Sunday, February 25, 2007

In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night; crime / drama/ thriller, USA, 1967; D: Norman Jewison, S: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates

Sparta, Mississippi. When a white rich man is found murdered on the street, the racist police chief of the local police station, Bill Gillepsie, orders his colleagues to find the killer as soon as possible. They soon arrest a black man, Virgil Tibbs, for being "suspicious" at a train station. It turns out Virgil is actually a police offer too, traveling from Philadelphia. Although Bill doesn't like black people, he admits that Virgil is much more skillful than him when he investigates the corpse and offers his assistance to find the murderer. After a clumsy start, they become good partners. In the end, Virgil finds out a local restaurant worker killed the man to steal his money in order to pay for an abortion for his pregnant lover. After finishing the case, Virgil leaves the city.

Winner of 5 Oscars and 3 Golden Globes, "In the Heat of the Night" is still an excellent crime film and an anti-racist statement in one. Despite being obviously bound by the 60s feel and look and "old fashion" film making, the story still seems intriguing and passionately made, equipped with Rod Steiger's and Sidney Poitier's powerful performances. From the funny scene in which the police officers arrest Virgil and accuse him for being the murderer just because he was a "suspicious black man" and then discover he is actually a police officer himself, up until the end, the story meticulously mocks not only racist but also one dimensional and shallow views from those people who were taught to think only that way. It's actually much more a witty sociological story about understanding people who are different and less a detective story about the search for a murderer (who is pretty much obvious from the start) and some scenes confirm that - in one, for instance, Virgil is attacked in an abandoned factory by five white racist men, but just then Bill shows up and simply slaps one and tells them to leave, which they do. Both Virgil and Bill are cops, but at that moment Virgil didn't have any authority, but Bill did. And by using it he actually grew as a person and abandoned the very unjust full cliches he was supporting all his life.


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