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In the Heat of the Night (re-issue)


Stars: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Scott Wilson, Larry Gates, William Schallert, Beah Richards, Matt Clark, Quentin Dean, Anthony James, Peter Whitney, Harry Dean Stanton

Director: Norman Jewison

This essentially simple whodunit is raised far above the norm, thanks to a racially charged sub-plot and powerhouse acting from the two main stars.

Woven together with tension and drama by director Jewison, In the Heat of the Night scooped five Oscars, including best picture, best screenplay for Stirling Silliphant and best editing for Hal Ashby. But the music by Quincy Jones is also a contributing factor to the fetid, edgy atmosphere, as are the prowling cameras and burnished cinematography of the great Haskell Wexler.

Big city police detective Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) comes up against a wall of prejudice when he tries to help bigoted by canny Police Chief Gillespie (Steiger, winning another of the movie's Oscars) to solve a murder case in a small Mississippi town. Their scenes together are beautifully written and impeccably played.

Tibbs finds he has to come to terms with his own prejudices as well as those of the people around him, which adds another dimension to the film. Poitier went on to reprise his role in two follow-ups - They Call Me MISTER Tibbs and The Organisation. This was the original and best, though, and the intervening years haven't dated it one little bit.

David Quinlan

USA 1967. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally United Artists). Colour by deluxe.
109 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Nov 2016