The Organization


1h 45m 1971
The Organization

Brief Synopsis

When a group of revolutionaries fighting the drug rackets are framed for murder, detective Virgil Tibbs steps in to clear their names.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Crime
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 20 Oct 1971
Production Company
Mirisch Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States; San Francisco--BART system, California, United States; Sausalito, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the character created by John Dudley Ball.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In the middle of the night in San Francisco, a group of six people wearing plastic masks pose as a maintenance crew in order to infiltrate the Century Furniture Factory. With silent efficiency, they kidnap factory manager John Bishop, knock out guard George Morgan, and force Bishop to open the office vault, wherein lies their target: $4 million worth of heroin. Upon leaving, they blow up the building gate. Soon, detective Lt. Virgil Tibbs and his partner, Lt. Jack Pecora, are called in to investigate and find Bishop dead at his desk. Tibbs begins by questioning Morgan, who was knocked out, about why the robbers would have blown up the gate when they could have made their escape without opening the gate. Assistant manager William Martin is also questioned, but has no idea why anyone would have killed Bishop, who has no obvious enemies. Upon returning to their office, the police learn that Bishop was shot with two guns, execution-style; that the robbers entered from outside a window five stories high; and that they had only four minutes after tripping the alarms to exit the building. Meanwhile, corporate executives Bob Alford and Zach Mills, the leaders of the drug syndicate that supplied Bishop with the heroin, speak to their colleagues in Istanbul and Paris. Using code, they inform them that the heroin has been stolen and Bishop killed. At home that night, Tibbs is bantering with his wife Valerie and children Andy and Ginny when he receives an anonymous phone call asking him to walk alone along a city street at a certain hour. Instructing Pecora to come after him in thirty minutes, Tibbs does as he is told and is soon ushered into an apartment where the robbers have gathered. Leader Juan Mendoza introduces Rev. Dave Thomas, Annie Sekido, Charlie Blossom, Stacy Baker and Joe Peralez, who admit they robbed the factory but insist that they did not murder Bishop. The group, each member of which has lost a loved one to drug addiction or overdose, wants to destroy "the organization." When they ask for Tibbs's help, pointing out that they deliberately blew up the gate in order to tip off the authorities, he refuses, stating that he cannot risk his career by banding with criminals without the knowledge of the police force. When he returns to Pecora, however, Tibbs says nothing about the group. That night, narcotics captain Grayson shoots himself, causing the men in the station to assume he was corrupt. After Bishop's wife lies to the police that she drove her husband to the factory the night of his murder, Tibbs realizes that she is being pressured not to admit that he was kidnapped. He arranges to meet Dave, Annie and Juan on a ferry, where he reluctantly acknowledges that they are not the killers and agrees to work with them, as long as they do not make a move without his approval. Tibbs then re-questions Morgan, and when the guard refuses to admit that another car came in after the robbers broke in, Tibbs takes him in for further questioning. On way to the station, however, a car drives by and the passenger shoots Morgan, killing him before he can talk. Back at the station, Pecora wonders why Tibbs did not take him along to interrogate Morgan, but Tibbs deflects his questions and visits Morgan's widow Gloria to question her. She reveals that Morgan was rich, suggesting that Bishop was paying him off. Later, two toughs beat up Joe and offer him half a million dollars to meet them at Washington Square with information about where the heroin is hidden. Joe tells Juan, who urges him to meet the thugs in order to glean more information about them. Meanwhile, Pecora suggests that Tibbs call in the narcotics squad to help with the case, but Tibbs manages to hold him off. Joe goes to the designated meeting place and, while Juan and Annie watch nervously, a car arrives and takes him away. He shows the thugs a sample of the heroin and asks for $5 million, and in response, they threaten his life and order him to meet them that night. Annie, fearful for her friends, informs Tibbs, who instructs her to convince them that they must include him in their dealings, for their own safety. They arrange for Annie to call the station and anonymously tip off Pecora to the meeting point that night. As she hangs up the phone, however, the thugs follow her, and despite her efforts to elude them, they trap her in her car. Meanwhile, Jessop, the head of the narcotics division, assigns four men to help Tibbs and Pecora that night. The undercover police tail Joe, but when no one shows up at the meeting place, Tibbs is excoriated for wasting their time. Soon, Tibbs hears that Annie's dead body has been found, and meets the remaining five men to tell them that, because Annie was tortured to inform on them, they have been exposed and must flee. Tibbs and Pecora then question Martin again and, upon running through the complex alarm system with him, deduce that the murderers must have had an outside accomplice. Soon after, Tibbs learns from Dave that Joe's apartment is being watched by the thugs, and Tibbs rushes there, arriving just as the thugs run over Joe with their car. Although Tibbs arrests one of the men, the severely injured Joe blames the policeman for failing to protect him. When Jessop arrives at the hospital to question Joe, he learns of Tibbs's involvement, and soon Tibbs is called in to his superior, Capt. Stacy, and suspended for withholding information from the department. As Tibbs leaves, Jessop caustically informs him that Grayson killed himself not because he was corrupt but because he was dying of leukemia. Tibbs, unwilling to abandon the surviving vigilantes, asks his friend, the lawyer Sgt. Leo Chassman, for help in investigating Century. Chassman learns that the company has myriad "dummy" corporations as stockholders, and informs Tibbs about its complex financial workings. Meanwhile, Juan calls his friend Benjy, a small-time dealer, and offers to exchange the heroin for half a million dollars, on a crowded street. As Juan has hoped, Benjy arranges for the transfer with Alford and Mills, who arrive on the street to supervise the transaction. Just as Benjy and Juan swap bags, Charlie grabs the bag of heroin and runs off. While Tibbs's men, whom Juan has informed about the meeting, arrest Benjy, the organization's men chase Charlie into the unfinished subway system, followed by Tibbs. Together, Charlie and Tibbs shoot some of the thugs, and when the police arrive to finish the job, Tibbs runs off so they will not know he has been involved. He goes to Gloria's house and there casually reveals that he knows, based on the fact that Chassman's research has revealed that she is a major, wealthy stockholder in Century, who worked as a drug runner for the organization and facilitated Bishop's murder by tripping the alarms for the killers. After letting Pecora into the house, Tibbs advises Gloria to identify her bosses before they kill her, then uncovers a stash of heroin hidden inside a cut of beef in her refrigerator. Trapped, Gloria admits that Alford and Mills were behind the murder. The two men are arrested, but as they are being transported to testify, a sniper shoots them both before they can talk. Realizing that the organization will continue its dirty dealings, the reinstated Tibbs accepts a ride home from Pecora.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Crime
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 20 Oct 1971
Production Company
Mirisch Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States; San Francisco--BART system, California, United States; Sausalito, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the character created by John Dudley Ball.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

