“Shaft is a 1971 American blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Parks and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. An action film with elements of film noir, Shaft tells the story of a black private detective, John Shaft, who travels through Harlem and to the Italian mob in order to find the missing daughter of a black mobster. It stars Richard Roundtree as Shaft, Moses Gunn as Bumpy Jonas, Charles Cioffi as Lt. Vic Androzzi, Christopher St. John as Ben Buford, and Gwenn Mitchell and Lawrence Pressman in smaller roles. The movie was adapted by Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black from Tidyman’s 1971 novel of the same name.”
The subject matter of this post may well be somewhat dated and esoteric, but I do submit that it is ‘spot on’ for all my fellow writers out there… well if you are of a science fiction bent, or just want to write screenplays (The terms are not always mutually exclusive).
I am a fan of Dan O’Bannon. Some of you will not recognize the name. Here is a clue: “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.”
Yep. The original “Alien” masterpiece. I have to drill down into the old memory cells to download my first experience watching “Alien.” I was still in the Sinai (SFM). It was 1979 and I was driving the R&R vehicle to Tel Aviv. My lone passenger that day was my good friend Bill Brown (and he was in fact, brown—i.e., he was a black gentleman. We had a leisurely four hours to kill, so I asked him, “Hey Brown,” (we had a propensity back then to use ‘last names’, just like one would expect in the Military,) “seen any good movies in TA lately?” (Bill Brown was married to a Filipina, not that that is relevant, but I often throw in some irrelevant shit)
“As a matter of fact,” he said. “I have.”
“I saw this movie, ‘Alien.’ Dude! You havta see it. It’s still playing. Check it out.”
“Yeah, but more than that.”
He then proceeded to tell me the entire story of the film (complete with ‘spoilers’—And thanks for that Bill Brown!)
His main interest was the black dude Parker. Whom he always referred to as ‘My Man.’ Understandably so, given the fact that back in the Seventies, not many black men had important roles, unless one is speaking of Blaxploitation Film.
Once we got to TA and I had checked my vehicle, I went out on the town determined to see this film. In Tel Aviv back then, one could actually smoke cigarettes in a movie theater and good thing that, as I do think I smoked an entire pack of Marlboros while glued to the screen.
My point in all of this is that I have, ever since, been fascinated with this movie. More fascinating now is how it was ‘birth’d’ and the writing process that got it to where it now resides in the annals of one of the greatest movies of all time.
Thanks to Dan O’Bannon.
Below is a link to his original screenplay. For all writers out here, it is worth a read, but only if you know the movie and how it changed the genre.
And of course if you are curious about how great, actually mediocre, (The dialog was too corny, much like mine) writing hits the stage. More important though, I do think, was the ‘idea’–revolutionary (almost) at the time.
Point is: It worked.
Who can say what will or will not go ‘viral’ anyhow…
Vid Link below that; do not confuse the two. (Some things are important to me, if you have bothered to come this far…)