Well, it’s all there in the title, isn’t it? On his way home to Philadelphia, homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is dragooned by police chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger, in an Academy Awardwinning role) to sweat out a murder case in the small town of Sparta, Miss. Released in 1967, the year race riots tore across America (as a result of the hostile Southern situation, the filmmakers decided to shoot much of the movie in Illinois, instead of Mississippi), Tibbs must brave all kinds of heat thugs with chains, his temporary colleagues’ contempt, the claustrophobic small town to try to find some answers. Though Tibbs, in a black suit and tie that hardly go askew for much of the film, looks as cool as a cucumber, Gillespie and the other residents of Sparta can’t help but wear a light sheen of sweat and desperation.
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