In a small southern town, redneck sheriff finds
himself in an uneasy partnership with a black homicide detective
from Philadelphia while investigating a murder.
In The Heat Of The Night is "a superbly
crafted murder mystery, set in the deep South at the height of
the early 1960's racial tension." Rod Steiger gives an award
winning performance as the provincial, prejudiced sheriff, and
Sidney Poitier strikingly plays the northern black detective,
with his own prejudices. Neither like each other much, as they
started off on the wrong foot with each other, besides each having
misconceptions about the other. Soon after the body is discovered
in the street, a sweep of the train station by Officer Sam Wood
(Warren Oates) finds a Virgil Tibbs waiting for the train, after
visiting his mother. Tibbs is arrested and brought into the station
as a suspect, until they find out he is a detective, much to everyone's
After calling Tibbs' boss back in Philadelphia,
Tibbs' boss offers the detective's services in helping in the
investigation much to the annoyance of Virgil Tibbs and to the
surprise of the now incredulous Chief of Police.
But in the course of investigating the crime,
"these two strong-willed men must reconcile their inherent
prejudice toward each other," as both take their police investigation
seriously, and want to find the killer. Thus, both are forced
to see each other's talents and abilities, and find themselves
relying on each other. The final result is justice - and an unlikely
but touching mutual respect.
"With an Oscar-winning script by Stirling
Silliphant and Norman Jewison's keen direction, "In The Heat
of the Night" is riveting entertainment, as well as a biting
social commentary, and one of Hollywood's most compelling achievements."
Rod Steiger does an outstanding job portraying
Chief of Police, Bill Gillespie a small town sheriff, who has
had little experience with murders, and with black detectives,
but knows he needs this officer's help in catching the guilty
party. For the sake of law enforcement and justice he goes to
a place he had never been before. He earned the Best Actor Oscar
for his performance.
Sidney Poitier also gives a marvelous performance
as Virgil Tibbs, the black detective who is drafted into helping
with the investigation against his will, but rises to the occasion
to help find the killer out of duty to his profession.
Supporting performances by Warren Oates (as Sam
Wood) and Lee Grant (as Mrs. Philip Colbert) are both outstanding,
and add a lot to the story.
Scott Wilson (Harvey Oberst, Murder Suspect ),
Beah Richards (Mama Caleba) , and Larry Gates, also offer bright
character performances, which tell a viral part of the story.
The Ray Charles song "In The Heat Of The Night"
and the evocative score by Quincy Jones, and Haskell Wexler's
vivid Cinematography all add to the film's "stifling aura
of a hot summer evening in the South."