1967 • In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night 1967 Best Picture Winner

There's a fowl owl on the prowl!

Wednesday evening, Lauren and I sat down to watch the 1967 Best Picture winner, In the Heat of the Night. We’re really cruising through these movies now!  Best to keep watching them one right after the other when we get on a hot streak like this, because when we lose interest the project goes on hiatus for six months.

In the Heat of the Night stars Rod Steiger as Gillespie, the chief of police in the racist town of Sparta, Mississippi.  When a Chicago man is found murdered on the street of Sparta, the police immediately suspect Virgil Tibbs, a black man from Philadelphia who’s passing through town. Turns out Tibbs is actually Philly’s top homicide detective and is released, and after some racist treatment from the Sparta police, he reluctantly sticks around town to help solve the crime.

In the Heat of the Night, Lauren and I agreed, was a pretty good movie. Nothing earth-shattering, certainly not the greatest crime drama ever, but a solid 1 hour, 50 minute watch.  Obviously, this is the most recently produced movie on our list, but it was the first that actually felt contemporary and started to feel something like a modern day setting.  So many of the movies from this list are based in different time periods, especially recently.

Some of the best parts of this movie included the acting of Poitier and Steiger, who won Best Actor for his role.  I read that Steiger is actually the most linkable Hollywood actor ever, not Kevin Bacon.  You can connect him with any other actor in 2.69 moves!

The soundtrack by Quincy Jones was also excellent.  The song at the beginning of the movie by Ray Charles immediately set the mood.  Later, a haunting tune called “Fowl Owl on the Prowl” continued with setting the tone.  Apparently that song was written on the spot by Jones after it was determined the “Little Red Riding Hood” song would cost too much to use in the film.

One of the most famous quotes in Hollywood history, according to AFI’s 100 Years 100 Quotes, is Tibbs’ response to Gillespie questioning what they call him in Philadelphia.  “They call me mister Tibbs!”  This quote became the title of the sequel in 1971.  The movie also spawned a TV series by the same name starring Carroll O’Connor.

Overall, high accolades to In the Heat of the Night, which I give 8/10.  Next up, the classic musical Oliver!

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