Sunday, November 16, 2014

In the Heat of the Night Movie Shown on the Big Screen

My Ticket
The 1967 hit In the Heat of the Night was shown yesterday at the local theater.  The movie was shot right here in town so the locals have always had a connection to it.  While the movie is set in Sparta, Mississippi it was actually shot right here in Sparta, Illinois.  The movie was very controversial and shooting in the deep South wasn't a good idea.  So for a donation of canned goods for the local food pantry I had a ticket for the show.  It was great.  When we arrived at the theater there were photos from the movie displayed as well as some behind the scenes shots.  As I listened to folks who were walking by the photos I heard things like "my sister-in-law was in that scene" or references to where the scenes were shot in town.  This was awesome.  I love that kind of stuff.  Once I sat down there was more of the same.  As movie facts and trivia cycled on the screen prior to the movie starting folks talked about the movie with pride.  The crowd definitely skewed older but I was surprised how many younger folks made it out.  It is also a thrill to see places on screen that we all recognize.  Once the movie was over no one was in a hurry to leave and just wanted to talk about the movie.  This was a wonderful experience and I'm very happy I had the opportunity to make it to the showing. 

As for the movie itself I'd only seen part of the it prior to yesterday.  What I had seen I really enjoyed.  The plot revolves around Sidney Poitier's detective, Virgil Tibbs, who is drawn into a murder investigation in a small southern town while just happening to pass through the town at the time of the murder.  Police Chief Gillespie is not happy to have a big city black police officer in town but they form a very uneasy alliance to catch the murderer.  The fun starts when Portier is brought in as a suspect and Chief Gillespie finds out he is really a Philadelphia homicide detective

As the movie progresses Tibbs and Gillespie must deal with the extreme racism of the South as well as their own prejudices.  The acting by Steiger and Poitier is nothing less that stellar.  Steiger won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.  The smaller characters and their great characterizations help fill out the small world that is Sparta.  The movie was nominated for seven academy awards, winning five, including best picture.  This really is a good murder mystery that is a joy to watch.  I'm not just gushing because of the local history.  This is a great movie. 

Note:  The Walking Dead fans will see Scott Wilson make his film debut in this movie as Harvey Oberst, a small time thief.  Wilson is best known as Hershel Greene in the hugely popular zombie series. 
Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger

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