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