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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Norman Jewison
Cast:
Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson, William Schallert, Beah Richards
Writing Credits:
John Ball (novel), Stirling Silliphant

Tagline:
They got a murder on their hands ... they don't know what to do with it.

Synopsis:
The year is 1966 and a white man in the fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi, has just been murdered and robbed. The small town's small-minded police chief (Rod Steiger) arrests a black suspect (Sidney Poitier) at the train station — the suspect has a wallet full of money and is headed out of town. The suspect soon reveals himself to be a homicide detective from Philadelphia, however, and the two men work together to solve the murder.

Box Office:
Budget
$2 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/15/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Norman Jewison, Actors Lee Grant and Rod Steiger and Cinematographer Haskell Wexler
• “Turning Up the Heat: Movie Making in the 60s” Featurette
• “The Slap Heard Around the World” Featurette
• “Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound” Featurette
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


In The Heat Of The Night: 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 25, 2008)

As I watched In the Heat of the Night, I felt a sense of relief. It taught me that I’m not the only product of 1967 that hasn’t aged particularly well. The Sixties are famous as a period of social unrest and concerns, and the era’s films document its progressive attitudes clearly. Although this makes them a fascinating relic, it also means that they look more and more dated as time passes.

While that problem definitely affects Heat, it seems less susceptible to the curse than many other movies of the period. Other 1967 flicks like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and To Sir, With Love - both of which star Heat’s Sidney Poitier, by some coincidence (?) – often look fairly absurd. They’re so strongly stuck in the Sixties that I can’t view them as anything other than products of the time; without their social commentary, they’d barely qualify as stories.

The same concern isn’t as present in Heat because it features a murder mystery in its heart. Set in Mississippi, the film starts with the slaying of prominent businessman who had recently come to town to open a factory. A deputy locates a black man sitting in the local train station during the wee hours. The man is placed under arrest until the authorities - led by Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) - discover that Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) is a police officer from Philadelphia.

This revelation sets up the film’s racial drama as the hicks learn a thing or nine from the smarter and more knowledgeable Tibbs. Though he shows them how to properly investigate the crime, they don’t exactly welcome Tibbs with open arms; much of the movie shows the resistance an educated and intelligent black man faced in society. Ultimately, Tibbs earns the grudging respect of the others, of course, though he and Gillespie go at it more than once.

While Heat works fairly well as a film, I must admit I find it to be more interesting as a period study. The movie captures attitudes that seem unimaginable in today’s climate. No, I won’t kid myself into believing that racism has disappeared, but would anyone be shocked in this day and age if a black man slapped a white man? I seriously doubt it, but that’s a major event in Heat. While much racial prejudice remains alive in well today, it’s clear that integrated images are much more acceptable, and few regard such “transgressions” with much severity.

However, I think Heat relied too much on the “good ol’ boy” side of things. The film seems self-congratulatory in a way, as it appears to applaud folks in more “progressive” areas, meaning anywhere but the South. I don’t doubt that it was much easier at that time for a smart black man like Tibbs to get along in a place like Philly than in Mississippi, but the movie implies that all northern climes were bastions of restraint and tolerance. Many Northerners were - and are - just as prejudiced as those in the South, but their biases are revealed in different ways. Anyone who thinks the South has a corner on that market lives in a dream world.

Heat overplays its racial aspects to make a point, and I’m sure the film was helpful in its time. However, it’s those progressive aspects that make it seem dated today. Nonetheless, I found the movie to be fairly enjoyable and interesting, mainly due to its actors. Steiger and Poitier over-emote at times - Poitier mastered that “Noble Indignant Guy” act in this and other films - but they both offer largely convincing and powerful performances. I also like Warren Oates’ folksy turn as the deputy who arrests Tibbs; he provides a casual and engaging presence that softens some of the movie’s more strident edges.

Norman Jewison isn’t one of my favorite directors, mainly because he has often peddled in noisy “social issues” films such as this. Actually, this is one of his more successful offerings; pictures like …And Justice For All and The Hurricane are barely tolerable due to their sappy agendas. While In the Heat of the Night definitely didn’t deserve to win the Best Picture Oscar for 1967 - not up against competition like The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde - it still offers an interesting civil rights mystery that seems dated but remains fairly compelling.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

In the Heat of the Night appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very few concerns cropped up during this positive presentation.

