Sidney Poitier played Detective Virgil Tibbs for the third and final time in the 1970 film, The Organization.
This time, Virgil is investigating a murder at an office building in San Francisco. It’s a very odd murder, in that an executive was shot, a security guard was bludgeoned, and even though it looks like there was a robbery taking place, nothing appears to have actually been stolen. Since neither the company nor the executive were believed to be involved in anything shady, Virgil finds himself perplexed as to why any of this has happened at all.
Fortunately, the local urban revolutionaries are here to help! They contact Virgil and Virgil reluctantly agrees to meet with the group, which is made up of the usual collection of angry 1970s activists — i.e., a dissident preacher, a reformed drug dealer, a guy who won’t stop yelling, and a woman who is obviously going to be killed before the movie is over. The revolutionaries explain that they were the ones who broke into the office but they also say that they didn’t kill anyone. Instead, they broke into the office because they wanted the police to investigate the break-in and discover that the company was a front for a bunch of drug dealers. “The Organization” is flooding poor and minority neighborhoods with heroin and the revolutionaries want to stop them. In fact, the revolutionaries have stolen four million dollars worth of heroin. Now, they want Virgil to help them.
Even though Virgil is sympathetic to the revolutionaries, he’s still a cop and he can’t get directly involved with illegal activities. Instead, he agrees to not arrest the revolutionaries and to continue his investigation, in the hope of bringing down the Organization. It’s not going to be easy, of course. There’s evidence that the Organization may even have agents inside the San Francisco police department.
As far as the Virgil Tibbs movies are concerned, The Organization is slightly better than They Call Me Mister Tibbs! but it’s nowhere near as good as the one that started it all, In The Heat of the Night. Probably the biggest flaw with The Organization is that Virgil has to share the spotlight with the revolutionaries. With the exception of Raul Julia (who plays a former drug dealer named Juan), none of the revolutionaries are particularly memorable characters and their plan for taking down The Organization is so unnecessarily convoluted that it’s hard to believe that Virgil would go along with it.
On the plus side, The Organization works fairly well as a conspiracy thriller. It does manage to create a consistent atmosphere of unease and mistrust. This is one of those films where people are constantly getting shot by unseen gunmen mere minutes after getting arrested and the fact that even cool and in-control Virgil Tibbs can’t save them does a lot towards creating a nice sense of paranoia. The films end on perhaps the most downbeat note of all of the Virgil Tibbs movies, suggesting that, in the end, everything we’ve just watched was for nothing.
Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:
- The Flight That Disappeared
- The Humanity Bureau
- The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
- The Falcon and the Snowman
- New World Order
- Scandal Sheet
- Cuban Rebel Girls
- The French Connection II
- Blunt: The Fourth Man
- The Quiller Memorandum
- Best Seller
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs