8.0/10
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194 user 94 critic

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

An African-American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.

Director:

Norman Jewison

Writers:

Stirling Silliphant (screenplay), John Ball (based on a novel by)
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Popularity
820 ( 2,038)

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Won 5 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sidney Poitier ... Virgil Tibbs
Rod Steiger ... Gillespie
Warren Oates ... Sam Wood
Lee Grant ... Mrs. Colbert
Larry Gates ... Endicott
James Patterson ... Mr. Purdy
William Schallert ... Mayor Schubert
Beah Richards ... Mama Caleba
Peter Whitney ... Courtney
Kermit Murdock ... Henderson
Larry D. Mann ... Watkins
Matt Clark ... Packy
Arthur Malet ... Ulam
Fred Stewart ... Dr. Stuart
Quentin Dean ... Delores
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Storyline

Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman. Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved but when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD's number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance. The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area. Tibbs' life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They're going to pin something on that smart cop from Philidelphia . . . maybe a medal . . . maybe a murder! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 October 1967 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Al calor de la noche See more »

Filming Locations:

Belleville, Illinois, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$24,379,978
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Mirisch Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Sound)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's line "They call me Mister Tibbs!" was voted as the #76 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. See more »

Goofs

The town of Sparta is in east-central Mississippi. The Mississippi River forms the western border for most of that state. If Harvey Oberst (the fugitive being chased early in the film) made it as far as a bridge to Arkansas, he would have been at least 100 miles out of the jurisdiction of the Sparta police (who catch him). Even if, unbeknownst to the audience, the Sparta police had been deputized by some other jurisdiction, it's doubtful that they could have brought him back to the Sparta jail in the time frame presented. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ofcr. Sam Wood: Where you keeping the pie tonight?
Ralph Henshaw, diner counterman: I ate the last piece just before you came in.
See more »

Crazy Credits

No uppercase ("capital") letters are used in the opening and closing credits, including the film's title, cast and characters, crew and job titles, and company credits. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 53rd Annual Academy Awards (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

Foul Owl on the Prowl
(uncredited)
Music by Quincy Jones
Lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
Performed by Owens Boomer Castleman and Michael Martin Murphey
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Through The Mississippi Darkness
3 January 2008 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Gritty realism and a strong performance by Rod Steiger rev up the technical quality of this taut drama about a visiting Northern Black detective named Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) who gets nailed as a suspect, foolishly, in the murder of a local VIP, in a small town in Mississippi. Eventually, the town's White police chief, the gum chewing Gillespie (Rod Steiger), accepts Tibbs' innocence. And the two of them then work together, reluctantly, to solve the case.

Forty years after the film was made, the racial themes seem just a tad heavy-handed. Whites are always backward and racist. And Tibbs is smart, urbane, and sophisticated. But back in the 1960s, the filmmaker probably did need to be blunt. And the point is made that Blacks and Whites, working together, can accomplish worthy aims, even though old Black Joe is still pickin' cotton at the Endicott Cotton Company.

As a whodunit, the story is fairly good, convenient coincidences notwithstanding. The clue to the killer's identity is pleasantly subtle.

The film's cinematography and production design are terrific. Many scenes take place at night. And the opaque lighting makes for a moody, slightly dangerous look and feel. Loved how they photographed that train moving down the tracks in the Mississippi darkness, a metaphor related to the film's theme. And the sound of a train whistle adds to the mournful realism.

Interiors look authentic. The masking tape that covers rips in a big leather chair in Gillespie's shabby office is so true to life. A single white light bulb hangs down from the ceiling in a small neighborhood grocery store, where the shelves are filled with empty fruit jars. And that greasy spoon called Comptons reeks of 1960's Southern rural reality.

My only complaint with this film is the background music. Some of the jukebox songs are not consistent with the film's overall tone.

"In The Heat Of The Night" is a technically well made, and quite interesting, murder mystery. Yet, it will always be remembered, rightfully, as the film that offered hope of racial harmony, during a decade in which there was none. Its "Best Picture" Oscar award is thus explained.


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