The Organization


Sidney Poitier returns to the indelible character he created in In the Heat of the Night (1967) for the third and final time in The Organization (1971). In the first movie, Philadelphia police Lt. Virgil Tibbs, stranded in a small Southern town, becomes involved in a suspenseful murder investigation that served as the pretext for an examination of racial tension and the possibility for tolerance and understanding. By the time of They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), the character had switched to the San Francisco police department and race was no longer the main issue. But that movie and The Organization did attempt to tie their crime thrillers to hot-button issues of the day. If they were not as successful as the first one, they at least had Poitier's assured, commanding presence to ground them and hold audience interest.

In The Organization, a group of young activists want to break up a local drug ring. They break into the furniture warehouse used as a front by the criminals and try to steal a cache of heroin. In the course of the citizen raid, however, the store manager is killed, and one of the members of the group contacts Tibbs to confess to the break-in but to insist the murder was not their fault. Tibbs is reluctant to get involved with the vigilantes at first, but soon risks his job by helping them prove their innocence. He is soon suspended from the force, but that gives him the freedom to bust the drug ring. Although far more "liberal" in its approach and viewpoint than movies like Death Wish (1974), this can be seen as one of the spate of films that came out during this time demonstrating a sympathetic attitude toward citizens moved to action by soaring crime rates and ineffective or corrupt law enforcement.

Director Don Medford has had one of the most prolific careers of any TV director, starting with episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, and The Rifleman in the 1950s and continuing with Dynasty, The Colbys, and The Fall Guy 30 years later. In between, he took time out to make his only two feature films, this and The Hunting Party (1971), with Oliver Reed, Gene Hackman, and Candice Bergen.

