Saturday Mini-Review: In the Heat of the Night and Cactus Flower

Saturday, July 15, 2006
The Sixties will always remain for me a lifelong fascination. Somehow, by a means I cannot understand, we moved from one culture before to a different one afterwards. We have been stuck in the Sixties culture lo these forty years. The Sixties gave rise to Ted Kennedy, to John Kerry, to kneejerk anti-war protests, and to all the music heard in elevators today. There's no escaping it, but what was it? Here are two movies from the Sixties which can give us a clue. Neither could have been made in a different time.

In the Heat of the Night is a Sidney Poitier Sixties classic from 1967. I had avoided it for a long time, thinking it to be the standard cliche about blacks and whites in the South, a cliche I had moved past some twenty years ago. But it's not; it transcends its time and its theme to reach into something truly human. A black police officer from Philadelphia passing through a tiny town in Mississippi is wrongfully apprehended as a murder suspect by a pack of small-town Southern police about as incompetent as Keystone Cops can ever get. But they ultimately do the right thing and they do it well.

Cactus Flower is a Sixties (1969) version of My Favorite Wife, which is the better movie. It's dated, but it gives good insight into the transition between the old and the new cultures, with the old represented by Walter Matthau and the new by Goldie Hawn. It's a glorious look at Ingrid Bergman in a transition period. Initially in the movie she looks like the older matronly woman she played in her later years, but then they dress her up and she's as stunning as she was in the Forties. Best quote of the movie: "You go to your church and I'll go to mine." It's worth watching just to see the dance between Goldie and Ingrid in the "hip" club.


loner said...

They have in common scores by Quincy Jones.

The Steiger and Poitier line readings in In The Heat of the Night are what keep me coming back. The Jones score and the Wexler cinematography are also outstanding and, as I recall, the first time I saw it I thought it worked well as a crime mystery in a social context. I was into those for a long while before I moved to Berkeley.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is the '60s movie, set in the '30s, which most explains the '60s. See it and then see Sam Peckinpah's two greatest movies, Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969) and you'll, hopefully, see what I mean...and even if you don't you'll have seen three of the best from that decade.

As to what had been wrought, well, as Sykes put it: It ain't like it used to be; but it'll do.

David Thomson said...

I have just ordered a used VHS copy of Cactus Flower from Sigh, I am going to have to win the lottery. It’s the only way that I’m going to be able to get the time to view all of these movies. But then again, maybe I can get by with sleeping only twenty minutes a night?

terrye said...

I liked both of these movies, but I liked in the Heat of the Night the best. Poitier and Steiger together were just so good.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Loner, Thanks for the Peckinpah recommendations in this context. I'll look into it.