Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Fox Home Video - IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fox Home Video - IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT on Blu-ray

When I was a kid, one of my dad's favorite TV shows was In The Heat of The Night. The TV show of course featured Carroll O'Connor in the Rod Steiger role and Howard E. Rollins Jr. in the Sidney Poitier part. It was a pretty solid show. At some point, my dad saw fit to show me the movie the show was based on and I remember it having an impact on me for sure. Being from the midwest and not living in an urban area, I was less exposed to race in general which was a bit unfortunate. If I recall, my high school only had a handful of African-American students at any given time. Racism was certainly something I encountered throughout my young life there and it was always unpleasant. When I saw IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT it felt quite raw and powerful because it was addressing this issue that was not oft discussed.
Recently my son was reading To Kill A Mockingbird in his English class. He was at once fascinated with the story and horrified by some of the goings on therein. The issues of race and how they were dealt with were troubling to him understandably, but he liked the book as a whole. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT seemed another interesting outing into racially charged territory for him so I thought we could watch it together and talk about it. Though I've shown my son many films over the years (we have a regular Friday movie night at our house), I'd never shown him a Sidney Poitier film and this seemed as good an introduction as any to the career of such an outstanding actor. Well, let me just say that the movie still holds up and carries quite a bit of weight with it, especially the exchanges between Rod Steiger and Poitier. Steiger is one of those actors for me that really carved out an interesting nitch for himself. He very much started his career as a character actor. He played a helluva a lot of evil characters to say the least. On the surface, many of his characters are easy to despise, but I always felt he brought a certain subtle humanity to a lot of them (as a great actor can) allowing them to be much more than mustache-twirling caricatures. That being said, he really makes his sheriff character here a bit different than you might expect. You keep expecting him to do the wrong thing, but he ends up making a lot of proper decisions and coming around. I guess that's what good acting can be about sometimes. I've come to the realization lately that a good villain is structurally a huge part of what makes a movie work for me. If the villain is weak and unchallenging, the movie tends to suffer in my eyes.

Special Features included on this disc:
  ·      Commentary with Norman Jewison, Lee Grant, Rod Steiger and Haskell Wexler. Very informative commentary featuring the filmmakers and actors. Gives tons of details about the technical and creative aspects of the process of making the film as well as some historical context.

·      Turning Up the Heat: Movie-Making In the 60's - (21 mins). Like the commentary, this piece also touches on the historical context in which IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT was made and how it affected the production - as observed by director Norman Jewison, producer Walter Mirisch, director John Singleton and others. 

·      The Slap Heard Around The World - (7 mins). This short featurette covers
the historical significance of the very famous scene in the film where the character Endicott slaps Tibbs and Tibbs slaps him back. This was the first time this had ever been depicted in an American film.

·      Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound - (13 mins) Quincy Jones and others talk about the impact of his wonderful jazz-based score for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. 


Chris Hewson said...

I unfortunately found this movie to be boring when I saw it. Though that was years ago, and it's such an important and lauded film, that I may give it another shot.

As for the tv version, did it get contrived after a while, given that enough crimes happen in a small town for 142 episodes?

Rupert Pupkin said...

I remember liking the show, but it's been so long now since I've seen it, I can't recall how it went. I feel like it must have been a bit more contrived just based on making it episodic, but I need to revisit one of these days.