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This sequel to "In the Heat of the Night" will suffer in inevitable comparisons to its infinitely better predecessor. Instead of looking like a theatrical movie edited for television, "Mister Tibbs" looks suspiciously like a TV movie edited for theatrical release, with grainy photography, cheesy opening titles, and sets that look like they're made of plywood. The murder sequence has a glaring continuity error: the camera shows two hands choking the girl, then a shot of a hand reaching for a statuette, then a shot of the girl being choked with two hands again, and finally the statuette coming down for the fatal blow. Solving the case should be easy: find the only guy with three hands! But the shoddy production values can't completely obscure this film's considerable merits: namely, Sidney Poitier's performance as the cool detective determined to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, even if it implicates a friend. Martin Landau is also convincing as the do-gooder preacher-activist suspected of brutally murdering his prostitute girlfriend. In addition to being haunted by the case, Tibbs is conflicted about his home life, but the issues of race and Tibbs' barely concealed sense of social outrage are absent here. So is the complex murder mystery that made "In the Heat of the Night" so compelling.
This Virgil Tibbs is closer to the California-based detective essayed by John Ball in his books. The mystery is worthwhile, and Poitier's performance is masterful. But the writing is pedestrian, the pacing too slow, and the resolution ultimately unsatisfactory. I can give this no better than a 6 out of 10.
Sidney Poitier's career includes repeating his screen characters only
twice in his career. The first one is Mark Thackerey, the caring and
compassionate teacher in To Sir With Love and To Sir With Love II.
Don't you just love the lack of imagination with sequels that started
with The Godfather?
His second character was homicide detective Virgil Tibbs from In The Heat Of The Night. Rod Steiger may have copped the Oscar as the Mississippi sheriff there, but it was Sidney Poitier who made two sequels with his character.
I'd like to say the two sequels were as good as The Godfather ones, but they don't come even close to matching In The Heat Of The Night in quality. This film uses as its title the famous line from In The Heat Of The Night, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs and its more influenced by Bullitt than In The Heat Of The Night.
And not that well either. It's a routine police action drama in which homicide detective Virgil Tibbs is called on to investigate the murder of a hooker. She's an upscale working girl, working out of a building owned by Anthony Zerbe who's a sleaze-bag hood and who's got many criminal activities going. He's not looking for cops prowling around his apartment building because they might uncover things that he'd prefer stay hidden.
Martin Landau is in the film as both a client of the woman and a crusading minister who is leading a campaign for a home rule option proposition on the ballot in San Francisco. If you remember In The Heat Of The Night had Virgil Tibbs as a Philadelphia homicide detective. But apparently no one was terribly interested in continuity.
There's a Bullitt like car chase involving Ed Asner, another suspect in the woman's homicide that's nicely staged. And Poitier's character is given a home life with wife Barbara McNair and two small children.
But all in all They Call Me MISTER Tibbs really plays more like an inflated version of a Police Story episode.
With its kipper ties, flared trousers and proficient - yet dated - music,
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! is perhaps the Poitier film that has aged least
gracefully. While its prequel, In The Heat of the Night, was borne from
epitome of cool that was the sixties, here the seventies nurtured this
which lends it a kitsch value, as well as the air of a t.v. movie. Though
these elements - such as seeing the funky theme start up to the tune of
Sidney clocking someone with a telephone, or Ed Asner (tv's Lou Grant)
"drive" a car to a filmed backdrop - make it endearing and a must-see for
light-hearted Saturday night.
A world away from the usual Sidney vehicle we have here a trawl through San Francisco's red light districts, to which the family elements - though the most critically attacked - actually provide effective light. Also unusual is the amount of sexual tone Sidney is here allowed to display. Yet whereas in the former film Poitier was the big town Lieutenant working in small-town Mississippi, here he is on his own territory, thus shaving the film of one of its dimensions. Without Steiger to bounce off, what depth the script provides his character second time around comes from his wife and children, most notably his son. After slapping the boy into submission, Poitier hugs him, mourning the fact that "you're not perfect . and I can't forgive you." Not a perfectly-formed film by any means, this one does improve on repeated viewing, and the majority of ill feeling does seem to be down to disappointment. After all, how does one make a sequel to a movie that's hailed as a classic?
A disappointing follow-up to IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT,one of the most
seminal films of the 60's,THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS! utilises perhaps
the previous film's most famous line of dialogue,but all comparisons
should end there.The personality clash between Rod Steiger and Sidney
Poitier that produced so many vivid and memorable dramatic scenes
previously(albeit laced with some humour) is totally missing in this
much inferior sequel.Poitier has rightly been praised for bringing
dignity and respect to the black man on the American Screen after
decades of humiliating and degrading stereotypes,but he looks oddly
dispirited here with middling direction,an unexciting plot,and a
dullish script.The inclusion of some fine character actors(Anthony
Zerbe,Juano Hernandez,Ed Asner,Jeff Corey)is one of the film's few
minor points of merit,and Poitier and Martin Landau do their best to
make their scenes together have some dramatic impact,but they and
others can only do so much with a somewhat banal script.The film may
have been better had some pointless and unnecessary domestic scenes
involving Tibbs' family(particularly his son) been removed,and which
are basically irrelevant to the plot and seem to have been tagged on
merely to add extra footage.
The film's best aspect is the musical score by Quincy Jones.Jones' funky interjections are most welcome,and indeed improve the quality of many sequences;it almost seems a touchstone for future blaxsploitation movie scores that were to soon follow,starting with the following year's SHAFT.The film is not totally unwatchable,but a disappointingly listless follow-up to the classic that preceded it.
Rating:5 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
All right! I admit that following a masterpiece like "In The Heat Of The
Night" is a daunting task to say the least, but since this is based on a
series of detective books by author John Ball, one shouldn't expect racial
politics all the time.
