2019 Blind Spot Series: In The Heat Of The Night


What I knew going in: Not much other than it is essential Sidney Poitier. 

Police Cheif Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is trying to solve a murder case of a wealthy businessman in his small Mississippi town. At the same time, a Philadelphia police officer Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is just passing through and minding his own goddamn business when he's taken to the station for the crime of being black. After Gillespie finds out that Tibbs is indeed a cop and and a hell of a homicide detective at that, he reluctantly accepts help from the far superior officer.

I'm surprised how little the actual murder mystery in this film matters. In The Heat of the Night doesn't care about the plot driving the characters as much as it does the subtext. This is about racism. A film being made in 1967 about a black man besting a bunch of interchangeable shitbags is an amazing feat. It even won Best Picture at the Oscars*. It's also about small down vs big city dynamics. Tibbs recognizes that these are racist morons but he also finds them incapable of meeting his bigger city standards even without that. 

My favorite parts of the film were Tibbs working the case, which is why it's slightly disappointing that it didn't matter that much. The final act of this film doesn't age well but the rest of the film does from a technical standpoint. The final scene is powerful, but the cynic in me found myself asking "will they actually change?" I hope so.

*Speaking of the Oscars, Poitier should've been nominated and one for this. I'm surprised it was Steigler who did.

At least know where that line in The Lion King comes from now.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "They call me, Mr. Tibbs" - Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier)


Comments

  1. I'm so behind on Blind Spot now!
    This sounds like a tough watch but definitely worth it. I need to see more of Sidney Poitier's movies.

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    1. I BARELY got this one in time. I slipped hardcore on this one lol. I also re-wrote my review about 3 different times. It was frustrating.

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  2. This is a film that I want to see but I'm not in a rush to see it. Still, I hope to watch it one of these days.

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    1. I can't imagine what your list looks like. Hopefully this finds its way there.

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  3. This is a good film and i liked the dynamics between Steiger and Poitier. He should have won, I agree. I loved the scene in the greenhouse

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    1. Yes! And that dude just cries after they leave. That was something else.

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  4. It's a fine film and I admire the craftmanship of all involved but it's never been a particular favorite of mine.

    Poitier is good, much much better than in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and he does resolute integrity about as well as it can be done but I'd still say Steiger has the more complex, trickier role and performs it with great subtlety. So his winning doesn't bother me.

    Those two are so much of the impact of the picture but the surrounding cast is a very good one. Lee Grant is a particular standout in her small role, she actually had to fight to be cast because even at this point she was still unofficially blacklisted from the HUAC witch hunt and this reignited her career in films and TV.

    You should give Poitier's debut film "No Way Out" a look. It also deals with racial tensions, Sidney is a young doctor relentlessly pursued by a virulent bigot (a frightening Richard Widmark) who blames him for his brother's death despite all evidence to the contrary escalating the situation into both a race riot and an intense showdown.

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    1. I will definitely add No Way Out to my list!

      I think overall as a film, I prefer Guess Who's Coming To Dinner to this one.

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  5. Liked the film a bit more than you. I think it still packs a punch. Should be shown in schools and hopefully prevent kids from becoming racists.

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    1. There's a whole list of films they should show for that lol

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