In the Heat Of the Night, 1967
Directed by Norman Jewison
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 5
Up Against: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
In The Heat of the Night is a part murder mystery, part story on racism. It stars Sydney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, an African-American homicide detective who finds himself in Sparta, Mississippi the night a man is murdered. He's asked by his commander back on the Philadelphia Police Force to stay and help uncover the killer. And while Tibbs has already been treated to racism (he's immediately plucked as a suspect by another policeman because he was black and was carrying a large sum of money in his wallet), he agrees to work alongside Gillespie, the head officer in town, after the widow of the victim is impressed with Tibbs clearing an innocent man on the murder charges when Gillespie arrested him with little evidence.
Tibbs goes on to clear several men of their names after being arrested with shaky evidence, and starts to earn the respect of Gillespie, despite the fact that he's annoyed Tibbs is taking over the investigation and knows more than he does.
This film came out in a time when racism in the south was still going on, and it ended up becoming a very big hit. It got excellent reviews all-around. The infamous slapping scene was pivotal and the lines, "they call me mr. tibbs" is a famous quote.
In all honesty, while I know this film is beloved, I wasn't the biggest fan. I thought it was a little dull, a little slow-moving, and not that interesting. Sure, Tibbs uncovering the whodunit was good, and it had a bit of a twist to it, but overall the process wasn't all that interesting. However, showing the racism in that small town was definitely effectual. It was interesting every time someone sneered about Tibbs being around, but when he mentions he's a police officer, he generally gets a little bit more respect. While it never really hit me how annoying racism probably was for blacks back then, this film really showed it. Tibbs was a hard-working guy, with a respectable career, making good money, and not dealing with as much racism in Philly. But come down south, everything is different. The smallest things, people sneer at you, don't want you in the room, and make racist comments like you're not even there. This was a good perspective that they brought out, even if I wasn't so crazy about the film overall.
Honestly, I felt the film was just alright. The acting wasn't amazing, the sets and costumes weren't that amazing, the story was just alright. It's interesting to see how much of the nominees for Best Picture I actually knew that year (I usually don't know many of them in years before 2000). However, this film was just alright, and surprises me a little bit that it won. However, given the time period and what was going on in America at the time, I guess it's not that surprising. It's a story on a black man and a white man working together, in a time when that didn't happen.
Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10
Overall Package- 7.5/10