Movie Notes: In The Heat Of The Night
= 4 stars
Starring Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Warren Oates
Directed by Norman Jewison
Cop Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) investigates a murder in a racist southern town.
- Anti-racism message: Virgil is “racially profiled” and arrested by a clueless local cop who can’t comprehend an African American as a fellow officer.
- The acting prowess of Poitier as the determined, smart, yet overly-cautious (for obvious reasons) Mr. Tibbs, but also note Steiger as the grumpy police chief – a nervous bundle of conflict, trying to remain cool in the face of his department’s incompetence.
- Some intense and effectively directed scenes, namely an initially polite confrontation between the wealthy plantation owner Endicott (who compares orchids to “negroes”) which escalates to an equal-opportunity slap-fest, and four good ol’ boys cornering Mr. Tibbs in a warehouse, armed with racial epithets that do more damage than their crude weapons.
- Occasionally heavy-handed, verging on the cartoonish. Tibbs is almost too good to be true, and the southern folks are Deliverance-level moronic.
An entertaining and unsettling experience viewing experience today, as it’s hard to imagine a town like this once existed, where a person with talents to offer would be discounted on the basis of their skin. But with the civil rights message received and well understood, I could cut through all the racial stuff and merely concentrate on Poitier and Stieger’s excellent performances. Recommended.