Screen Comparisons: Criterion’s IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

Comparing the new Criterion Collection edition Blu-ray to MGM’s Earlier 2014 Disc

This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older MGM/Fox Blu-ray transfer with the new Criterion restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.

Criterion’s new edition of In The Heat of the Night is set to release on January 29.

I’m excited to check out Criterion’s new edition of In The Heat of the Night, Norman Jewison’s 1967 detective tale which explores racism and crime in the south. The film stars Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia detective who shakes things up in the racism-filled community of Sparta, Mississippi, as he assists with a murder case. Tibbs both partners and butts heads with the local police, including Rod Steiger and Warren Oates. Poitier would go on to star in two sequels, which are available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

MGM/Fox released In the Heat of the Night on Blu-ray in 2014, with respectable bonus features. Criterion’s edition includes most of those (all but one featurette) and adds several new interviews. But the real improvement here is the transfer of the film itself.

The Transfer

MGM’s edition looked fair, but this new transfer is a clear improvement, making the most of Haskell Wexler’s incredible cinematography.

To summarize the differences, the older transfer often exhibited a yellow bias and was overly bright. Textures tended to look smooth and featureless, likely the result of excessive DNR. Most oddly, the frame was slightly vertically squashed, causing characters to look too short.

Screen Comparisions

Notice in the screen below how the colors bleed and blur on the older transfer (most noticeably on Warren Oates’ shirt); instances like this have been mitigated.

Facial close-ups in particular reveal great detail, previously lost in a blurry or waxy haze. This is not only in a handful of instances, but noticeable throughout.

Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion

Grain is back along with the detail, and the difference is brilliant.

Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion

A few more shots for overall coverage:

Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion
Top: Old MGM Disc // Bottom: New Criterion

The Package

Special Features (as provided by Criterion)

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with director Norman Jewison and actor Lee Grant
  • Segment from a 2006 American Film Institute interview with actor Sidney Poitier
  • New interview with Aram Goudsouzian, author of Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon
  • Audio commentary from 2008 featuring Jewison, Grant, actor Rod Steiger, and cinematographer Haskell Wexler
  • Turning Up the Heat: Movie-Making in the ’60s, a 2008 program about the production of the film and its legacy, featuring Jewison, Wexler, producer Walter Mirisch, and filmmakers John Singleton and Reginald Hudlin
  • Quincy Jones: Breaking New Sound, a 2008 program about Jones’s innovative soundtrack, including the title song sung by Ray Charles, featuring interviews with Jones, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and musician Herbie Hancock
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic K. Austin Collins

New Cover by Sean Phillips

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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