The detective series does not use the character of Virgil Tibbs either in film or novel to exploit racial differences, although being an intelligent black man in a position of authority opened him to a certain amount of scrutiny by whites who saw him as less than their equal. But the additional character elements in the books are never utilized in any of the three motion pictures (or in the latter television series.) Tibbs was also an expert at martial arts and fluent in Asian languages, but this never popped up at any point in either form which is just as well. That might have worked in popular fiction in the 1960s, but it adds nothing to the storylines.
Still, this movie as purely a detective story is lame (in my opinion) and gives him to the usual liberal stereotypes of Hollywood at this time. I won't give a spoiler, but this film's conclusion to the mystery is neither shocking nor satisfying.
Such additions of actors like Martin Landau seem wasted here in a script that does not challenge either the audience or the actor. Better to see the third film in this limited series if you want a good action thriller.
Has to be a mistake to take the title of a sequel from the best
remembered line of the originating movie - it's almost an admission
that the new film can't come up with a comparable phrase. The portent
is true, I fear, as Sydney Poitier reprises his Virgil Tibbs role in
another would-be tough, adult, socially aware murder-thriller, but
already the law of diminishing returns is applying and so "Mr Tibbs" is
inferior to its predecessor in almost every way.
In fact it looks and feels like nothing more than a harder-edged TV crime show of the time, no better or worse than say "Ironside", fired as it is by a fine, occasionally quirky Quincy Jones soundtrack and replete with our man's personal problems to flesh out the character. This small-screen feel is exacerbated by the appearance of TV stalwarts Martin Landau, Ed Asner and Anthony Zerbe and it's fair to say the film never rises above the heights of a better than average TV cop-show episode.
It's biggest failing of course is the lack of dramatic tension which existed so memorably between Poitier's proud, methodical coloured detective and Rod Steiger's opinionated, redneck workaday sheriff in "...Heat of The Night". Here the film is centred entirely on Poitier and good actor as he is, his unerring instinct and judgement palls as the film progresses, whilst his relationship with friend, do-good minister but murder suspect Landau, never really takes off either. Indeed the central "whodunnit" just isn't strong enough to drive the action on, whilst Tibbs' various interludes with his family slow down the action still further, especially the ho-hum scenes with his "difficult" son.
The film is dated of course by its politics and attitudes - no crime in that - but it doggedly fails to fly and in the end stays as little in the memory as even the best remembered episode of any Kojak / Columbo episode you care to mention. Waiting in the wings, of course was a different kind of black detective who was a sex-machine to all the chicks, to take the genre further - can you dig it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed Sidney Poitier's performance in "In the Heat of the Night".
But this sequel/spin-off was unsettling and uncalled for at best. The
story editing was extremely weak and at times I found it hard to take
any care for the characters, even the great Virgil Tibbs himself. The
plot was absolutely pitiful it's like an extended version of a bad
episode of the TV series "The Streets of San Francisco", and yet that
was a good show with hit or miss episodes.
The character flaws provided by Virgil Tibbs have no connection to the ones in "In the Heat of the Night". In the previous film, he was a veteran cop from Philadelphia, not married, had no offspring, nada! We turn to 1970, he's now living in San Francisco, married with three teenage kids and claims he's been a S.F.P.D. for the past twelve years. What gives?
Also we see African Americans and White Americans coexisting like there never was a Civil Rights Movement. I'll accept if it's just a ploy for people to get over it and forget about the past. But it still existed and not every American at the time was had adjusted to it. I also feel bad for Ed Asner who had a thankless role was a suspect running from a crime, not the one in the main story, but for committing a philandering act on his wife. The car chase depicted here was absolutely abysmal.
Tibbs is often in dragging scenes with his mannequin partner who remains mute and smokes like a chimney. In fact with the exception of Tibbs, all the other cops are just paper dolls. The killer in the movie's reason for killing the hooker has no sense of purpose and his personality doesn't connect well either.
Also Tibbs' catchphrase is never once uttered in this movie at all. Poitier doesn't have the drive that his iconic character portrayed when he co-starred with Rod Steiger. In the previous film, Poitier was the most electrifying character in that movie. But in this movie spin-off, he is a shell of his former character. Sidney let me ask you, why did you agree to do this movie? If it was for the money, then I answered my own question.
Love may be better the second time around, but movies usually aren't.
There are exceptions, but this isn't one of them. Tibbs (Sidney
Poitier) is back home and out of that hellhole in Mississippi, but the
excitement of In the Heat of the Night is missing.
He is doing his thing as a detective; trying to solve a murder where the chief suspect is his preacher friend Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau). The problem is that Gordon Douglas is no Norman Jewison and his direction does not have any magic. The acting is good, but the movie just seems to plod along, switching between Tibbs' home problems (And, I have to mention, his child abuse regarding his son.) and the murder. The fast pace of Jewison's effort is sadly missing.
It's a fair murder mystery, but the pace makes it one to skip.
Despite the flaws noted above with regards to continuity and occasional lapses in writing, the movie is saved by the great acting provided by Sidney Poitier, Anthony Zerbe, Martin Landau, and Ed Asner (despite his short appearance). Poitier delivers the same riveting performance he did as in the successful In the Heat of the Night, adding a family life that is pretty typical for a father who is often away from his children. Anthony Zerbe is a shade better, however, in his role as sleazy landlord Rice Weedon. Zerbe was tailor-made for this role, as his ability to play bad guys is utilized perfectly. Martin Landau as the reverend does what is expected and more, adding a human quality that is even throughout. Ed Asner as the nervy manager takes everything that he had (not very much) and ran with it, making his character believable. I would recommend this movie highly to anyone who enjoys movies of this era and genre- particularly if you are fond of gritty, down in the mud reality.
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