In The Heat Of The Night, Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman. Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved but when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD’s number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance. The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area. Tibbs’ life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found.
One Of The Greatest Films Of The 60s
‘In the Heat of the Night’ was the winner of five Oscars with Norman Jewison for Best Director and the sound editing also receiving nominations, all richly deserved, especially the Best Picture and Best Actor.
Although the Best Picture was a strong one, apart from ‘Doctor Doolittle’, ‘In the Heat of the Night’ this reviewer finds the best of the five and also one of the greatest films of the 60s.
Visually, ‘In the Heat of the Night’ is an incredibly well-made film with cinematography that’s both beautiful and gritty. It is immaculately directed also by Norman Jewison, who directed several other great films, and film and sound editing are also very good, fluid with a suitable unpleasantness which suits the atmosphere well and thrillingly authentic. Quincy Jones’ soundtrack at least fits and evokes some good atmosphere, the title song sung by Ray Charles is a classic.
The script is incredibly thought-provoking with the racial tension tensely and vividly drawn, never resorting to heavy-handedness or talking at you, something that films with heavy subjects don’t always achieve. The “they call me Mr Tibbs” line is iconic. The story is a gripping powerhouse and very ahead of and daring for its time with tremendous power, edge and emotion.
Characters are compelling, and the acting couldn’t have been better. Rod Steiger has never been better as the bigoted police chief, and Sidney Poitier matches him every step of the way in a subtler and no less powerful performance. Warren Oates and Anthony James stand out in the uniformly strong supporting cast.
Overall, fantastic film and one of the greatest films of its decade.