Friday, 21 July 2017

Blind Spot Series: In the Heat of the Night

Whoa. I'm super behind on my Blind Spot films.

Unsure how to approach the story where Sidney Poitier utters the infamous line 'They call me MISTER TIBBS" I looked at it as any other murder in a small town story. But with the accolade of this being an amazing film hanging over me, it was difficult to say by the end, it was ok.

In a way, I always feel guilty for not liking a revered film. Sometimes its because I waited too long but other times I fear its the film and for me its not what I thought it was. I had been waiting a while to see In the Heat of the Night and seeing it pop up Netflix was handy, perfect timing for when I was making my list for this year.

Based on a novel of the same name by John Bell, the story is about a murder of a wealthy prominent man in a small town in Mississippi. Looking for a suspect, an officer arrests Virgil Tibbs, a black man who was quietly waiting for a train, dressed in a nice suit. After Tibbs informs the police that he is a homicide detective from Philadelphia who was visiting his mother and his chief confirms he is one of the best, Police Chief Bill Gillespie asks Tibbs for his help in solving the case. While Tibbs makes progress, there are a few problems along the way to the big reveal. During a questioning, racist wealthy man, Mr Endicott slaps Tibbs who retaliates. This sets of a group of racists who track Tibbs down but Gillespie intervenes and stops the violence. Tibbs becomes determined in finding the killer, as pieces together fragments of evidence into a theory. 

The story appears to be simple but has layers. The most obvious is how race plays into people's opinions. Tibbs is arrested for no reason, which could be seen as an over sight at how incompetent the police are in this town, as they would have arrested anyone waiting at the train station. Race plays into the story once Tibbs is dragged there. He cooporates until it becomes clear he must tell them who he is and its as if he waited to see the dumb struck look on their faces. Tibbs is treated abominably but for 1967, this was seen as acceptable, especially in the South. But the story comments how terrible things go and how rude everyone is to Tibbs, apart from those he respect him and can see that he knows what he is doing. But Tibbs also has flaws, he is arrogant and becomes slightly obsessed over the case. Hi arrogance is clear when he informs Gillespie that he makes more money in a week than he makes in a month, which is harsh, considering the circumstances. Tibbs also puts himself in danger which he helped out of but still doesn't listen to the police whey they worry for his safety, slightly. Saying this, Sidney Poitier is still strangely brilliant as Mr Tibbs as he manages to look enraged but still seem like a working stiff who doesn't want to stay in the 'hick town' as he knows his worth and he is worth more than there.

The murder mystery is also less important that the story about prejudice in the South. In Philidelphia Tibbs is a successful and talented detective, in Sparta, Mississipi, he is seen as low, so low that a white man is allowed to slap him. Tibbs reaction to this insult is one of the best moments in the film as it is so satisfying. The almost buddy cop story between Tibbs and Gillespie is played so that they are opposites but instead we get to see a realistic relationship that ends with a positive feeling and a new found respect for each other. These two will always have Sparta.

This is another movie which I feel I missed out on and that I tried to see the greatness that everyone talks about but for me, it was a good story with predictable characters but for or of its time is painted the picture of what it was like to go back to the South and that no matter how far you climb up the ladder, there will always be someone to tear you down.

To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee and HERE for more Blind Spot posts from other bloggers.

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