Saturday, June 7, 2014

Shaft Among the Jews (Ernest Tidyman, 1972)

Let's break down this using the classical three-act dramatic structure.

Setup/intro doesn't exactly start with a bang. We find John sulking and bitching about his badly decorated office (don't ask - It's a price of pussy). It's not very promising and it leans more towards some pretty corny soft-core porn instead of hard-boiled crime I had expected. But funny nevertheless, just check out these:

- "Mr. Shaft, did anyone ever tell you you are built like a brick shithouse?" 
- "Don't fondle me, darling. I don't need it. I've been wet for you since I looked at you at the party. And thought of you inside me."
- "You have a beautiful penis."

After Shaft's character (and beauty of his penis) has been established (in case we forgot how bad-ass he/it was), he gets hired by a group of Jewish diamonds dealers and we enter the second act, the "action/tension rising" one. And this one also doesn't exactly work, at least not right away. The whole assignment is a bit vague - someone has been knocking off diamonds merchants and Shaft (the schvartze) is simply supposed to "be poking around, making dishonest man nervous". His employers don't even bother to give him some decent clues, they simply drop the name of "soon-to-be the main villain" to him. Not much of explanation is given, simply that "Something's not right... something is not kosher with Morris Blacburn".

So this is not a classical mystery case and our hero cannot really start any decent investigation. At least none of the usual ones as they are described in Detectives for Dummies. So he decides to go under cover as a janitor of the building where the villain works. And at that point I must admit I really started to wonder where this mess was leading to. But we are still around pg. 50 and it gets better and better from here on. Plot thickens nicely as some old doctor type with secret formula and beautiful daughter is thrown in. Plus Israeli special agents, plus local dirty cop, plus corrupt and immoral diamond merchant together with his hit-man.

Third act - the resolution phase? Total fucking shoot-out with Sten guns (which are Uzis I think) and even rocket launcher(!) resulting in a bunch of corpses. Case fucking solved and closed. Shaft is now rich and he also scores with our damsel in distress.

And that's it basically. Reminded me a bit of the Spillane's Goliath Bone. I'm aware that it's not a fair comparison but they are both violent and sexy and dealing with some truly ridiculous plots (dreams of million alchemists are fulfilled in this one) involving Israel and world domination. But I remember reading Goliath Bone just made me sad for the old maestro while reading Shaft was pure fun.Like always is.

3.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
John Shaft, PI

Location:
New York

Body count
7 real people and 6 diamonds salesmen

Dames:
Amy Taylor-Davis - She had a Maserati gearbox built into her pelvis, five forward gears, two reverse. [Fatale]

Cara Haze, complete antipode of Amy - pure, innocent, lost, shy etc. Shaft of course fucks her too, or - better phrased - makes love to her:  "He entered her slowly, watching her face. They gazed at each other in a silent communion...."

I kind of expected that their paths would eventually cross and there's an ideal chance for that when Shaft needs to hide Cara to some safe place. He takes her to his apartment but in my opinion that was pretty stupid move since bad guys knew exactly where he lived. Wouldn't it be wiser to take her to his lover's place? True, he wouldn't be able to fuck her but at least she would be safe.

After the strong and impressive introduction, Amy gradually simply disappears. Which is a shame, I liked her. And there's another dame with a great potential briefly mentioned but left forgotten immediately after. Cherry Culp, as you can tell from the hilarious description below, would be a great addition to the colorful cast of characters:

She seldom saw her husband, of course, and he demonstrated his gratitude for that deliverance with continuing, unquestioning financial support and a recognition of the fact that she was utterly worthless as a human apart from her efforts at keeping the economy strong as a continuous circulator of currency. [Fatale]

Blackouts
Yep, even Shaft is not tough enough to take two bullets and not to pass out.

Title: 
Great title, a bit politically incorrect if you ask me but definitely way cooler that "Shaft in Little Odessa" or "Shaft  Among Diamonds" or some shit like that.

Cover
Cool illustration of Shaft being surrounded by babes and bad guys. Very 70s

Cool lines:  
Shaft was still playing the outraged innocent. He sounded about as sincere as a cab driver giving thanks for a bent dime.[The Coolest!]


When you bought Shaft, you bought his anger.[The Coolest!]


If he had a choice at that moment between getting laid and standing there in the shower with a drink in his hand, he'd go for the shower. A piece of ass is a piece of ass, but a hot shower is also a place think, drink, urinate, pick your nose unobserved, and wash away the smell of your prejudices.

Israel. Nobody came from Israel. That was where everybody went for a nineteen-day tour or to live and kick an occasional Ay-rab in the ass.

"Why don't you get a haircut?" Shaft snarled. "You look like a broad from the Bronx who used to give the best head in the Village."
"Prick," Berkowitz said.
"That's what she wanted. But I don't need a blow job now, so get the fuck out of here."

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