In the Heat of the Night Screen 6 articles

In the Heat of the Night


In the Heat of the Night Poster
  • It's not a very good movie. Not awful, just not very good. The mystery plot makes so little sense that the audience is forced to concentrate exclusively on the vaudeville routines performed by Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier.

  • Long seen as the square choice in the 1967 Best Picture race - at least compared to BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE GRADUATE - but in fact its technique is quite modish, wonderfully moody photography and often jagged editing (opening shot, post-credits: an ECU of a fly on the wall) aimed at a sophisticated audience.

  • The entire schematic here is laid out in the first Poitier/Steiger scene, which moves through the three emotional registers that define the majority of Tibbs’ interactions with other characters from here on. Assuming his inherent superiority over this nattily dressed black man, Steiger’s Bud Gillespie talks down to him, a haughtiness which shifts to surprise as he realizes the guy is a police officer and thus must be treated with some measure of respect. This finally curdles into frustration...

  • Most surprised by how many striking choices Jewison and Haskell Wexler make, from the "chase scene" on the bridge (its conclusion shot from a great distance, with the suspect just giving up halfway across) to a slow push toward a close-up that unexpectedly sees the actor move across the room long before the camera gets there (but the camera just keeps going as if he hadn't; somehow this looks remarkable and deliberate rather than inept).

  • Wow… As Dinah Washington once sang, “what a difference a day makes”. It would be disingenuous to say that Norman Jewison’s sweat-dappled southern policier gains a chilling relevance at a time when then the White House is being populated with white supremacist yahoos, because the film’s power was evident long prior to the world going very wrong indeed.

  • A feverish tension crackles in each frame of In the Heat of the Night, sparked by the very real danger involved in making the film. In the Heat of the Night is not a ‘historical fiction’ as such but very much an urgent product of its time.

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