After a group of young revolutionaries break into a corporation's headquarters and steal $5,000,000 worth of heroin to keep it off the street, they call on San Francisco Police Lieutenant Virgil Tibbs for assistance. Though sympathetic to their cause, the straight-arrow Tibbs refuses to consider it because they broke the law, but when the group is then accused of a murder it didn't commit, Tibbs finally joins them in order to ferret out the identity of the real killer, while keeping his now rogue undercover investigation a secret from his SFPD superiors.
"The organization may or may not know who you are but they damn well know who I am. And if I'm going to take them on plus the department too, I don't want to be depending on six dead amateurs!"
After viewing the finished product of 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!' evidently some studio head, or creative, or perhaps Sidney Poitier himself stood up and said, "Come on guys, we can do better than this!" As a second sequel to 'In the Heat of the Night' 'The Organization' goes a long way to correct the wrongs of the previous entry in the Virgil Tibbs franchise while making great strides towards being a worthy sequel to the first film. I'm not saying 'The Organization' is as good of a movie as 'In The Heat of the Night,' I'm just saying it's at least a film that tries hard to live up to expectations and create a genuinely compelling and suspenseful story.
After an intricate and daring theft of $5,000,000 worth of heroin from a furniture factory deposit box, San Fransisco homicide detective Virgil Tibbs is called in to investigate the murder of a man who was working late that night. To everyone in the department, this is a simple open and shut case of a payroll robbery gone wrong. The eagle-eyed intuitive Lt. Tibbs is inclined to agree, only something doesn't feel right about the murder. The robbery makes perfect sense, but the murder feels wrong and out of place. The evidence simply doesn't add up.
Virgil's suspicions are confirmed when he's contacted by a group of six underground street revolutionaries headed by a local mission preacher Dave Thomas (Billy Green Bush) and the passionate Juan Mendoza (Raul Julia), Annie (Lani Miyazaki), Charlie (Demond Wilson), Stacy (James A. Watson Jr.) and Joe (Ron O'Neal). These aren't your average criminals by any means, they're upstanding citizens who believe they're fighting the good fight. When the revolutionaries come clean about the theft of the heroin, Virgil sees that there is a lot more going on and that the furniture factory is just a front for a much larger criminal organization.
With his life and career on the line, Virgil must walk the thin line of right and wrong, legal and illegal in order to expose the men at the top of the ladder and protect the lives of the revolutionaries. As the investigation unfolds, as Virgil sinks deeper and deeper into the investigation, he comes to believe that there is a rat in the police department and possibly even one in the group he's trying to help.
With everything that went wrong with 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!' it's quickly apparent that a greater effort went into getting this one right. From frame one, the production feels like it's on firmer footing, allowing for a more fluid film-like appearance making better use of practical existing sets and the San Fransisco setting. This time directed by Don Medford, pacing is also vastly improved. This is a movie that wisely takes its time to let the story and plot points come together, rather than being pushed along. As an audience, you never feel too ahead of the game and it makes Virgil's investigation and the clues it turns on feel all the more urgent and real. and when something exciting happens, it feels important and not quite so paint-by-numbers.
This time around, the film manages to pull in some decent amount of social commentary. While it's not the main focus, it's nice to see the film try to tackle the idea of street justice. A group of well-meaning individuals who take the law into their own hands to do what the police seem incapable of doing is material for some powerful stuff. While it isn't as heady and urgent as race inequality, it works for this film.
Characters also feel more fully fleshed out, and that's largely due to the great cast. With Sidney Poitier headlining once again, he looks and feels right at home with the character in the same way that he was in 'In the Heat of the Night.' His mannerisms are those of a man who is confident and shrewd yet restrained and guarded. While the cadre of revolutionaries are a bit cliche, each actor involved does their best to make the most of their characters. In particular the late great Raul Julia who looks and feels like a guy who may not quite be on the up and up at all times as he's reluctant to play the game according to Tibbs' rules.
Again Tibbs' family makes an appearance, but that aspect of his home life ins't as big a focus as it was in the previous film, and for good reason - the story just doesn't need them. They're there to help flesh out Tibbs as a dedicated officer of the law and a grounded family man who is just trying to provide for the ones he loves. It also helps set up the idea that he's got a lot more than his career at risk by going after organized crime.
At a time when 'Dirty Harry' hadn't even reached cinema screens, 'The Organization' proved itself to be a compelling police drama that served as a worthy followup to 'In the Heat of the Night.' Considering the series of books by author John Ball are over a dozen strong, it's a shame that the adventures of Virgil Tibbs didn't continue after this one. Understandably this was around the time that Poitier was getting his directing career up and going, but considering the last film he directed was 'Ghost Dad,' I wish he would have stuck with Tibbs. As the closer to a trilogy, 'The Organization' does a great job at getting the franchise back on strong footing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Organization make's it's Blu-ray debut thanks to Kino Lorber. Pressed on a BD25 disc and housed in a standard case, the Blu-ray opens directly to the main menu.
Thankfully 'The Organization' has one positive thing in common with 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!' - the picture quality! This 1.85:1 1080p transfer for this 43 year old film is pretty darn fantastic. Film grain is retained leading to some exceptional detail levels. Grain can appear a bit noisy during some of the darker scenes, but that's okay. I'd rather have too much grain than none at all. Colors appear a bit more stable and accurate here than they did for the previous film, there doesn't appear to be any of that artificial sharpening or image brightening going on.There is some softness here and there, but appears to actually be a part of the film itself and not a transfer issue. Black levels are nice and inky most of the time with only slight crush. There is some moderate print wear in the form of frequent nicks and specks at the front end of the film, but they quickly work themselves out after a few minutes.
'The Organization' makes great use of it's DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Levels are spot on as this is a bit more mobile film with lots of on the street movement. There are a lot of existing sets and street scenes in this one and audio elements like dialogue, sound effects, and Quincy Jones' score feel right at home. Imaging for this mono track is actually fairly active offering some pleasing movement around the channel. Also because of the dialogue driven nature of the film, levels rarely shift from the midranges and stay nice and even. I couldn't detect any kind of age related anomalies making the output of this track crisp, clean, and clear. A great track.
The supplements for this disc are the exact same three trailers featured on the previous film 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!' disc.
In the Heat of the Night Trailer: (HD 2:24)
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! Trailer: (HD 2:04)
The Organization Trailer: (HD 2:54)
'The Organization' makes a marked improvement over 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!' It's simply a better movie all around, better produced, better story, better acting. It left me wishing they'd actually made more of these movies. Fans of this one should be very happy to see that the picture and audio quality hold up wonderfully well. A few more extras would have been great, but as it is, this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber is recommended.