Plot: A banker’s wife has been abducted, with the man informed to not contact the police, but instead, use a private detective to be his representative. The banker is quite suspicious of the entire situation, but he is also scared and to protect his wife, he agrees to the demands. He prepares a briefcase with a quarter of a million dollars inside, which he turns over to the requested private detective, none other than John Shaft (Richard Roundtree). Shaft speaks with the mysterious kidnappers, who send him to various phone booths in a rural locale. But when local law pulls him over, Shaft is unable to explain the situation, as the kidnappers have stated that if the police become involved, they will execute the hostage. So he has to escape from the cop, which then leads to him being tracked by the authorities, even as he tries to keep up with the calls and save the woman’s life. But can even a master detective like Shaft evade the police and outsmart the criminals, or should he have stayed in the big city on this one?
Entertainment Value: The Kidnapping is the fourth installment in the Shaft telefilm series and to keep things fresh, this one sends Shaft out into the rural landscape as part of an abduction assignment. The idea of Shaft out of his element adds a fun twist to this one, if just because he is the subject of a manhunt and of course, he is the only black man in the area. The movie has some racial issues, such as how Shaft is treated by a local police officer, but it also has more positive moments, like a conversation between Shaft and a young man about his only experiences with black people. As it turns out, the young man doesn’t care for the town’s only black girl, but only because she only cares about boys and clothes, to which Shaft replies with a suggestion to aim for second base with the girl instead of talking fashion. This one opens with a fun action scene of Shaft chased down by a helicopter, but once Shaft reaches the countryside, things turn into more of a mystery/thriller, as time ticks down and Shaft struggles to reach the checkpoints before it is too late. Roundtree is on his game here, bringing the cool factory as always, while Eddie Barth returns once again as Lt. Rossi. Barth’s recurring role adds a lot to this series, as his interactions with Shaft are fun to watch. The Kidnapping puts a nice new spin on the approach used in these Shaft telefilms, so if you ever wanted to see Shaft tackle the rural world, this is your chance.
No nakedness. No blood, but we do have some fun action as the movie opens and a little bit later on, with roughhousing and some gun shots. But none of the violence leads to bloodshed, which is kind of to be expected, given that this was made for network television in the early 70s. The dialogue is fine, but keeps things mostly serious and too over the top. I did like Shaft and Rossi’s exchange early in the movie over the golf clubs, as it was nice to see them bond like that and it has some welcome humor. Shaft has some cool lines, as usual, while Greg Mullavey is his typical shark-smile self and puts on a hokey ghetto accent at times. So a few bright spots, but not a lot of wild or memorable banter to mention. A solid writing outing, just not the kind of wacky or stand out lines we score for. The craziness comes from Shaft being out in the countryside and the villain’s campy performance, so for the most part, this one plays it straight and offers up a serious caper narrative.
Overall Insanity: 1/10