Tuesday, June 17, 2003

in the heat of the night

Set in Sparta, Mississippi (shot in Sparta, Illinois) -- nice touch with the town name there -- this story of murder and race tensions was the first PG-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Rod Steiger is excellent as the gum-chewing Police Chief who manages to overcome his strong prejudices (see also: On the Waterfront), in tandem with Sidney Poitier, in one level-headed scene after another. What I found most impressive about the film, was the way nothing was played for spectacle or applause. Every confrontation --- good or bad --- works on its own steam, without relying on fanfare or crowd-friendly lines (although "They call me Mr Tipps" became the title for the first sequel, followed by The Organization). And Quincy Jones' music provides the necessary urgency and verve. I wonder if I can get through the commentary track now ...

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