I would like to take a moment to address some glaring mistakes I’ve made in the past, in particular to my review of “Selma” and the terrible things I said. In that review, it came across like I said racism doesn’t exist and shouldn’t be an issue that is discussed when that shouldn’t be the case. It came across like I was speaking from a white priveledged perspective and as someone who has never seen racism, which made me look insensitive and, for lack of a better term, racist.
While this is long overdue, I do apologize for what I said in that review and any other time I’ve said something that you have taken as offensive. While it was not my intention to come across that way, it was clear that my perspective was skewed, unfocused, and selfish. While my opinion of “Selma” has changed very little since my initial review, I should have made it clear that I respected the film for its brutal honesty and being unrelenting in the face of the truth, much like Martin Luther King himself, which certainly does strengthen the film and its history.
For without the fight for equal rights and treatment from heroes like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the world would be much darker and prejudiced place.
This is what makes 1967’s “In the Heat of the Night” one of the most important movies of all time. While this film claims to be a murder-mystery, the true star of the film is prejudice and intolerance, set in a hot small town in Mississippi after the one man who make this town big is murdered, and the police officers begin throwing around suspects like they were tickets to the state fair, including to a visiting African-American, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier). The sherriff, Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger), quickly learns Tibbs is a homocide detective from Philadelphia and is given this murder case by his superior.
The film is less about solving the crime and more about Tibbs and the sherriff fighting and clawing at one another, in the hope of recognition and respect – Tibbs to show that any man, no matter his color or creed, can achieve any job they want to, and the sherriff to show he is worthy of being in charge of the law in this town.
They both just want to be created as equals, whether as a man or as an officer.
This is compliemented perfectly by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger’s performances. Poitier is unflinching and unforgiving, and goes into the case expecting nothing but to prove his worth. Without scalding or hardly raising his voice above a whisper, he proves he is louder and stronger than anyone else.
Steiger, on the other hand, plays his role as a man who has laid back most of his life and let the answers come to him. This case is the first time he has been challenged, in more ways than one. He is quick to assume because it is easy, but he learns that police investigations are anything but easy. He comes across as a conflicted man, who wants to trust Tibbs but is torn by his prejudice.
Any scene between these two is racked with tense dialogue, each trying to dig in to the other. Any moment of silence is deadly as the two stare each other down, like a old western showdown.
I adore “In the Heat of the Night” for its timing, commentary on recognition and the tense atmosphere. The pacing moves just well enough to keep the mystery compelling, yet slow enough to let the quieter moments sink in. This is a quintessential picture for anyone who wants to understand and appreciate the evolution of mankind, myself included.
Final Grade: A