In addition to Poitier, Barbara McNair also returns from the previous film as Tibbs's wife and so do George and Wanda Spell as the Tibbs children. And look for early appearances by Ron O'Neal (Superfly, 1972), Raul Julia (The Addams Family, 1991), Daniel J. Travanti (TV's Hill Street Blues series), and Demond Wilson of the sitcom Sanford and Son. Also in the cast is Sheree North, who received a major buildup as a starlet at Fox during the 1950s and was cast in parts that would have gone to Marilyn Monroe in earlier days. By the time of this release, she had moved into steady work as a character actress.

But the main reason to see The Organization is for Sidney Poitier. In March 2002, he was honored by the Motion Picture Academy for his lifetime achievement in film. The honor was richly deserved, as noted throughout the Oscar telecast, especially by the two winners of the top acting awards, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, performers for whom Poitier paved the way. He was not the first black American to win an Oscar; that distinction goes to Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939). But Poitier was certainly the first black to break through to major mainstream success and become an important Hollywood star. He received his first nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958) and won Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963). His work has been honored by festivals and academies throughout the world.

Director: Don Medford
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Screenplay: James R. Webb
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Editing: Ferris Webster
Art Direction: George B. Chan
Original Music: Gil Melle
Cast: Sidney Poitier (Virgil Tibbs), Barbara McNair (Valerie Tibbs), Gerald S. OÕLoughlin (Lt. Pecora), Sheree North (Mrs. Morgan), Allen Garfield (Benjy), Bernie Hamilton (Lt. Jessop), Raul Julia (Juan Mendoza), Ron O'Neal (Joe Peralez), Daniel J. Travanti (Sgt. Chassman), Billy Green Bush (Dave Thomas).
C-106m.

by Rob Nixon

The Organization

The Organization

Sidney Poitier returns to the indelible character he created in In the Heat of the Night (1967) for the third and final time in The Organization (1971). In the first movie, Philadelphia police Lt. Virgil Tibbs, stranded in a small Southern town, becomes involved in a suspenseful murder investigation that served as the pretext for an examination of racial tension and the possibility for tolerance and understanding. By the time of They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), the character had switched to the San Francisco police department and race was no longer the main issue. But that movie and The Organization did attempt to tie their crime thrillers to hot-button issues of the day. If they were not as successful as the first one, they at least had Poitier's assured, commanding presence to ground them and hold audience interest. In The Organization, a group of young activists want to break up a local drug ring. They break into the furniture warehouse used as a front by the criminals and try to steal a cache of heroin. In the course of the citizen raid, however, the store manager is killed, and one of the members of the group contacts Tibbs to confess to the break-in but to insist the murder was not their fault. Tibbs is reluctant to get involved with the vigilantes at first, but soon risks his job by helping them prove their innocence. He is soon suspended from the force, but that gives him the freedom to bust the drug ring. Although far more "liberal" in its approach and viewpoint than movies like Death Wish (1974), this can be seen as one of the spate of films that came out during this time demonstrating a sympathetic attitude toward citizens moved to action by soaring crime rates and ineffective or corrupt law enforcement. Director Don Medford has had one of the most prolific careers of any TV director, starting with episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, and The Rifleman in the 1950s and continuing with Dynasty, The Colbys, and The Fall Guy 30 years later. In between, he took time out to make his only two feature films, this and The Hunting Party (1971), with Oliver Reed, Gene Hackman, and Candice Bergen. In addition to Poitier, Barbara McNair also returns from the previous film as Tibbs's wife and so do George and Wanda Spell as the Tibbs children. And look for early appearances by Ron O'Neal (Superfly, 1972), Raul Julia (The Addams Family, 1991), Daniel J. Travanti (TV's Hill Street Blues series), and Demond Wilson of the sitcom Sanford and Son. Also in the cast is Sheree North, who received a major buildup as a starlet at Fox during the 1950s and was cast in parts that would have gone to Marilyn Monroe in earlier days. By the time of this release, she had moved into steady work as a character actress. But the main reason to see The Organization is for Sidney Poitier. In March 2002, he was honored by the Motion Picture Academy for his lifetime achievement in film. The honor was richly deserved, as noted throughout the Oscar telecast, especially by the two winners of the top acting awards, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, performers for whom Poitier paved the way. He was not the first black American to win an Oscar; that distinction goes to Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939). But Poitier was certainly the first black to break through to major mainstream success and become an important Hollywood star. He received his first nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958) and won Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963). His work has been honored by festivals and academies throughout the world. Director: Don Medford Producer: Walter Mirisch Screenplay: James R. Webb Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc Editing: Ferris Webster Art Direction: George B. Chan Original Music: Gil Melle Cast: Sidney Poitier (Virgil Tibbs), Barbara McNair (Valerie Tibbs), Gerald S. OÕLoughlin (Lt. Pecora), Sheree North (Mrs. Morgan), Allen Garfield (Benjy), Bernie Hamilton (Lt. Jessop), Raul Julia (Juan Mendoza), Ron O'Neal (Joe Peralez), Daniel J. Travanti (Sgt. Chassman), Billy Green Bush (Dave Thomas). C-106m. by Rob Nixon

