Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman. Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved but when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD’s number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance. The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area. Tibbs’ life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found. —IMDb
Receiving his undergraduate education at Malvern Collegiate Institute, Victoria College and University of Toronto, Ontario-born director and producer Norman Jewison also studied piano and music theory at the Royal Conservatory. Following service in the navy and a brief sojourn as a cab driver, Jewison worked as an actor and scenarist in London. From 1953 through 1958, he was one of the top directors with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television service; he continued to turn out top-ranked TV work when he was signed by CBS in New York, winning three Emmys between 1958 and 1961. His first feature film was 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), which led to a long-term contract with Universal. In 1963, Jewison took on the daunting task of executive producing the much-troubled Judy Garland Show, emerging from this failed 26-week project with little if any egg on his face. The first of Jewison’s films to be greeted with the same critical effusion as his TV work was The Cincinnati Kid (1965… read more
Historical context, a detailed portrait of racial issues (that mental illness), a dangerous humdrum-like southern atmosphere and the acting is what makes this standard murder mystery a very good film. I don't like AcademyAwards, but it's fun to discuss them once in a while. I think "Bonnie n' Clyde" should've won that year, this is not an Oscar movie at all. Still, a fine jewel, it keeps you so toughly engaged.
In the Heat of the Night is some really powerful stuff. True, the story isn't much more than your standard murder mystery with some racial tension kicking it in the ass, but the setting as well as all the smarmy details make all the difference. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger are fantastic together and are alone worth the watch even if Ray Charles' theme song & Quincy Jones' score are a little too hip & out of place.
While its story is standard stuff bolstered by its racial tensions this powerful character study is worth watching just for Steiger and Portier's knockout performances.
Forty or so years on, In the Heat of the Night seems dated. Its slight edges of racial bigotry seem mild and understated today; as a murder investigation, it seems amateurish and patchy. Films… read review