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James Earl Jones
After a group of young revolutionaries break into a corporation's headquarters and steal $5,000,000 worth of heroin to keep it off the street, they call on San Francisco Police Lieutenant Virgil Tibbs for assistance. Though sympathetic to their cause, the straight-arrow Tibbs refuses to consider it because they broke the law, but when the group is then accused of a murder it didn't commit, Tibbs finally joins them in order to ferret out the identity of the real killer, while keeping his now rogue undercover investigation a secret from his SFPD superiors.Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
Perhaps the least-known Poitier work, certainly of the period; at date of writing only nine IMDb members had voted on this film. This is just over 1% of the votes attained by it's initial prequel, the superb "In The Heat of the Night". Between the two is the awful-yet-lovable "They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!" which took the Virgil Tibbs franchise on a downward slope.
Those that do get to see this movie on it's rare t.v. rescreenings and decide to give it a go after the disappointing "Tibbs" will be justly rewarded. Essentially, the production team is the same as the previous film, though Gil Melle provides a jazz-orientated score instead of Quincy Jone's adequate but inappropriate themes. The domesticity is also played down, with Alan R.Trustman absent as co-writer and James R. Webb taking full control of the screenplay. Most importantly, though, is Don Medford as the well above average director. Apart from a rather crude edit where a car accident occurs in the second half of the picture, the scenes are melded together seamlessly and flow together exceptionally well.
Poitier reprises the role of Tibbs, an arrogant, aloof, bad-tempered, authoritarian, bigoted Lieutenant. As a result, this is probably the most appealing of all Sidney's characters, and he slips back into the role effortlessly. With no star names to support him, such as Rod Steiger or Martin Landau (though Raul Julia did become a star later in life), Sidney stands way above his peers. His ability to project a bad atmosphere every time he walks into a room is flawless. This time he is not let down by the plot, either, which sees Tibbs caught between the Police Department and a vigilante gang that seeks to expose a wide net of heroin dealers. The plot takes on many shifts in loyalty and focus, keeping the attention, while a chase through underground tunnels lends the requisite chase an extra air of tension. The racial motif is again absent, though a rival black cop played by Bernie Hamilton gives off a frisson of resentment.
While predictably not of the calibre of "In Heat of the Night", The Organization stands as the greatest of Sidney's seventies vehicles.
Post-Script, March 2016: Over 16 years since I wrote this review (where does the time go?) I realise that I was too soft on what is quite a shaky film. Continuity and editing are not great, and the tone is frequently dirge-like. It's OKAY, but the concluding line that it's the best of Sidney's 70s movies was clearly written by a man who hadn't then seen The Wilby Conspiracy or Brother John. It's what's known as a "take a chance" point of view, and in this case it was wide of the mark.
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