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    In the Heat of the Night Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray MGM

    Jan 20 2014 11:07 AM | Cameron Yee in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    1967’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture debuts on Blu-ray, but with a somewhat disappointing transfer that keeps it from getting the unequivocal recommendation it should.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: MGM
    • Distributed By: Fox
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 50 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 01/14/2014
    • MSRP: $19.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    While passing through the town of Sparta, Mississippi on personal business, Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is picked up by the local police in the wake of the murder of a local businessman. At first viewed as a suspect for the crime, it doesn’t take long for Tibbs’ identity, beyond the color of his skin, to be confirmed, though that doesn’t make Sparta Police Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) any more welcoming or accepting of Tibbs as a colleague. To Tibbs’ chagrin, his superior officer in Philadelphia encourages him to stick around Sparta a little longer, to lend his expertise to the increasingly thorny murder investigation.

    With the next train out of town not due to arrive for several hours, Tibbs grudgingly takes a look at the victim – a factory owner working on bringing a new facility to town – and quickly establishes both a time and location of death. Meanwhile, Gillespie appears uninterested in a proper investigation, pursuing leads that are circumstantial at best and disregarding much of Tibbs’ more forensic and even common sense methods. When the victim’s widow realizes Tibbs is her late husband’s only real hope for justice, she insists he remain on the case. But Tibbs’ work will be cut out for him as he must deal with not only Gillespie’s bigotry, but the entire community’s, as the investigation ultimately takes him to the doorstep of the town’s most powerful figure.

    Though In the Heat of the Night’s murder mystery may not technically qualify as a MacGuffin, its resolution is so anticlimactic, even banal, compared to the dramatic conflict it generates that it effectively is. That’s not a knock on the film, since the interaction between Poitier’s Tibbs and Steiger’s Gillespie, crackling with so much tension and conflict, is clearly the film’s reason for being, providing a social and racial commentary that’s now legendary (and which earned it the Academy Award for Best Picture). For better or worse, its message is still powerful after 46 years, a reminder of where this nation once was in its treatment of African-Americans. Because the film came out at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the underplayed final scenes between Tibbs and Gillespie also remind us real change neither happens overnight nor is fully guaranteed.

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    Framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer displays solid black levels, contrast and color, but there’s an unmistakable digital hardness to the image that keeps it from looking pleasingly filmlike. Overall sharpness and clarity take a hit as a result, sometimes looking rather hazy, in both establishing shots and close ups. The image also exhibits instances of noise and edge haloing, though most often in the film’s more challenging scenes. There’s a noticeable horizontal stretch to the film as well, the cause of which is unclear.

    Audio Rating: 3/5

    Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible. Surround activity is negligible, but offers a few moments of environmental effects. Bass activity is also limited, but the soundtrack has sufficient depth and fullness for the jazz heavy film score.

    Special Features: 3.5/5

    The extras carry over the items found on the 2008 Collector’s Edition DVD.

    Audio Commentary with Norman Jewison, Lee Grant, Rod Steiger and Haskell Wexler

    Turning Up the Heat: Moviemaking in the 1960s (21:10, HD): The retrospective looks at the social climate during which the film was made and includes anecdotes from and details about the filmmakers’ production experience.

    The Slap Heard Around the World (7:25, HD): Describes the significance of the scene, how it was shot, and audience reaction.

    Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound (13:02, HD): Details Jones’ approach to the film score and his use of jazz and Southern rock.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:48, HD)

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    MGM Home Entertainment turns in a less than ideal presentation for In the Heat of the Night, a film whose racial and social commentary is played to perfection by Poitier and Steiger. The special features carry over the elements from the previous DVD release, making the release the clear choice for first time purchasers of the title. For those who already have the movie on DVD, the middling quality makes it harder to recommend for those looking for a significant upgrade in image quality.

    Reviewed by: Cameron Yee
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    2 Comments

    Photo
    Charles Smith
    Jan 20 2014 01:01 PM

    Sounds disappointing, in both this and RAH's review.  

     

    But -- another one with horizontal stretch??  Who is letting this happen, and why?  I can't watch that.  Not for a minute.

      • ahollis likes this
    Photo
    Clyde's Place
    Jan 22 2014 11:28 PM

    Thanks.  I was in a quandery over whether to upgrade.  I guess I'll stick with my DVD.