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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with director Norman Jewison
  • New interview with actor Lee Grant
  • New interview with Aram Goudsouzian, author of Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon
  • Audio commentary from 2008 featuring Norman Jewison, Lee Grant, actor Rod Steiger, and cinematographer Haskell Wexler
  • Turning Up the Heat: Movie-Making in the ’60s, a 2008 program about the production of the film and its legacy, featuring Norman Jewison, Haskell Wexler, producer Walter Mirisch, and filmmakers John Singleton and Reginald Hudlin
  • Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound, a 2008 program about Jones’s innovative soundtrack, including its title song sung by Ray Charles, featuring interviews with Quincy Jones, lyricists Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, and musician Herbie Hancock
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic K. Austin Collins

In the Heat of the Night

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Norman Jewison
1967 | 110 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #959
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 29, 2019
Review Date: January 27, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

Passing through the backwoods town of Sparta, Mississippi, Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) becomes embroiled in a murder case. He forms an uneasy alliance with the bigoted police chief (Rod Steiger), who faces mounting pressure from Sparta’s hostile citizens to catch the killer and run the African American interloper out of town. Director Norman Jewison splices incisive social commentary into this thrilling police procedural with the help of Haskell Wexler’s vivid cinematography, Quincy Jones’s eclectic score, and two indelible lead performances—a career-defining display of seething indignation and moral authority from Poitier and an Oscar-winning master class in Method acting from Steiger. Winner of five Academy Awards, including for best picture, In the Heat of the Night is one of the most courageous Hollywood films of the civil rights era.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night in an all-new Blu-ray edition, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz encode makes use of a brand-spanking-new 4K digital restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

I’ve probably seen this film on just about every home video incarnation—VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-ray—with some presentations looking impressive, at least for the time, but they have come nowhere near what has been delivered here. There are a couple of shots that can look a little dupey and fuzzy around the edge, but outside of those the picture is crystal clear and sharp, cleanly rendering the film’s grain structure and finer details found in the image, delivering some great textures in turn. A lot of the MGM restorations lately can take on a bit of a yellowish/warmer hue, and there is a little of that here, but it’s suiting. There can also be a greenish hue in some darker/nighttime shots but Haskell Wexner, in the included audio commentary, talks about this so this appears to be the intended look. Black levels also look great.

Most impressive, though, I don’t recall a single scratch or blotch throughout the film. There was some odd shifting in the older MGM presentations and that’s now gone, the picture smooth as can be. The restoration work has also extensively cleaned up any of the damage (marks, dirt, scratches) found on previous home video releases of the film. It has never looked this clean as far as I can recall. The digital encode is superb, with no digital anomalies ever popping up. Altogether this is a breathtaking restoration and final presentation, another to exceed my expectations.

9/10

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AUDIO

Criterion thankfully drops the 5.1 remix found on previous editions and releases their edition with the film’s original mono presentation, delivered here in 1.0 lossless PCM. The track sounds remarkable all things considered. Quincy Jones’ score is probably its high-point, mixed rather loudly with notable dynamic range, but never harming any other aspect of the track. Dialogue is rich and clear, and fidelity overall is strong. It has also been cleaned up, with little trace of background noise and no notable damage.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The Criterion Collection carries over supplements from the previous MGM/Fox editions and then adds their own material to the mix. The first thing carried over from the MGM disc is the audio commentary recorded for it back in 2008, featuring director Norman Jewison, director of photography Haskell Wexner, and actors Rod Steiger and Lee Grant. All participants were recorded separately and then edited together. The track is surprisingly technical, with both Jewison and Wexner getting into expansive detail about the camera work and lighting, before getting into the editing and getting the “beat” of a scene. It’s talked about a few times throughout the supplements, but the chase scene across the bridge is broken down in detail, Jewison explaining how the beat of the scene was done to match the music Quincy Jones would write for it. Grant and Steiger pop up occasionally to talk about the performances and working with Poitier, Steiger also defending his moments of going “over the top” in his performance. You also get to hear a story about a fairly scary night for the cast and crew when they were down in Tennessee briefly (the story is repeated throughout the other supplements as well). Studio tracks can be a bit of a crap-shoot, but I found this one is one of the better ones I’ve listened to. It’s very technical but it’s been edited together rather beautifully with a wonderful flow, so dead space isn’t an issue. Reminded me of Criterion’s older tracks.

Criterion adds on a new interview with director Norman Jewison, running about 13-minutes. Jewison expands on a few things covered in the previous track, talking a bit more about the development of the film and the work that had to go in to getting Poitier to sign on to the film. He even talks about Steiger’s and Poitier’s working relationship (the two had different styles of acting that could rub one another the wrong way) and then talks in about how happy he was to find Warren Oates, and then the joy in working with Hal Ashby, who was the film’s editor (Ashby said the script was “just wild, man!”) A great update to all of the older material found on here.

Criterion then digs up an 8-minute excerpt featuring Sidney Poitier from the AFI program 100 Years…100 Cheers, made in 2006. Here he recalls coming on to the film and then talks about one specific change he wanted made to the script (the scene where his character gets slapped by Endicott). Criterion also records a new interview with actor Lee Grant. This 15-minute interview is a great one, Grant talking about her career at this time and getting blacklisted (in one of the more ridiculous manners I can recall hearing). This then led to her getting back into acting in her 30s, and she recounts the ends she went to to make sure she didn’t seem “old.” While she also talks about a couple of her scenes with Poitier in the film I was most enamored by everything else that had little to do with the film, and Grant is still angered by what happened to her, her friends, and the surprise betrayals by those that should have been there for her, dropping a number of F-bombs throughout the interview. An amazing addition!

Aram Goudsouzian, author of Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon next provides a new segment around Poitier and the reasons behind his rise to stardom. He talks in extensively about the man’s career, how he just happened to show up at the right moment (during the Civil Rights movement) and how he was the “safe kind of sexy” to make him acceptable to white audiences, helping his stardom. Goudsouzian also talks about the criticisms lobbed at him, particularly by the Black Panthers, and does pick apart some questionable aspect to his films and this film in particular. It’s a good interview that also helps to place the film in the proper context of the time period it was released. It runs under 18-minutes.

Criterion then ports over two supplements from MGM’s own special editions: a 21-minute making-of called Turning up the Heat and then a 13-minute feature on the film’s music called Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound. Both are above average studio features, though you can almost consider the making-of a summarization of the audio commentary, going over the highlights mentioned in it about script development, shooting it, its release, and then the surprise that came during Oscar night. The music featurette looks at how Jones came to be involved, how the score was developed, getting Ray Charles to sing the title song, and then the reasons behind why a couple of other songs were created specifically for this film. Neither feature breaks new ground in any way but they’re fine and worth viewing.

The disc then closes with the film’s original theatrical trailer, and the included insert features an excellent essay by Austin Collins, looking at the film’s social politics, how its aged, while also covering technical aspects.

Overall I guess I would have expected some more, maybe about the string of social message films that came out during this time (and I don’t even recall a mention of the television show), but the features are a solid collection, offering some great insight into the innovative (for the time) camera work and editing, along with a wonderful interview with Grant.

8/10

CLOSING

Easily the best home video release for the film, it features a near-spotless A/V presentation and a wonderful set of supplements. A very easy recommendation, even if you already own any of the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases.


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