In the Heat of the Night


Movie: In the Heat of the Night

Release Date: August 2, 1967

Director: Norman Jewison

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant

Personal History: Never Watched Before

Rating: 9 Oscars out of 10

It is rare that after watching a movie I ask myself, “Why the hell have I not seen this film before?” That is because as a fan of all cinema, I try to stay abreast of pop culture in regards to Hollywood, especially where awards are concerned. With that said, I do falter a bit with anything released prior to 1971, the year I was born. So I should get some leniency. But after finally watching ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ I can’t believe I deprived myself of such a fantastic piece of art for so long.

‘In the Heat of the Night’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning five including Best Picture. It was a box office success when originally released and was equally praised by critics. It spawned two sequels (neither of which I have seen) as well as a television series that ran from 1988 through 1994. Although I had heard of the movie as well as the television show (something else I never watched), I was completely naïve to what the premise was for either.

Sidney Poitier is one of my favorite actors, so again I say, “Why the hell had I not seen ‘In the Heat of the Night’ until now?” ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?‘ is one of my favorite movies of all time and I always admired Mr. Poitier both on and off the screen. Not only a tremendous actor, he is a gentleman and a trailblazer for so many people. As I look through his catalogue, this movie is not the only one of his that I need to see as soon as possible. I am missing out on some great cinema and I am sure, some great performances.

‘In the Heat of the Night’ is simply put, a fantastic movie. Part film noir, part gritty crime drama, the movie is highly entertaining. The plot is at times tough to bear for me as anything to do with racial injustice makes me extremely angry and highly emotional. But peppered with humor throughout, not to mention the incredible performances by the two leads, the film is easily enjoyable. That said, I of course became quite angry and a few tears were shed.

Rod Steiger, portraying a racist cop in Mississippi, pulls off the unimaginable. He made me like him. The character arc that he impressively showed from beginning to end was a master class in acting. It is no surprise that he won the Best Actor Oscar for this role. Mr. Poitier considered him and Spencer Tracy the best at their craft. I can see why from this performance alone.

“They call me Mr. Pig!” And now, most importantly, I know where ‘The Lion King’ swiped that line from. I knew it was an old movie reference, but it was not connected until now, of course altered from, “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” As much as I love Pumbaa, I give the edge to Mr. Poitier on who said it best.

‘In the Heat of the Night’ is a great movie and one that I am glad that I finally took the time to sit down and watch. (Thank you Oscar.) Watching it, you can see how much it has influenced so many movies and television shows from ‘Mississippi Burning’ to ‘No Country for Old Men’ to ‘Hill Street Blues.’ It truly is a groundbreaking piece of art and one that will be revisited by this viewer many more times.


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