Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger & Warren Oates

Rating 8/10

Cue music – ‘In the Heat of the Night’, sung by legend Ray Charles. Lazy cops drive around the streets in the middle of a hot night. Murder. More cops. The Chief. An African-American man sits at a darkened train station. He is nabbed. Cue main storyline.

The town of Sparta Mississippi is in a flap. An important businessman has been killed on their streets and his wife wants answers. African-American traveller, Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) , is initially suspected of the murder because he was loitering in a dark place. To the police Chief Gillespie’s  (Steiger) horror, Tibbs is a homicide specialist from up-north, a fellow cop. All charges are dropped and Tibbs joins in the hunt for the murderer.

Suspects are investigated one-by-one. Just when you think they’ve got the real killer, BAM goes the door and another opens. Tibbs faces discrimination and danger at every turn. He is nearly run out of town when he decides, no, he’s going to solve this crime if it kills him. Hooray. Tibbs and Gillespie become close, both are loners in a hateful world.

This is a great film. The music is soulful and very sixties. It is not too different from the thrillers we see these days but for its time it was graphic and confronting. Racism is at the heart of this movie. Poitier is electric. His pain is raw and palatable. He is such a noble performer. Similarly Steiger gives a convincing performance of the conflicted Police Chief. His constant chewing of gum, however, was a little on the annoying side but he still rocked.

It’s a slow film but it works with the hot and sweaty setting. Don’t expect an action-packed thriller but sit back and enjoy the vibe, the story and the characters.

In the Heat of the Night Trivia:

  • Budget $2 million
  • Steiger went through 263 packets of gum in the film
  • This is said to be Poitier’s favourite film that he’s been involved in
  • It was filmed in Sparta, Illinois in Autumn. The actors had to suck on ice chips so the audience couldn’t see their breathing.
  • The south was still a dangerous place for a black actor to work which is why they decided to film it in Illinois.
  • The Best Picture award was suspended for a couple of days due to the assassination of Martin Luther King.
  • The slaps in the greenhouse scene were real. Originally only Poitier was slapped but he insisted on slapping back.
Next time we’re going back to London and back to musicals. Join us when we review Oliver! starring Mark Lester, Ron Moody and Shani Wallis.


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