#287 In the Heat of the Night

Watched: December 27 2020

Director: Norman Jewison

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 50min

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Officer Sam Woods (Oates) is doing his rounds in a small Mississippi town when he comes across a dead body. The dead man turns out to Mr Colbert – an investor come to build industry and save the town. There also happens to be a black man waiting for a train at the station, so obviously Woods arrests him for the murder.

“Well sir, he was behaving in a very suspect sort of a way. He was reading while being black.”

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Virgil Tibbs (Poitier), the man arrested, is brought to the Chief of Police Gillespie (Steiger) and questioned. It turns out he is far from a suspect – he is in fact a homicide investigator from Philadelphia. Better than that, he is the homicide investigator in Philadelphia. So his boss suggests he stays behind in Sparta to help solve the murder.

“This is a local murder for local people! There’s nothing for you here!”

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Tibbs is great at his job, something Gillespie recognises despite his racist views. In this small Southern town a black investigator meets with a lot of resistance though, and especially the local Angry Young Men™ mob up to kill him. After some potentially lethal encounters, Gillespie advices Tibbs to leave, but he is unable to walk away from a case. Can the unlikely duo solve it and survive the investigation?

“Actually Chief, we’re presidentially sanctioned Proud Angry Young Boys™. We think you’ll find our tiny dicks are proof of this. We suggest you step out of our way and let us deal with our insecurity by letting a rich white man use us for his own benefit.”

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Even on a freezing December evening in Norway, we could feel the oppressive heat of Sparta, Mississippi. In the Heat of the Night is exciting and unnerving, and edge-of-your-seat tense. Unfortunately, it says a lot about the world that it did not even occur to us for the first hour that Tibbs could survive the movie… It’s a sad statement indeed.

Despite being over 50 years old, it’s still a relevant movie. Its themes of racism, prejudice and social distancing seem surprisingly modern and contemporary!

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Sidney Poitier is mesmerising, the chemistry between him and Rod Steiger is great, the mystery is as intriguing as the exploration of racism and prejudice, and the soundtrack is excellent. This is what you get when you combine a fantastic cast, director and script. It’s a sort of buddy-cop movie, a social commentary drama, a character study, and a great murder mystery all wrapped up in one. We loved it!

Trust us, it’s worth watching for this scene alone. Fight the power!

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What we learned: Don’t let your prejudices cloud your judgment.

Next time: Le Samouraï (1967)

#286 In Cold Blood

Watched: December 6 2020

Director: Richard Brooks

Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart

Year: 1967

Runtime: 2h 14min

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Perry (Blake) is a slightly simple ex-con who dreams of fame and fortune. He breaks his parole so he can return to Kansas in order to meet up with old cell mate Dick (Wilson), who can offer him a sure thing. Monetary wise, that is. Not a date or anything.

If you can think of a single date idea which would require a trip to the hardware store in preparation, we’d like to know. Then, leave your contact information and the number for your local police.

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Another old prison buddy has told Dick about a hidden safe in the basement of a farmer, and the pair plan to get their hands on it. However, what could have been a simple burglary soon turns into a bloodbath…

“Bubble bath. I said I wanted a BUBBLE bath. You need to get your hearing aid fixed.”

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We don’t want to reveal too much here even though it’s a 50 year old film based on an even older book based on a yet older real crime… Suffice to say investigators are soon on the criminals’ trails. But what really happened? And who pulled the trigger?

Also, who wore the easily identifiable shoes to a crime scene???

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This movie is amazing and you should watch it. We loved the build up to the crime and the fact that we then skipped neatly to the aftermath without seeing it play out. It is excellently structured, well acted and overall really well done. The 2+ hours fly by!

Like the lit-up club, casino and hotel signs in old-timey montages! Imagine “Mas Que Nada” playing in the background.

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Now, Dick is a dick from the beginning. Perry is perhaps a bit more sympathetic, but they both share the same anger issues. They are disenfranchised young men with a murderous streak and little left to lose.

They are also traumatized by abusive childhoods and war. Sorry, it’s hard to make hilarious captions about this story…

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As the movie plays out, you keep forgetting that Perry and Dick have killed an entire family – probably because you don’t actually see them do it. Which is somewhat unsettling and uncomfortable when you find yourself giggling at their shenanigans and sort of hoping they’ll get away.

On the other hand, we’re also introduced to this ridiculously wholesome family, who certainly did not deserve their fate. Our loyalties are torn, is all we’re saying. And we guess that’s sort of the point…

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Real question though, are trials in the USA that revenge-driven, or are they just that way in movies? Because for us rational (some would say cold and unfeeling, we prefer logical and Spock-like) Norwegians, emotions and ideas of revenge are not what should decide the outcome of a trial… Just a thought there, America.

What we learned: American trials are insane… Also, sometimes things just don’t make sense.

Next time: In the Heat of the Night (1967)

#238 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Watched: August 25 2019

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 35min

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General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden) has gone cray-cray trying to protect his precious bodily fluid from the commies, and orders an attack on the USSR.

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“No amount of phallic symbolism can protect me from their desecration of my precious bodily fluids!”

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Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers), on loan from the Royal Air Force, soon realises that the attack is Ripper’s doing and no orders have come from the President or Pentagon. He tries his best to stop the general before a full blown nuclear war breaks out, but this proves difficult as Ripper is the only one able to communicate with the attacking B-52 bombers.

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“Hello? I need to talk to the President! What do you mean he’s busy impersonating a British RAF officer?”

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Meanwhile at the Pentagon an emergency meeting is called, with President Muffley (Sellers) and General Buck Turgidson (Scott) in attendance. And also former nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers). As if things aren’t complicated enough, the assembly learns that the Soviets have a “doomsday machine” which, if struck, will render the entire earth uninhabitable for close to 100 years.

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While this might be problematic for most people, some see the dismantling of society as a perfect dating opportunity

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This. This is the movie which sparked our love of classic movies back when we were young. It is just so damned entertaining, and strangely accessible, despite its serious subject matter (and black and white photography which will on occasion put people off).

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However, usually a bona fide war room will bring them right back in

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From the opening, to Vera Lynn, you will be completely engaged. It is beautifully and interestingly shot and the characters are utterly amazing – not just the ones played by Peter Sellers. Also, there’s a cowboy riding a bomb.

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Would we lie to you?

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Dr. Strangelove is frightening (the scenario was not entirely improbable and outlandish for a while), but also hilarious, sad and brilliant, and we love everything about it.

What we learned: Peace is our profession.

Next time: Goldfinger (1964)