Poitier’s United Artists film, “In Heat of the Night,” was released in 1967, it was,
of course, a sensation, and has become one of the seminal films of the 1960’s.
which deals with a Philadelphia detective, Virgil Tibbs, who is reluctantly
forced to investigate a baffling murder in a backwoods southern town, while facing racism at every turn, was a massive hit, and won several Academy Awards the following year, including Best Picture, Best
Director, Best Actor for Rod Steiger, and Best Screenplay.
So it shouldn’t
be surprising that UA wanted more films with Poitier as Tibbs, and, a few
years later made two of them – “They Call Me Mister Tibbs,” released in 1970, and “The Organization,” which came out the following year, in 1971.
It’s fair to
say that neither film was up to par with “Night,” being basically routine cop
thrillers in which race is neither mentioned, nor as a subtext bubbling just underneath
the surface. But many thought that was a good thing, since it, in effect,
moved Tibbs beyond being a “black cop,” and was now simply just a cop, solving cases without the burden of racism on his
Tibbs,” the detective, who has now relocated to San Francisco, tries to solve the murder of a young prostitute, in
which a close friend of his, a priest, has become the main suspect. Meanwhile, Tibbs also has his hands full with domestic problems, with his wife angry that he’s letting his work interfere with his
duties as a dad to his kids.
The family subplot may sound corny, but, in retrospect, it gives a further
dimension to Tibbs, making him less of a crime fighting superhero, and more of
regular Joe with problems at home. All in all, it’s pretty typical of a cop thriller
of the 70’s, but perhaps the most noteworthy thing about it, was the film’s director, Gordon Douglas.
one of those great Hollywood workmanlike pros who had a very long career, directing
almost 100 films, starting with studio shorts in the mid-1930’s, and was still
directing features in the late 1970’s. He worked for all the major studios, including Warners (for which he was
under contract for the entire 1950’s), Fox,
United Artists, Paramount, RKO, etc, and
made films in every genre you can think of – crime thrillers, action movies,
period dramas, westerns, comedies,
musicals, Frank Sinatra movies, and even Blaxploitation movies, with the near-classic of the genre, “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off,” with Jim Brown. He was never what
anyone would call an auteur type of filmmaker, with his own unique distinguishing
style, but he was never less than smooth and competent, no matter what he made.
The second sequel, “The Organization,” directed by Don Medford, which some consider the better of
the two, while others consider the weakest, has Tibbs trying to bring down a global
drug smuggling group, known as (what else) The Organization.
job is made even more difficult by a rag tag group of former junkies turned
self-made vigilantes (including Ron O’Neal, just a year before he made Blaxploitation
immortality as the lead character Priest in “Super Fly”), who are trying to destroy
The Organization themselves.
The film may
not hold up when watched today, but it’s generally considered that Medford handled
the action sequences in the film better than Douglas did in his.
And now Kino
Studio Classics. which, last year, started to release, on blu-ray, older UA and Orion
Pictures movies from the 1950’s to the early 1980’s, announced yesterday that they
will release both “Mister Tibbs” and “The Organization” on blu-ray in May 2015.
They may not
be classics of the genre by any means, but they’re both very watchable examples of those entertaining mid-level, mainstream Hollywood potboilers of the time. The kind of
films that were, since the beginning of cinema, Hollywood studios’ bread and butter, but, for various reasons nowadays, they find incapable or unwilling to make.