shaft' is a cool and hip urban detective thriller with loads of action, a bit of humor, plot twists and even romance here and there. (ok, how about just some casual sex but hey, I'm talkin' about Shaft!) This is a really cool movie and has stood the test of time!
With that said, this review is going to focus on the picture and sound quality and if this Blu Ray is a solid upgrade from your DVD or VHS copy.
Shaft is presented on a BD-25 in full 1080p with a good solid transfer. Strong primary colors abound and while there is an abundance of film grain, for the most part it is just not obtrusive. There are 2 or 3 short scenes where the film elements have badly degraded and they are easy to spot. For an example, look at the master shot where Shaft is ready to leave after drinking his espresso. Another is in Bumpy's office when his wall hangings seem to come alive with dancing mosquito noise. But all in all, this is a good solid transfer. A bit of edge enhancement exists but it helps support the overall rendering in this case. DNR is just not an issue with 'Shaft' on Blu. You get all the grain, the good and the bad. Compared to the Blu Ray of '48 Hours' this is demo material, so don't think it is really bad. It isn't.
The motion is smooth and artifact free and while grain sometimes darkens the contrast levels just a bit too much, overall 'Shaft' looks really fantastic on Blu Ray, especially given the fact it was a low budget production. I was really happy watching it and felt I was watching a film and not some digital piece of garbage. A good solid 3 and 3/4 stars out of 5 and sometimes it strays into a solid 4 and beyond.
So how is the audio? What you get here is a Mono DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. Before you get up in arms over the soundtrack being in Mono, the original audio elements used to create this films soundtrack were not available and as such the mixed elements from the original Mono track had to be used. They have been cleaned up and are presented in Lossless Audio and they sound as good or better than they ever did in the theater where 'Shaft' had always been presented in nothing but Mono. Because things are so clear sounding, you can pretty much spot every time the dialogue had to be looped (dubbed later due to problems with the original production sound) but they don't stand out too badly. The music has plenty of dynamics and while stereo would have been SO MUCH better, this rendering is just fine. A few lines here and there seemed a bit buried in the mix, but this IS the original mix and you can rest assured you are hearing things much better than people did back in '71.
You get a few cool extras with 'Shaft" as well but they are unfortunately all in SD. You get a full length 1973 Shaft TV episode and a short documentary called'Soul In Cinema' plus trailers for all 4 'Shaft' films.
'Shaft" comes to Blu Ray in a very respectable package, with a better than average transfer for a catalog title and solid sound as well. This is not demo material, but it presents this film as good or better than it ever looked at the movies, unless you saw a brand new print on the first run. Now if they would get busy and release the other 3 that would be quite the collection.
Recommended for fans of 'Shaft' and fans of older films in general!