Saturday, April 5, 2014

453. In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night
Directed by Norman Jewison

I saw this film quite awhile ago, pre List and pre Best Picture winners, when I was watching AFi's top 100 movies (I have an unhealthy list addiction in case you haven't figured that out yet).  Anyway, while I can't say this film left the strongest impression, I do agree that it is a worthy addition to the List.

Virgil Tibbs, played by Sidney Poitier, is just passing through a Southern town so, of course, is taken to the police station.  When it is revealed that Tibbs is actually a homicide detective in Philadelphia (side note: why is the line not "They call me Detective Tibbs?"), he is urged by both the mayor and his own chief to stay and solve a recent murder.  The catch is, he has to work with a racist Southern police chief (was that too repetitive?).

I have never been that much of a fan of films or books dealing with race issues in the South.  They tend to just upset and disgust me, without ever bringing anything new to the table.  However, I do have to give credit to this film.  Of course, the acting was fantastic, but I was impressed most by the story.  Sure, it was a bit contrived, but it had me guessing the entire movie and was never boring.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Poitier refused to shoot in the South, having been attacked by the KKK before.

Rod Steiger was asked by the director to always be chewing gums during his scenes.  Is that where the "jerk police officer chews gum in your face" trope started?

#75 in AFI's top 100.

They Call Me...


  1. I think the answer to your question is..
    After decades of just always being referred to by their first, given (often slave) name, black people in the south wanted the respect and equality of being addressed as 'Mr', just like the white folks.
    Any title, from 'Officer', 'Detective' to 'Doctor' etc would still be a label rather than them as a person.(even if is was an important title such as detective). Mr. Tibbs wanted - no, demanded, respect as a person first, as a man. Then would come the respect due to any position he may hold.
    Well, that's what I always thought..

    A great film.. even by today's standards. just how powerful it would have been in it's day..I love the way that just as the police, mainly Steiger's sheriff leap to the conclusion that a stranger black guy in town must be the lead suspect.. Det Tibbs is not immune to assuming (wanting?) the lead suspect to be the old rich white guy in the big house. Both learn to abandon.. well, perhaps not that far.. at least question entrenched beliefs.

    I somehow doubt that this was the first dumbass policeman who showed disdain by chewing gum in someones face.. but I'd bet it helped set it up as a mainstream cliche...

    Have you seen any of the sequels? I have, but cannot for the life of me remember anything about them.. I recall they not being anywhere near as good.

    1. Haven't seen any of the sequels but am definitely interested in checking them out!

  2. I loved this movie! I love Sidney Poitier and I think this was a great movie! Just thought I would share that. :)