This milestone 1967 racial commentary spawned two sequels and a long-running TV show, and won that year's Best Picture Oscar.
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Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia homicide expert visiting family in Sparta, Mississippi. When a Northern industrialist is found dead, Tibbs is immediately arrested to confront Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Best Actor Oscar-winner Rod Steiger), who, after learning Tibbs' credentials and calling his chief, must grudgingly accept Tibbs' help in solving the murder.
Steiger's performance as the dedicated chief is brilliant (“I am familiar with the laws in the state of Mississippi, thank YOU!), as he somewhat breaks the film stereotype of Southern sheriffs. However, Warren Oates' superb portrayal of Deputy Sam Wood reinforces those stereotypes; so much so that the disgusted widow (Lee Grant) asks, "What kind of place is this? Who are you people."
What follows is the pair's struggle to work together despite tremendous opposition from the town. In one memorable scene, Tibbs exchanges slaps in the face with the white owner of Endicott Cotton, who compares his fragile plants to "the Negro," in that they "need special care." Endicott is Sparta's most influential businessman who'd least appreciate an influx of Afro-American labor.
As Tibbs brilliantly eliminates suspects, backtracks, and continually re-evaluates evidence, his time is running short as his detective efforts begin to pay off.
The review of this Movie prepared by Angry Jim Magin