on 1 May 2014
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT  [Blu-ray] [US Import] They Got A Murder On Their Hands! They Don’t Know What To Do With It!
Starring Academy Award® Winners Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger and Lee Grant, this provocative mystery thriller is still as powerful as ever. In the Deep South, homicide detective Virgil Tibbs [Sidney Poitier] becomes embroiled in a murder investigation. When the bigoted town sheriff [Rod Steiger] gets involved, both he and Virgil Tibbs must put aside their differences and join forces in a race against time to discover the shocking truth.
FILM FACT: Academy Award® Winners: Academy Award® for Best Picture for Walter Mirisch. Academy Award for Best Actor for Rod Steiger. Academy Award® for Film Editing for Hal Ashby. Academy Award® for Best Sound for Samuel Goldwyn Studios. Academy Award® for Writing Adapted Screenplay for Stirling Silliphant. Academy Award® Nominations: Academy Award for Directing for Norman Jewison. Academy Award® for Sound Editing for James Richard. Golden Globe® Award for Best Motion Picture for Drama, Golden Globe® Award for Best Actor and Motion Picture Drama for Rod Steiger. Golden Globe® Award for Best Screenplay for Stirling Silliphant. BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor for Rod Steiger. BAFTA UN Award for Norman Jewison. New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Picture.
Cast: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson, William Schallert, Beah Richards, Peter Whitney, Kermit Murdock, Larry D. Mann, Quentin Dean, Anthony James, Arthur Malet, Scott Wilson, Matt Clark, Eldon Quick, Harry Dean Stanton, Jester Hairston, Khalil Bezaleel, Jazan Winona Wallace, Jimmy Anderson, Michelle Rowell, Stuart Eugene Wallace, Michael Gates (uncredited) and Clegg Hoyt (uncredited)
Director: Norman Jewison
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant
Composer: Quincy Jones
Cinematography: Haskell Wexler
Video Resolution: 1080p [Color by Deluxe]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 110 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: "They call me Mister Tibbs!" stands as one of cinema's most memorable and passionately delivered lines, but the power emanating from that strongly stated retort stems not just from a disrespected character's indignation over racial bigotry, but also from the nerve those words struck in people all across the country and how they reflected monumental social changes. Blacks rarely confronted Southern whites during the 1960s, but the Civil Rights Movement began breaking down barriers, and 'In the Heat of the Night,' a searing indictment of prejudice disguised as a murder mystery, sought to prove achieving common ground is possible, and racial harmony might not be such a far-fetched idea after all. Norman Jewison's film signalled a changing tide in U.S. race relations, as African-Americans began to forcefully assert themselves and stand up to domineering whites. To quote a film that wouldn't be made for another nine years, blacks were mad as hell, and they weren't going to take it anymore.
Thankfully, we've come a long way since 1967, so the visceral impact of 'In the Heat of the Night' has significantly diminished over time. More of a period piece than a finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-public drama, this engrossing, and meticulously constructed production still strikes a chord, because race remains a hot-button issue. Though the film isn't nearly as shocking as it surely must have seemed back in 1967, its core elements remain affecting, and ironically, from our removed vantage point, some of the behaviour depicted seems more disturbing today than it did 35 years ago, merely because it's hard to believe people really acted in such a reprehensible manner.
In 1967 it was not only unusual to have a non-white actor in a leading role; it was nearly unheard of. In The Heat of the Night's gamble paid off, though, when the film brought home Academy Award® for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Film Editing and Best Screenplay. The story of a big-city black detective stumbling into a murder case in a sleepy Southern town brought together an unusually rich collection of talent. Rod Steiger was a graduate of New York's Actors Studio and one of the earliest students of Method acting, while Sidney Poitier had broken ground with roles that no African-American actor had taken on before. The chemistry between the two onscreen was sharp and complex, while still confined to the framework of a mystery/police procedural.
Shot in the small towns of Dyersburg, Tennessee and Freeburg, Belleville, and Sparta, Illinois, In ‘The Heat of the Night’ had the perfect atmosphere of a stifling rural town in the South, the type of place where every newcomer is eyed with suspicion. Quincy Jones' roots type music, and innovative score, mingled elements of country blues, bluegrass and rock to evoke the languid tension of the town perfectly.
Perhaps because of its topicality or maybe in spite of it, 'In the Heat of the Night' won the Academy Award® for Best Picture in 1967. The steamy drama shines a spotlight on issues the film industry seemed reluctant to tackle, and it's easy to see why. Tensions ran so high during that turbulent period, the film's star, Sidney Poitier, probably the most renowned African-American in the U.S. after Martin Luther King, Jr., refused to shoot the picture on location in Mississippi, for no other reason than it was too dangerous. (Illinois was used instead, although Sidney Poitier did finally agree to shoot briefly in Tennessee, so a crucial cotton-picking scene could be authentically filmed.) Almost from the get-go, Stirling Silliphant's Oscar-winning screenplay depicts that uneasy atmosphere in the fictional community of Sparta, Mississippi, where blacks are constantly under suspicion and dutifully live their lives as second-class citizens unwilling to stand up for themselves because they fear their white superiors will unfairly target and retaliate against them.
