From the opening performance of "In The Heat of the Night", sung by the great Ray Charles, this film will grab your attention immediately and will grip you for the next hour and 3/4.
Poitier plays a black northern dectective Virgil Tibbs, who is arrested in the deep south for a murder he had nothing to with. Steiger is a bigoted local Sheriff eventually forced to work with Tibbs to solve the case. Both the lead performances are truly mesmerising. There are a number of classic scenes in this film of which perhaps my favourite is when the Sheriff interviews Tibbs for the first time and finds he's a policeman.
The film is very well directed by Norman Jewison and won 5 Oscars in 1967, including best actor for Rod Steiger. Quincy Jones also deservedly won a Grammy for his music score. The only extra is the original trailer, which is a shame. However the film itself is so good that the DVD has to have 5 stars regardless.
I first saw the multi-Oscar winning 'In The Heat Of The Night' on the TV decades ago as a teenager and was struck, most significantly, by the marvellous acting performances and the bravado of the subject matter.
I got the film on R1/USA DVD quite some time ago (a fairly good rendition) - it's only recently that it's been given the proper treatment on Blu-ray, based on the 40th anniversary DVD edition which was only released in the USA.
Whilst this HD presentation might not be a massive improvement, it does have superior definition and a clear 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (essentially dialogue-based) soundtrack.
If you know nothing of this movie then you can get an idea by reading the Amazon 'Product Description' - BUT if you do it gives away the plot basis, which is a 'secret' of the film and when it is revealed should come as something of a shock....
A very short non-spoiler explanation would be to say that it covers the rampant racist attitudes held (note that I use the present tense !) in the southern states of the USA, covering them with great clarity and in a wide variety of ways - the 'vehicle' to drive the story which allows that to occur is something of a MacGuffin, being a murder 'whodunnit'.
Why is this film ground-breaking ? - not necessarily because it covered those racist attitudes (it was made in the era of the battle for Civil Rights in the USA), but essentially because it showed an African-American 'fighting back' against the resident white/racists (most significantly when he returns a face slap delivered to him by one of those white racists).
So, the film deftly manages to not only deal with those important issues but also keep you engrossed with the drama of that murder investigation. Just as important are the terrific character portrayals by one and all in the cast, most notably the 2 lead actors (Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger) of course.
This is the kind of film that could have existed solely on the stage, since whilst there is an expansive story to tell courtesy of the murder 'plot' it is those character portrayals which are the key element.
In a competitive year, the film still managed to win 5 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Steiger), Film Editing, Sound and Adapted Screenplay; it's something of a surprise that Poitier wasn't even nominated (especially when you see who was !) BUT it is pertinent to observe that he had already won a Best Actor Oscar 4 years earlier....
On this Blu-ray everything looks excellent and whilst the soundtrack doesn't need the full capability offered by DTS-HD MA it does ensure things are clear and provide the necessary atmospherics for the often 'steamy' settings.
We also get some decent extras, being those ported-over from that 40th anniversary DVD: a multi-crew/cast audio commentary and trailer (which were on the original DVD as well) plus 3 ('new') featurettes.
I've attached a photo of the back of the disc box.
Even if you already have this film on DVD this Blu-ray is still a worthwhile 'upgrade' as the picture so much sharper.
on 17 July 2004
In The Heat Of The Night is a classic because of the way it shows the 'power' struggle between old world values still in practice and the progression of human rights. Sidney Poitier is a revelation in this film, although his performance was aided greatly by Rod Steiger. The duo brilliantly show the friction of differing education, both school and moral, coupled eloquently with their personality similarities. Rod Steiger's constant struggle against his instincts and common opinion as regards Virgil Tibbs, is a very open and intriguing one.
The direction in this film is remarkable and subtle, with the clever use of music accentuating at the exact moments an avid viewer would want them.
The supporting cast held their own, with handy contributions all around, all helping to add to the community resentment towards Tibbs.
The plot was powerful but the presence of certain characters seemed a little tenuous. The characters almost seemed an inclusive to emphasise the obvious. For example, the visit to the cotton mill seemed to have no eventual purpose to the plot except the show the blatant bigotry that was implied by the rest of the film in a somewhat more reserved approach.
Aside from that minor blip, the film flows brilliantly and I highly recommend this film to all who want a damn good film with quality acting and direction. A must see classic of the 60's era.
on 5 March 2006
I can believe this film is forty years old !. The tension is there right from the start. It had me on the edge of my seat throughout. A fantastic thriller, it should also be on every school's citizenship curriculum. Only the ending I found a little flat, it could have been done better - more exciting. But the rest of the film is brilliant. Better than most modern films. Watch it !.
