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I have loved this movie for over 50 years. I had it on DVD and Blu Ray. Now, I purchased the Criterion Collection of In The Heat of the Night. It was worth the extra money (as most of the Criterion Collection is) and I am not sorry one bit for buying it. It feels like watching the movie for the first time. Can't get over how great the picture quality is, considering the movie is 52 years old. Looks like it was filmed recently. Overall, very pleased with my purchase.
The moment Sidney Poitier yells to Rod Steiger "they call me MIster Tibbs" a classic was born. Probably the best film to explore racial tensions disguised as a murder mystery. Good supporting cast, well written, and well directed.
A thoughtful murder mystery about America’s racism problem.
Director Norman Jewison’s mystery drama In the Heat of the Night (1967) is a riveting murder investigation into a small Mississippi town called Sparta. This rural hellscape is as brutal, barren, and backwards at its ancient reaching name suggests. Jewison’s setting of the American South is apt for a story about deeply brewed hate since they have a long history of hate crimes, hate groups, and racist Southerners. It’s the most dangerous and unnerving backdrop for Sidney Poitier to be in really.
Jewison’s direction is stalwart and steady creating a haunting atmosphere in this little Mississippi town. The slow panning shots and long still shots of characters allow for anything to happen. The camera follows characters down long streets and hallways for a creepy effect. You can tell that In the Heat of the Night’s long winding cinematography influenced The French Connection and Mississippi Burning. The slow methodical approach to the film’s investigation gives you a similar vibe to a dark thriller like L.A. Confidential or Zodiac.
Quincy Jones’ score is a blend of jazz, soul, and funk that makes chase sequences feel brisk and make nighttime scenes feel disquieting. Jones composed the perfect soundscape for In the Heat of the Night’s moody tone. Ray Charles’ main theme is a wonderful bringer of jazz and soul for an authentic feel and somber vibe.
Sidney Poitier is steadfast and intelligent as the brilliant homicide expert Detective Virgil Tibbs for the Pennsylvania Police Department stranded in Sparta, Mississippi. His calm and professional demeanor is impressive as poor Poitier is arrested, insulted, threatened, ridiculed, and assaulted by every racist redneck in Mississippi. He plays it cool and comes out of In the Heat of the Night looking like the smartest detective ever.He acts with a subtle nuance that depicts Tibbs as clever, observant, and even hateful to those who wrong him, which gives his character a realistic complexity. Poitier is captivating to the brutal end and a fine leading man.
Furthermore, Rod Steiger steals the show as the incompetant racist Chief of Police Bill Gillespie. His stocky stature, slow speech, rage filled voice, and angry banter is unforgettable. I think he only manages to upstage Poitier because it is a loud obnoxious role like how he chew gum with his mouth open or is quick to arrest the first suspect he sees. His on screen chemistry with Poitier is interesting as it really looks like they despise each other.
I should mention a young Scott Wilson gets a strong supporting role as the racist local Harvey Oberst wrongly accused of the murder. I like Warren Oates as the bumbling racist beat cop Officer Sam Wood.
In short, In the Heat of the Night is a poignant crime drama on American racial politics, police corruption, police procedure, and American justice. Ironically, this piece of cinematic Americana is directed by a Canadian director!
Classic late 60's film about contemporary race relations in the South. Interesting, if a bit slow moving, by today's standards, mystery with knockout performances by the two leads. Picture image is first rate, a true movie house viewing experience. Well worth the time devoted to viewing.
This deservedly won the Best Picture Oscar of 1967. Rod Steiger's performance is matched by Sidney Poitier's(who could of easily won, also). Criterion's expertise in presenting a cinema-like quality to it's blu-rays is well documented, and it's on display here. How interesting it is that this year's winning Best Picture - "Green Book" - delves into race relations.