Best Picture Reviews: In The Heat Of The Night

images-2MAN! I just jumped from 4 period pieces in a row to a movie that I swear is set in the 70’s even though they haven’t happened yet. Style-wise, this movie is a huge step up from A Man Of All Seasons. But quality wise?

Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is investigating a murder case. He comes across Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poiter) and, being a huge racist, automatically accuses him of being the murderer. But it turns out that Tibbs is a very respected policeman, (You know ‘They call me MISTER Tibbs!’ This is where that came from.) and now they have to work together to solve the case.

And by ‘work together’, I mean Poiter does everything and Steiger just talks in a funny voice. Pretty much the whole point of the film is ‘African Americans can be smart too!’ And you kind of NEED to be as smart as Poiter’s character in order to understand all the logistics that are going on in this movie. The film feels like a cop show more than it does a movie.

The acting is fine, but it doesn’t feel natural. It’s like the director came onto the set and said. “Poiter, you’re smart. Steiger, you’re racist. Action!” Now, there is one scene I really did like. It’s when Poiter talks to the murder victim’s widow. He tells her that her husband is dead, and she goes all quiet. He moves over to hold her, but she pulls away because she’s also racist. And you can see that she’s debating weather or not she should let him comfort her. That’s a great moment.

Aside from that scene, the film as a whole feels ahead of it’s time. There’s a scene early on where there’s a topless women in a window, and the window frame is the only thing preventing us from getting a good look. This is a 60’s film? The film is trying to break free of typical 60’s conventions, and I respect it for that.

However, when you look back on the film it doesn’t seem particularly memorable aside from a few key moments. The movie as a whole feels rather weak as a Best Picture winner, especially considering that the nominees that year included Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Overall, a decent flick, but I wouldn’t really recommend it.

***1/2

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