Bullitt/In The Heat of the Night

These classic American films, released just within a year of each other, are noted for some well set-up scenes: in Bullitt, it’s The Car Chase, and in In The Heat of the Night, The Slap Back. I recently watched these back-to-back, and I noted the delineation of class. In the first instance, Bullitt represents the working class, Chalmers The Man. In The Heat of the Night is on the surface about racism; but what I noted the most was Mr. Tibbs’ educated, well-paid Northerner versus Gillespie’s relatively uneducated and underpaid Southerner. It should not come as a surprise that these two films came out when they did and tackled the race and class issues that they do. Law enforcement is a canvas primed to illustrate those divides, and the 1960s was a decade of immense socio-political awareness and change. Nonetheless, these films surprisingly retain a boldness and clear style which transcend their genre and year of release.

Also read: Ivy Cool

Bullitt, dir. Peter Yates, 114 min. Warner Brothers, 1968.
In the Heat of the Night, dir. Norman Jewison, 109 min. Mirisch Corporation, 1967.

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