The Sidney Poitier DVD Collection: In the Heat of the Night/For Love of Ivy/Lilies of the Field/They Ca product details page

The Sidney Poitier DVD Collection: In the Heat of the Night/For Love of Ivy/Lilies of the Field/They Ca

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It's a long way down from In the Heat of the Night to They Call Me MISTER Tibbs, but this sequel to the Oscar-winner is not without merit: it just doesn't compare in any way with its predecessor. Taken on its own terms, it's a slightly below average crime drama that probably suffers most from the period in which it was filmed. In 1970, an actor like Sidney Poitier was still being called upon to try to be all things to all people -- he was "THE black actor," and as a result, every move made by any character he played was watched to see what kind of significance it had for the integration of the races. That's not the kind of atmosphere that encourages good writing of idiosyncratic, complex characters. In Tibbs, Poitier's performance is great; his acting skills are in beautiful form. They're just not given the chance to stretch the way he wants and needs them to. Even with this problem aside, Tibbs has problems -- at heart, it's simply a common, ordinary, run-of-the-mill detective film. There are some nice moments here and there that do give it flavor, but too much of what's on the screen is stuff we've seen before. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

Lilies of the Field was more important historically than it may seem when viewed today. What works about the film is the interplay between Sidney Poitier and Lilia Skala, and the recurrent theme of faith that evolves from their friendship. While it may have been cutting-edge in 1964 for the Academy to give its Best Actor Oscar to an African-American actor (the only time in the 20th century that this award was given to an African-American), the story is only superficially about racial issues. This is the sort of safe depiction of a black protagonist that was considered palatable for white audiences in the 1960s. Not until black directors went behind the camera later in the decade would more challenging films (and less safe roles for black performers) evolve. The film has considerable dramatic power, like The Sound of Music without music. The primary themes are the importance of religious life, and the transformation of those who accept it. Formulaic storytelling notwithstanding, Poitier's performance is outstanding, and the film has a charm that overcomes its several weaknesses. Richard Gilliam, All Movie Guide

Norman Jewison's In The Heat of the Night was one of the unlikeliest hits to come out of 1967. Few issues were more provocative or dangerous to discuss in private, much less on screen, than race relations in the United States, and that went double for the Deep South, where the movie (based on John Ball's book) was set. Additionally, the country didn't seem to be clamoring for that kind of discussion: to this day, Roger Corman's The Intruder (1961) is the only theatrical film ever made about school integration in the South. Jewison defied every piece of industry wisdom and won out, mostly because he played it straight and honest, with a cast led by two actors who could hardly have been improved upon for the parts they played. The thematic set-up was surprisingly similar to The Defiant Ones, in which Poitier had co-starred for Stanley Kramer nine years earlier, but the directorial touch was smoother and the film was filled with an enviable range of wonderful supporting performances. In The Heat of the Night was successful enough to generate a brace of films that tried for the same mix of topicality and drama (as well as two sequels, They Call Me Mister Tibbs and The Organization that were more action-oriented), among them William Wyler's The Liberation of L.B. Jones (which came from the same screenwriter), Lamont Johnson's made-for-television My Sweet Charlie, and Ralph Nelson's Tick Tick Tick, all of which opened race relations to more honest and straightforward cinematic exploration. Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide

Don Medford's hard-boiled police thriller may not belong in the annals of great films of the '70s, but it effectively bridges the gap between the high-minded, race-conscious crime dramas of the late '60s and the wave of cheekier, more visceral blaxploitation flicks that were just gaining prominence around the time of The Organization's release. What's surprising about the film is its businesslike manner: No longer content to sit around pondering the vicissitudes of justice, star Sidney Poitier is out pounding the pavement from the beginning of the film, doing whatever it takes -- however questionably ethical -- to clean up the streets of San Francisco. Though there's still plenty of room in The Organization for ham-fisted speechifying from the venerable Virgil Tibbs character (making his third screen appearance here), the action set pieces thankfully take center stage. For the most part, they're effectively pulse-pounding and atmospheric, thanks in large part to Joseph Biroc's clever camerawork and Gil Melle's funky, off-kilter score. Erstwhile TV director Medford allows the pace to go slack at times -- some shots linger on interminably, as if signaling a commercial break that never arrives -- but for mostly mindless, completely functional crime thrills, The Organization succeeds. Michael Hastings, All Movie Guide

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