In the Heat Of The Night was written by Stirling Silliphant (based on a novel by John Ball) and directed by Norman Jewison. It’s a 1967 murder mystery starring Sidney Poitier. For having such a complicated plot, it has a natural simplicity about it. A large part of this is made possible by establishing 2 strong key characters in a relatively straightforward situation. A town full of racism has a murder that needs to be solved, and Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) who just happens to be a top notch homicide detective from out of town, is the only hope for truthfully finding out who did it.
Ivo has us watching this movie for Directing class, and I can understand why. The plot twists and turns like crazy, and each new direction is spurred by a characters actions. Here’s a quick outline, just to give you an idea of what we are dealing with here:
- Virgil is the first suspect in the murder – based on race alone
- Virgil is revealed as a Police Officer from out of town, and is released immediately
- The police bring in a new suspect, and with one look, Virgil proves them wrong.
- Police chief Gillespie is frustrated and tries to make Virgil leave
- Colbert’s widow see’s Virgil’s potential and requests (demands) that he stay on the investigation.
- Virgil follows a lead, and in the process has to stand up for himself against racism. Gillespie doesn’t like the drama this causes and tries to make Virgil leave
- Virgil is too invested into the case to leave, so he insists on staying to finish the job
- Chief Gillespie’s new suspect is one of his own officers, but Virgil proves him wrong yet again
- Gillespie gives Virgil 1 last night to finish the investigation. Virgil follows his last lead and ends up with a confession. Case solved
Gillespie – “I know Colbert cut a cheque for $900, I know Sam made a big cash deposit, I know you caught Sam in a lie, and I know that’s enough for me.”Tibbs – (chuckles)…”Well you’re making a mistake”