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For 50 years Sidney Poitier has been one of Hollywood's most respected and successful actors. From his first major role as a doctor treating a white bigot in ``No Way Out' (1950) to his Academy Award-winning performance in ``Lilies of the Field' (1963) to his role as an ageless wonder in the TV-movie ``The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn' (1999), Poitier has entertained millions while paving the way for the many African American performers who followed.

Among his memorable parts is that of detective Virgil Tibbs, who was introduced to movie audiences in the 1967 Oscar winner ``In the Heat of the Night.' Its success sparked two sequels starring Poitier: ``They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!' and ``The Organization.' MGM Home Entertainment has released the Tibbs trilogy on DVD, with each film price at $19.98. They also are available on VHS for $9.84 each. Because of Poitier, all three films are worth watching, but there's little doubt that the first - ``In the Heat of the Night' - is the best.It opens with Poitier's Tibbs waiting to catch a late-night train at the lonely station in Sparta, Miss. The journey is delayed when he is arrested as a key suspect in the murder of wealthy Northern industrialist. The reason Tibbs is under suspicion? Because of the color of his skin. He's taken to the local gum-chewing, redneck sheriff, Bill Gillespie (played by Rod Steiger) who is surprised to learn that Tibbs is a homicide detective from Philadelphia.

That leads to a reluctant partnership between the two men as they set about to solve the crime. The movie is a fine murder mystery, but it is more than that. The interaction and verbal exchanges between Tibbs and Gillespie are at the center of it all.

As the case progresses, each man begins to develop a mutual respect and admiration for the other. When the murder is finally solved, Gillespie goes to the train station to see Tibbs off. It's obvious by the way the two say farewell that they not only have respect for each other but have become friends.

The other two entries in the Tibbs trilogy:

``They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!' (1970): Poitier returned as Tibbs in this well-done follow-up. We find out that he has long since left Philadelphia and is now a lieutenant working for the San Francisco police department. Tibbs is called in to investigate a liberal street preacher and political candidate (played by Martin Landau), who is accused of murdering a prostitute. The sub-plot involves Tibbs' domestic problems, which include a wife (Barbara McNair) frustrated by the demand of her husband's job and a rebellious son.

``The Organization' (1971): Tibbs finds himself unwittingly allied with a group of young revolutionaries who break into a company's headquarters and steal $5 million worth of heroin just to keep it off the streets and out of the hands of potential drug addicts. At first, Tibbs sees them simply as lawbreakers. But when the group members are accused of a murder they didn't commit, Tibbs goes to work to prove their innocence. McNair is back in the role of Tibbs' wife.


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