Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman. Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved but when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD's number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance. The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area. Tibbs' life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found. Written by
Virgil Tibbs was ranked Hero #19 in the Heroes category on the AFI's 100 Heroes and Villains list. See more »
The town of Sparta is in east-central Mississippi. The Mississippi River forms the western border for most of that state. If Harvey Oberst (the fugitive being chased early in the film) made it as far as a bridge to Arkansas, he would have been at least 100 miles out of the jurisdiction of the Sparta police (who catch him). Even if, unbeknownst to the audience, the Sparta police had been deputized by some other jurisdiction, it's doubtful that they could have brought him back to the Sparta jail in the time frame presented. See more »
This film deserved to win the Academy Award for best picture of 1967 -- just as Rod Steiger deserved to win Best Actor. In the Heat of the Night has it all though. What seems like a relatively simple case, turns into a complex murder mystery. I defy you to solve the mystery before the final minutes!
As if the mystery wasn't enough, the film is a sociologists' text book example on prejudice and privilege. This movie hasn't aged a bit -- one of the classics.
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