Director: Norman Jewinson
Stars: Sidney Poitier * Rod Steiger * Lee Grant * Warren Oates
Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) is waiting for the last train out of Sparta Mississippi, he’s spotted and being black he’s an immediate suspect for the murder of prominent business man Colbert.
When brought into the station he attempts to identify himself as a police officer who was just visiting his mother and waiting for the train to go back to Philadelphia.
Chief Gillespie ( Steiger) is initially unbelieving until he checks him out and find that Tibbs is in fact the top homicide expert for the Philadelphia PD.
reluctantly Gillespie asks Tibbs for help seeing as he’s such an expert and reluctantly Tibbs does help and begins to show Gillespie what modern police work is about.
A prominent business man is murdered, he’s there from the north to build a factory and the finger points at the most powerful man in the county Endicott who would stand to lose a lot should this factory be built.
The scene in the greenhouse where Tibbs encounters Endicott and slaps him across the face is pivotal, Gillespie’s reaction is priceless he witnessed a black man strike a white man, and did nothing that would normally mean the death of his job and him maybe.
The racial tension is high and Tibbs forever in danger but continues to seek the truth, and the growing respect from Gillespie not only as an officer for the man, so much so he’s the first man he invites into his house.
Jewinson directs with a fine hand, and Poitiers natural integrity and that he makes you look at the man and not his colour, played against Steiger’s racism and distrust but also his need to find the truth and that can only be done if his mind is opened to other possibilities.
A finely balanced film which captures and challenges the attitudes of the time perfectly.