Across the board, sharpness looked good. Only a minimal amount of softness ever interfered, as almost all the shots seemed crisp and concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement was essentially absent. In addition, source flaws proved modest. The occasional speck manifested itself, but those instances remained infrequent. For the most part, this was a clean transfer.

While Heat didn’t go with a dynamic palette, it rendered its colors well. Much of the movie exhibited a subdued, somewhat yellow tint, but the hues looked clear and reasonably full within those restrictions. Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows showed good clarity and delineation. Overall I thought this was a very satisfying transfer.

In addition to the film’s original monaural soundtrack, Heat brought us a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Its designers managed to stay fairly true to the source, as they opened up matters in a modest but pleasing way. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and various effects broadened to the sides. Those demonstrated good movement and meshed together well.

Occasional use of the surrounds occurred as well, such as when vehicles would pan from front to rear. Nothing here dazzled, as even the showier scenes – like one in a factory – remained subdued. And that was fine with me, since a chatty movie like this didn’t need anything more than general atmosphere most of the time.

Audio quality seemed positive. Speech occasionally suffered from a little edginess, but the lines always stayed intelligible, and they usually were acceptably natural. Music lacked great range – especially in terms of highs – but the songs and score demonstrated decent bass and seemed concise enough. Effects played a small role and came across as fairly accurate. I thought the 5.1 mix worked just fine.

How did the picture and sound of this “40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the prior DVD? Both demonstrated improvements. The new transfer looked cleaner and tighter than the old one, and the audio showed similar improvements as well. Both areas demonstrated real growth, so the 2008 DVD was a definite upgrade.

The CE includes most of the old package’s extras along with some new ones. A repeat from the old disc, we get an audio commentary with director Norman Jewison, cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and actors Rod Steiger and Lee Grant. All of the participants were recorded separately and the results were edited together to create one coherent piece.

And deftly edited, I might add; the folks who compiled this commentary really did a marvelous job of pacing the track and linking the remarks together in a clean and logical manner. While some commentaries tend to focus only on specific topics - such as many which talk almost entirely about technical issues - this one covers the gamut. The participants offer details about the production plus anecdotes from the shoot, their reactions to the film then and now, and a wide variety of other issues such as cinematography, music, locations, and performances. It’s a simply wonderful commentary that far surpassed my expectations.

The film’s theatrical trailer also repeats from the old DVD, but everything else is new. We find three featurettes. Turning Up the Heat: Movie Making in the 60s runs 21 minutes, eight seconds and features remarks from Jewison, Wexler, producer Walter Mirisch, Princeton University Center for Africa-American Studies’ Dr. Imani Perry, USC Professor of Critical Studies Dr. Todd Boyd, AFI film historian Patricia King Hanson, filmmaker/BET President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin, composer Quincy Jones, film music historian Jon Burlingame, and filmmaker John Singleton.

“Heat” looks at the creation of the Heat and the circumstances of the era in which it was made. It proves to be reasonably introspective glimpse of different cultural issues, but it straddles the two sides too inconsistently to be a genuine success. I think this would’ve worked better either as a straight “making-of” show or something better focused on the cultural issues/implications. A fair amount of the movie-specific info repeats from the commentary. As it stands. “Heat” is pretty good but not great.

The Slap Heard Around the World goes for seven minutes, 25 seconds and includes Singleton, Hudlin, Jewison, Boyd, Perry, Wexler, Mirisch, and Hanson. “World” looks at the shooting of the famous “slap scene” as well as its social implications. It follows in the same footsteps as the prior featurette and comes with the same strengths and weaknesses. It offers some decent insights but doesn’t seem particularly absorbing.

Finally, Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound runs 13 minutes and two seconds. It provides statements from Jones, Burlingame, Boyd, Jewison, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Tonight Show head audio engineer Patrick Smith, and musician Herbie Hancock. We learn how Jones got into film scoring as well as aspects of the score and songs created for Heat. We get a nice examination of the flick’s music in this enjoyable program.

In terms of “missing extras”, we only lose one: a booklet with some production notes. It was a decent text but not anything I’ll mourn too loudly.

Due to its social commentary, In the Heat of the Night hasn’t aged especially well, but it remains a fairly compelling piece of drama. Part of my interest in it stemmed from the “time capsule” element, since the film neatly documents the attitudes of its era, but it works as a mystery nonetheless, largely due to some solid acting. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as some satisfying extras. This is a solid release for a fairly interesting movie. I recommend it to folks who already own the old DVD as well as those new to the flick.

To rate this film visit the original review of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

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