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 poorly 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 a 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 giving him some decent clues. They merely drop the name of "soon-to-be the main villain" to him. Not much explanation is given, simply that "Something's not right... something is not kosher with Morris Blackburn".

So this is not a classical mystery case, and our hero cannot really start any proper investigation. At least none of the usual ones as they are described in Detectives for Dummies. So he decides to go undercover 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. The plot thickens nicely as some old doctor type with some secret formula and a 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 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.



John Shaft, PI

New York

Body count
7 real people and 6 diamonds salesmen

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 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 to 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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