This film won best picture Oscar in 1967. It was one of a number of distinguished liberal American films made at the time of the growth of the Civil Rights movement -'To Kill a Mockingbird' was another - when the US was very much a divided nation, with African Americans, as the term now is - it wasn't then - still very much an underprivileged, underrepresented sector of society. Now, when Barak Obama has just announced his intention to run for the Presidency, the film has a certain period, nostalgic feel to it (not that all the race-based problems in the US have been solved by any means). But that does not stop it from being a cracking good film. It's well plotted, very well directed and very atmospherically set. But what really sets it apart is the chemistry between Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) and the local small-town Southern sheriff (Rod Steiger), by birth and upbringing no 'nigger-lover' but at the same time intelligent enough to recognise ability and integrity when he sees them, so that the two eventually form a strange alliance against the deep-rooted prejudices of the town. Steiger in particular is terrific. Ar the end of the film, when they take their farewells of each other, their genuine respect, understated as it would be with two such men, is very moving. Anyway, every minute of this film is totally absorbing and I recommend it highly.
on 19 October 2003
As well as the above reviews of the social comment on racism, and the incredible performances of the two main characters, one of the biggest things in this movie is simply the atmosphere the director creates. In the deep south of the USA the humidity is unbearable. The cicadas and crickets chirp, and in it's own way life goes that little bit slower.
The magic of the direction for me is that you could watch it in the antarctic, in winter, and still feel like you were slapping at mosquitos, melting like butter on a fried catfish, with the aircon full blast. If you haven't seen it, you have missed a classic.
I didn't really know what to expect from this film. Usually when people start bandying around terms like `important' and `meaningful', the film in question is almost never described as `entertaining' or `gripping'. This, however is that rare article, a film that makes a study of a deeply disturbing issue, racism, yet manages to be a clever and interesting murder mystery, the journey to the solution of which will keep you fascinated right up to the final reel.
Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a black man unlucky enough to be visiting a deep South town on the night that a particularly important business man is found murdered. Initially pulled in by the police for the crime it soon transpires that he is in fact a policeman himself, a fact that the local Captain, Gillespie, finds hard to accept. Forced to work together they must overcome their prejudices against each other in order to solve the murder and keep a lid on the simmering powder keg of racial hatred on the verge of exploding in the town.
The film is made by the superb central performances of Poitier an Rod Steiger in a career best appearance as Gillespie. Tibbs is an interesting protagonist, intelligent and articulate, yet susceptible to his own prejudices against the white man. Steiger as Gillespie is a superb characterisation. Just an everyday man trying to make his way in the world. Steeped in the prejudices of the society he is part of, but able to see past them and work with whatever tools come to hand in order to keep the peace. He's intelligent, but looking for the quick and easy answer that leads him to several wrong solutions.
This really is a gripping drama. The moral study of racism does not intrude on the investigation, which in turn never detracts from the fascinating look at the attitudes of the time and place. It's superbly done, excellently directed and beautifully acted. It really does deserve the plaudits loaded onto it. As an added bonus there is an excellent score with a fine performance from Ray Charles.
Poitier would return to the role of Tibbs twice more, in Mr Tibbs and The Organisation, neither of which quite lived up to this engaging and original film.
This 2004 MGM Home Cinema release presents the film with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a mono soundtrack. Both are in good condition though there are some minor defects. The only extra is the theatrical trailer. It's a good release of the film, but I can't help but feel that a film this good and important deserves a special release with more extras and a restored picture and soundtrack. But this will do until something better comes along!
on 30 July 2014
Five stars for the film, but not a showcase blu ray disc. This is probably due largely to the way the film was shot and the colour process that was used. In interior scenes especially, colours often appear dirty or splotchy and contrasts are not pleasing. Not sure how much of a problem this is going to be on smaller TV sets, but on a big one the effect is really disappointing. Exteriors look much better and presumably show that mastering is not at fault. 60s filmmaking was often technically slapdash - the other side of the newly won cinematic freedom.
on 4 February 2009
When this film first appeared it was seen as a major artistic statement on race and the issues of segregation. It was a return of American Film taking on contentious issues not really seen since the Macarthy era of blacklists and fear of offending the silent majority. It was a brave film and you sensed that the people involved knew they were making a significant film. Many of the phrases used in the film became instantly used 'call me Mr Tibbs' or more annoyingly Rod Stieger's 'speak to me' when he picked up the phone,try doing that as see the response. Importantly the film had impact, without becoming an ideological tract. The acting is outstanding and the relationship which develops between Rod Stieger and Sidney Poitier is one of the great film performances, the two great actors never bettered this. Having travelled through the Southern States during the sixties ,the film is a true reflection of that time, it is a wonder that Virgil was not killed,many died for far less. The film also shows weaknesses in all the characters, it is an adult film, Virgil Tibbs could be as wrong as the southern sheriff acted by Rod Stieger. The key point of the film is that it is what unifies us rather than divides that is important and this needed affirming at a very critical point in the history of the United States. Film is important.
on 30 July 2010
The supreme artistry of this film is that you can feel the humid prickly heat of a summer in the Deep South of the USA circa 1967. The itchy, insect-buzzing nature of the heat of the Southern states is brought out brilliantly. The location, in a very small town far from moist places, is finely caught. The squeaky badly-oiled insect screened doors, the dark night cut by flourescent lights...you are there.
Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is a detective whose mother lives in the area but who works in the less segregated situation of Philadelphia. Detained at first as an automatic suspect (a lone non-local black man) after a murder, he forms an unlikely and ultimately mutually-respectful alliance with the equally well-portrayed police chief (Rod Steiger), who eventually overcomes both prejudice against Poitier ("They call me MISTER Tibbs!") and a forelock-tugging respect for the local rich landowner in favour of justice annd pursuing the investigation to wherever it will end.