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Tuesday July 17th 2018

Shaft | 1971

Shaft location: The 'No-Name Bar': Hudson Street, Greenwich Village, New York
Shaft location: The ‘No Name Bar’: Hudson Street, Greenwich Village, New York

In 1971 I went to see the Supremes, well past their sell-by date and lacking not only Diana Ross but just about anyone recognisable. Best part of the evening was the backup band pounding out the theme from a new movie – Theme from Shaft, which sent me rushing straight out to the cinema.

Shaft location: Jane Street, Greenwich Village, New York
Shaft location: John Shaft’s apartment: Jane Street, Greenwich Village, New York

The 70s blaxploitation genre started here and, though much of the action centres on 125th Street in Harlem, the office of John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was on Times Square (before much of the major redevelopment), and his apartment in west Greenwich Village, at 55 Jane Street.

Just across Hudson Street stood the ‘No Name Bar’, where Shaft turns the tables on a stakeout with a stint behind the bar. It’s now an excellent Italian restaurant, Piccolo Angolo, 621 Hudson Street.

Shaft location: Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, New York
Shaft location: John Shaft meets a mafia contact: Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, New York

Remaining unchanged is venerable Village hangout Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street at West Third Street. Shaft meets the mafia contact over an espresso here, before walking off down MacDougal Street, past another Village institution, the Minetta Tavern, seen in Barry Levinson’s Sleepers).

Caffe Reggio is also seen in dull 1976 thriller The Next Man (with Sean Connery as an Arab diplomat!) and in Next Stop, Greenwich Village. The girlfriend of Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) works in the Reggio in Sidney Lumet’s Serpico, though it's not seen in the film. It’s often listed as a location for The Godfather Part II, but I can’t see it anywhere in that film. More recently, it gets some well-deserved screen time in the Coens' Inside Llewyn Davis.