Double Feature: In the Heat of the Night and Oliver!

In the Heat of the Night.

In_the_Heat_of_the_Night_(film)‘They call me MISTER Tibbs!’ – Virgil Tibbs

A crime drama with racial undertones, In the Heat of the Night puts a northern African American homicide cop (played by Sir Sidney Poitier) in a southern town, investigating a murder.

This is another one of those movies that was sometimes hard to watch because of the language. Pre-Civil Rights southern settings where race is an important theme have to incorporate the racism of the era. As a Midwestern post-Civil Rights viewer, I found myself looking at some of the scenes and thinking to myself ‘Really? In this day and age?’ before reminding myself this movie was not from my day and age.

Nothing represents this more than the production story. Though set in Mississippi, the film had to be shot in Illinois, as the political climate in the south (again, during the turbulent Civil Rights era) lead to death threats aimed at African American actors. Sir Poitier reportedly slept with a gun under his pillow when filming a few scenes in Tennessee.

This was a true crime drama. There were no great gun fights, no chase scenes full of crashes. Mister Tibbs cuts through the evidence and the accusations slowly, unraveling the crime bit by bit, often at odds with the local police.

This is really a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. But be prepared for the culture shock.

Oliver!  

Oliver!_(1968_movie_poster)‘Who cares if the straightlaces sneer at us in the street? /Fine airs and fine graces don’t have to sin to eat.’  -Nancy

The 1968 musical was quite the change of pace from the previous movie. While it isn’t really a light-hearted movie, Oliver! is much brighter.

Set in 19th Century England, Oliver is an orphan who lives a pretty harsh life.  He faces prejudice, as if being an orphan was his fault.  The only ones who show him any sort of friendship are criminals, who probably have a similar background as he does.

The songs are fun to listen to, and the elaborate choreography is a great treat.  But Oliver is not even the most interesting character in his own story.  Other than running away to London, he doesn’t do much to try and change his fate.  When something good happens he enjoys it; when something bad happens he endures it.

That isn’t to say the movie was a waste of time.  But don’t expect the action from the title character.  Still, worth seeing or revisiting.

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