Virgil Tibbs [Sidney Poitier] knows this world well. Though he's a proud, successful, intelligent, and self-assured man, he's aware of the rules and keeps his head down. But after a local businessman is found dead in the street, an overzealous police officer [Warren Oates] discovers Tibbs patiently waiting for a train at the local depot, and, without any evidence other than the colour of his skin, fingers him for the crime. When he's brought before the town sheriff, Police Chief Bill Gillespie [Rod Steiger], a blustery, gum-chewing bigot who runs his force with an iron hand, Virgil Tibbs reveals to everyone's surprise that he's a northerner and get this he is a Philadelphia police detective who was just innocently changing trains at the Sparta railway station in Illinois.
After his identity is confirmed, Virgil Tibbs, who's also conveniently a homicide expert, is commanded by his Pennsylvania bosses to remain in Sparta and assist in solving the whodunit, much to Police Chief Bill Gillespie's chagrin. Working with a loud-mouthed, hot-headed, and unapologetically bigoted police chief is distasteful to Vigil Tibbs, and Police Chief Bill Gillespie can barely stomach taking directives from a black "boy" whom he knows is smarter, more polished, and more skilled than he. Yet this odd couple forms a tenuous partnership fraught with periodic head-butting, and as they become more intimately involved, each earns the other's grudging respect.
The success of 'In the Heat of the Night' hinges not on the cohesiveness of the murder mystery plot (which I found too preciously constructed and mechanically executed), but on the incendiary chemistry between Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, who often spar like two heavyweight fighters, circling each other in the ring, then pouncing when one lets down his guard. They make quite a pair, but surprisingly their finest scene together isn't a heated exchange, but rather an intimate, low-key discussion about loneliness, family, and dedication to a thankless job. Rod Steiger won a Best Actor Oscar for his riveting, no-holds-barred portrayal; while he's always fun to watch, too often histrionics overshadow his performance. Poitier is more restrained, though at times it seems as if the mantle of "America's foremost black actor" weighs him down and lends his work an affected quality that detracts from its believability.
Virgil Tibbs posed several problems to the locals, not only as an outsider and a black man; his knowledge of police work and forensics threatened to embarrass the local police and make them look like backwoods hicks. It would have been easy to make Police Chief Bill Gillespie's character a stereotypical, loudmouthed Southern bigot, but screenwriter Sterling Silliphant imbued him with much more depth than that. By the same turn, Tibbs is shown to be a flawed man as well, with his own pride and cleverness often getting in his way. As the film unfolds, Police Chief Bill Gillespie and Virgil Tibbs slowly come to the realisation that they have more in common than they'd like to admit, and even begin to develop a grudging respect for each other. Thus, a movie that could easily have become obvious and heavy-handed is instead a subtle, character-driven gem.
'In the Heat of the Night' most likely won the Best Picture Oscar for what it says, rather than how it says it. Films like 'The Graduate' and 'Bonnie and Clyde' may possess more artistry, but the rhetoric pales in comparison. For once, substance trumped style, and though this fine film may not pack the punch it surely did in the 1960s, it's still a meaningful and a very important film.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The nicely restored picture distinguishes this 1080p encoded image quality transfer from Fox that maintains the film's original grain structure yet sports enhanced contrast and clarity. A distinct film-like appearance makes viewing a pleasure (though some scenes look more textured than others), and only a few errant dots and blotches sully the largely pristine source material. Much of 'In the Heat of the Night' was shot on location in Illinois (Sidney Poitier was understandably reticent to cross the Mason-Dixon Line), and exteriors exude a surprising richness and depth, thanks to the keen eye of cinematographer Haskell Wexler ['One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'], who experimented with zoom lenses and handheld cameras to achieve a natural, immersive look. Many scenes transpire at night, and lush black levels enhance them, yet crush is rarely an issue, even during the darkest moments. Whites are crisp and stable, and flesh tones are spot-on. (Haskell Wexler was the first cameraman to realise black actors require different lighting to appropriately capture their skin tone and complexion.) Background elements vary from fuzzy to clear, but close-ups are razor sharp, allowing us to see the glistening sweat, hair follicles, and skin blemishes on the characters' faces. And while there's not a lot of intense colour on display, the hues remain true and natural-looking throughout. No banding, mosquito noise, or other imperfections distract us from the action, and no digital doctoring seems to have been applied. Though this is far from the finest catalogue transfer I've seen, 'In the Heat of the Night' looks better than it ever has on home video, and that should please both fans and new Blu-ray enthusiasts alike.