A black homicide detective from the big city becomes embroiled in a murder case in a small backwater town in 1960’s Mississippi.
A thinly disguised commentary on prejudice in the times of the civil rights movement, In The Heat Of The Night is also a smartly plotted and suspenseful Film Noir style murder mystery that showcases Sidney Poitier’s not inconsiderable charisma. He dominates the screen whenever he appears and his scenes with the comparably excellent Rod Steiger’s red neck sheriff crackle with tension as their worlds collide amidst their verbal sparring. Featuring a colourful backdrop of local culture and antiquated attitudes based upon the belief that slavery was the “natural order”, it contains many memorable lines and strong performances.
The resolution to the story seems a little anti-climactic considering the power of the build up, but it’s definitely one of the best examples of politically savvy thrillers around and worth it for the scenes involving Poitier and Steiger butting heads alone.