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In the heat of the night (Norman Jewison, 1967)

When a falsely arrested black man turns out to be a police officers he reluctantly helps the sheriff of a racist small town in the South to solve a murder, despite all their tensions.

This was a highly entertaining watch for me. Just seeing Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier play off each other is worth the time. I was fascinated by Poitier, but I somehow preferred Steiger's crazy mood jumps.


For example: The sheriff's patience wears thin pretty fast with the smug behaviour of the big city homicide expert Tibbs (Poitier) - In one of the best confrontations between the two, the sheriff lets his deputy arrest Tibbs out of blind and helpless rage. Everybody in the room (and the audience) understands the pointless move but we can feel with the sheriff who just went over the edge of his intellectual and emotional possibilities.

Tibbs keeps cool and has the upper hand, until he is confronted with his own racial prejudices. The scene where he meets the rich white land owner is amazing: it's not the open racism of the small-towners that brings down his guard, but the cultivated and just-as-smug old guy.

As the film went on, I lost interest in the plot a bit - hoping to see more of Poitier and Steiger clashing on screen. Which is a good thing - the resolution of the story felt a bit thin and there is a wee bit of deus ex machina in the showdown scene. In general a highly enjoyable film and a must-see of stellar acting of the main two characters.

Something else I noted: all the other characters in the movie seemed a bit cardboard - and not very smart, either. This elevates Poitier's character but renders a lot of the backdrop a bit too cartoony. Would the film be newer, the other inhabitants of the town might just be as stupid, but much less obviously so.

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