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 'In the Heat of the Night' took home the Academy Award® for Best Sound, and this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track honours that distinction with a clear, clean presentation that's free of any hiss, pops, and crackles. Surround activity is understandably slim and limited mostly to Quincy Jones' powerful and, at times, dissonant score. The jazzy music possesses excellent fidelity and tonal depth, and easily fills the room. (The title song, performed with plenty of soul by Ray Charles, and the sounds are particularly full and robust.) Stereo separation across the front channels somewhat widens the soundscape, with directional bleeds adding a realistic touch to several sequences. Accents, such as footsteps in the brush and car wheels crunching on loose gravel, are crisp and distinct, and ambient nuances like crickets achieve a fine degree of presence. Dialogue, thanks to Sidney Poitier's excellent diction, is always clear and easy to comprehend, despite some challenging accents, and the mix as a whole flaunts a tight, well-integrated feel that keeps us focused on the on-screen action. For a film from the mid-1960s, the audio is nicely balanced and just active enough to prick up our ears from time to time.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Norman Jewison, Lee Grant, Rod Steiger and Cinematographer Haskell Wexler: An especially strong commentary from director Norman Jewison and cinematographer Haskell Wexler - with occasional recorded interjections from actors Rod Steiger and Lee Grant is a noteworthy addition to the disc. All the remarks are interesting and substantive, from the extensive discussions regarding the film's photography and lighting to the dialogues about the movie's racial themes, and all the participants express themselves in an articulate and engaging manner. We learn the film's limited budget stemmed from studio uncertainty regarding the project's commercial viability due to its racially charged subject matter; that tension existed on the set between Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier; and that Norman Jewison worried the film would be viewed as too self-righteous, so he focused intently on the plot's whodunit aspect. Norman Jewison relates his fondness for shooting on location and "making it up as [he] goes along," while Wexler notes the movie was one of the first to substantially employ a zoom lens. Rod Steiger praises his director and defends his "over-the-top" portrayal, and Grant recalls her symbiotic relationship with Poitier and how the actor didn't want his race to define him. If you're a fan of 'In the Heat of the Night', then this commentary is well worth your time.
Special Feature: Turning Up the Heat: Moviemaking in the `60s [480i] [1.78:1] [21:10] The title of this documentary is a bit of a misnomer, as the piece concentrates exclusively on 'In the Heat of the Night' and the myriad aspects of its production. Producer Walter Mirisch, director Norman Jewison, composer Quincy Jones, director John Singleton, and some noteworthy scholars are all on hand to weigh in on the challenges of shooting this film and its ground-breaking nature. The characters, acting, score, themes, and artistry of the film are all examined in this absorbing documentary.
Special Feature: The Slap Heard Around the World [480i] [1.78:1] [7:25] The same crew of interviews dissect this "incredible moment in cinema history" when a white man hits a black man and the black man hits him back. Many feel the scene prompted a shift in African-American attitudes from the pursuit of civil rights to Black Power.
Special Feature: Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound [480i] [1.78:1] [13:02] 'In the Heat of the Night' boasted one of the first music scores written by an African-American composer, and this absorbing documentary examines Jones' innovative jazz music, as well as the bluesy title song, which he wrote with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, both of whom are on hand to share their memories of the experience. Jones himself discusses how he came to work on the picture and his philosophy regarding film scores, and musician Herbie Hancock talks about how Jones opened doors for black composers. Deleted bits of scoring are also included to illustrate Quincy Jones' breadth of talent.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080i] [2:48] The film's exciting original preview is well paced and chock full of potent snippets that pique interest but don't give too much away. The trailer is in rough shape and appears to be from a low-resolution source, despite the 1080p encoded image in the Blu-ray disc.
Finally, 'In the Heat of the Night' might not hold up as well as fellow Best Picture nominees 'The Graduate' and 'Bonnie and Clyde,' but this Oscar-winning murder mystery remains a searing indictment of racial prejudice and discrimination. Letting the theme's inherent power speak for itself (preachy speeches are kept to a minimum), director Norman Jewison crafts an intriguing tale that focuses on the fireworks between stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, and the two actors don't disappoint. Fox's Blu-ray presentation features solid video and audio transfers, and all the supplements that appeared on the previous DVD. Though changing times and social advancements have dulled some of the film's sting, 'In the Heat of the Night' tells it like it was in the Deep South in the 1960s and stands as a potent reminder of where we were and how far we've progressed. That is why I have loved this film ever since I saw it in the cinema and also owning on the inferior DVD format, which is an honour to add this to me ever expanding Blu-ray Collection, as it is the type of film one can view many times and not ever get bored. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom