It would be nice to think that disappointing movie sequels were a
recent phenomena and something borne of the evil coupling of
Reaganomics and economic rationalism in the 1980s. Sadly,
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! proves this wrong, riding on the
coattails of its inspiration, In The Heat of the Night. In the
Heat of the Night did good business. In 1967, it earnt five
Academy Awards for Best Picture, Editing, Sound,
Writing, and Actor, and was further nominated for Best Sound
Effects and Director. TCMMT! was released three years later, with Sidney Poitier reprising his role as detective Virgil Tibbs and taking its title from a quote in the previous film.
The story isn't the real problem with the film. Virgil Tibbs is called upon to investigate the murder of a street prostitute in San Francisco, an investigation that is quickly centred on the liberal political candidate and preacher Reverend Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau). Sharpe is a good friend of Tibbs, and Tibbs must struggle with his personal loyalties to solve the crime.
Whilst it is a modestly diverting crime drama, TCMMT! is disappointing when it’s considered in the context of its inspiration. The underlying and pervasive racial tension that gave In the Heat of the Night its true intensity is completely absent from the sequel. The only tension is provided by the general community unrest, and it seems to lack a clear context rather than provide a central plot element.
Director Gordon Douglas was handed a brilliant lead character, but a lacklustre script. None of the chaotic energy of 1960s San Francisco was captured by the film, apart from the tremendously funky soundtrack provided by Quincy Jones. The title theme is a glorious organ-driven funk jam backed by a massive brass section - the film is almost worth tracking down for the blaxploitation era soundtrack alone.