Shaft: The Executioners

Original air date: October 9, 1973

For the longest time, the photo above haunted me. Not in a bad way, but it is such a damn freakin’ awesome serious Don’t-Screw-With-Me look with the gun and the target pattern. And I had no idea for the life of me what film or tv show it was from! The image was even available on t-shirts and mugs and such through Cafepress on Culp’s official website but there was nothing noting what it was from.

Then in searching around the vast portals of the internet I came across the photo in an archive for either Getty images or something similar. The photo was tagged as being from something called “Shaft: The Enforcers.”

Shaft? I thought. As in John “bad moutha shut yer mouth” Shaft? But there were only three Shaft movies, the original Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft in Africa. What’s this “The Enforcers?”

At some point after that, I found this photo…

 

Well, dang! I had no idea there had been tv movies with the Shaft character. I certainly knew of the original film, which is one of my favorites. But damn, I thought, Culp in a Shaft-esque tv movie? I gotta see this!

Alas, that was easier said than done. Until the nice folks at the Warner Archive put the 7 Shaft tv films out on a DVD set. The episode, actually known as “The Executioners” was the first of the series.

Robert Culp plays Marshall Cunningham, a well-heeled attorney in New York City. His wife was sexually assaulted and as a result has been confined to a hospital. The man who assaulted her was found not guilty but was eventually killed.

Meantime, the city has seen a series of unusual deaths over the past several months. Our story begins when defense attorney Charles Dawson (Noah Keen) and his client (Rafael Campos), who was just acquitted, are abducted while leaving the courthouse. They’re held for at least 8 hours and are then brought before a group of men in a finely decorated office, neither of them having any idea why.

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This Seems Familiar….

The latest issue of Time magazine features a two page advertisement on the inside cover for Ralph Lauren. Two finely suited young men are dressed in Ralph Lauren Purple Label suits. Very classic. Very stylish.

And, seemingly, very familiar…

The striped shirt, print tie and three piece pattern suit in the Lauren ad reminded me of Culp’s striped shirt, print tie and three piece pin stripe suit from Columbo “Double Exposure” (1973). I’m biased, of course, but I think Culp wore it better.