The film noir and Blaxploitation genres meet in MGM’s follow up to 1971’s Shaft (along with 1972’s Cool Breeze and Hitman), which plays as a more action-packed version of Clint Eastwood’s better known radio romp, 1971’s Play Misty for Me—with a dose of karate.
Instead of a bad mother private eye, Frankie J. Parker (Calvin Lockhart of the box office bomb Myra Breckinridge and Amicus Pictures’ Blaxploitation-werewolf flick The Beast Must Die) is a Los Angeles soul radio disc jockey with martial arts skills, courtesy of a school operated by his best friend, Charles Atkins (Jim Kelly in his film debut, on his way to Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee and lead roles in Black Belt Jones and Three the Hard Way).
As with all of the smooth talkin’, womanizing jocks, Frankie J. cools his heels after his shows in a nightclub owned by another one of his friends, ex-football player Tank Robinson (Rockne Tarkington of Black Samson, Black Starlet, and The Ice Pirates). And Frankie J. meets the ubiquitous, newly arrived-in-town femme fatale Melinda (Vonetta McGee of Hammer with Fred Williamson, Blackula, Shaft in Africa, and Detroit 9000). And she’s the ex-squeeze of a Chicago gangster. And she has a damning tape recording that can take down the operation. And she’s stupid enough to think that Ross Hagan (Alienator) won’t track her down. And she ends up dead in Frankie’s apartment. And it turns out Tank is involved with the mob. And the thugs kidnap Frankie’s girlfriend Terry (Rosalind Cash of The Omega Man and Tales from the Hood) for the tape.
Does Frankie J. recruit Jim Kelly and his karate students to go “Shaft” on their asses and save Terry? You bet. And it’s awesome—snake-filled cage and all.
You also known Lockhart from his appearance as Silky Slim in 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night and 1975’s Let’s Do It Again with Billy Cosby, and his late ‘70s appearances on episodes of TV’s Good Times and Starsky and Hutch.
Then again, maybe you don’t. But that’s how I remember the late Calvin Lockhart the most. You dig?