Ron O'Neal (1937-2003) - Ron O'Neal (1937-2003)


Ron O'Neal, the handsome, athletic black actor who shot to fame in the '70s for his role as the Harlem drug dealer "Youngblood Priest" in the cult flick, Superfly (1972), died of cancer in Los Angeles on January 14th. He was 66.

O'Neal was born on September 1, 1937 in Utica, New York, but he grew up in Cleveland. After graduating high school in 1955, he joined the city's widely acclaimed Karamu House, an experimental interracial theatrical troupe. During his nine-year stint with the playhouse, he had roles in such varied productions as A Raisin in the Sun, A Streetcar Named Desire and Kiss Me Kate.

After moving to New York City in the mid-'60s, he taught acting classes in Harlem and performed in summer stock. He came to critical notice in the off-Broadway production of Charles Gordone's Pulitzer Prize-winning No Place to be Somebody where he earned an Obie Award (the off-Broadway Tony) for his work. The producers of Superfly saw him in that production and cast him in the film's lead role of "Youngblood Priest". The film was a box-office smash, and O'Neal, looking slick and ultra-stylish in his big fedora hat, leather boots, flowing scarf, and floor length trench coat, became a pop culture icon of the "blaxsploitation" genre overnight.

O'Neal would try his hand at directing when he took on the sequel Superfly T.N.T. (1973). Unfortunately, his lack of experience showed as the poorly directed film lacked its predecessor's wit and pace, and proved a resounding commercial flop. Sadly, O'Neal's fame (as well as the blaxsploitation genre itself), would inevitably fade, and by the decade's end, O'Neal would be co-starring in such B-films as When a Stranger Calls, and the Chuck Norris actioner A Force of One (both 1979).

His fortunes did brighten in the mid-'80s with television, earning semi-regular roles in two of the more popular shows of the day: The Equalizer (1985-89) and A Different World (1987-93). Better still, as scholars and film fans rediscovered his performance in Superfly, O'Neal gathered some movie work again. He was cast alongside fellow blaxsploitation stars Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Richard Roundtree in the genre's tribute film Original Gangstas (1996); the film was a modest hit, and O'Neal made the rounds in a few more urban action thrillers, most notably his final film On the Edge (2002), co-starring rap and televisions star, Ice-T. O'Neal is survived by his wife Audrey Pool O'Neal, and sister, Kathleen O'Neal.

by Michael T. Toole

Ron O'Neal (1937-2003) - Ron O'Neal (1937-2003)

Ron O'Neal, the handsome, athletic black actor who shot to fame in the '70s for his role as the Harlem drug dealer "Youngblood Priest" in the cult flick, Superfly (1972), died of cancer in Los Angeles on January 14th. He was 66. O'Neal was born on September 1, 1937 in Utica, New York, but he grew up in Cleveland. After graduating high school in 1955, he joined the city's widely acclaimed Karamu House, an experimental interracial theatrical troupe. During his nine-year stint with the playhouse, he had roles in such varied productions as A Raisin in the Sun, A Streetcar Named Desire and Kiss Me Kate. After moving to New York City in the mid-'60s, he taught acting classes in Harlem and performed in summer stock. He came to critical notice in the off-Broadway production of Charles Gordone's Pulitzer Prize-winning No Place to be Somebody where he earned an Obie Award (the off-Broadway Tony) for his work. The producers of Superfly saw him in that production and cast him in the film's lead role of "Youngblood Priest". The film was a box-office smash, and O'Neal, looking slick and ultra-stylish in his big fedora hat, leather boots, flowing scarf, and floor length trench coat, became a pop culture icon of the "blaxsploitation" genre overnight. O'Neal would try his hand at directing when he took on the sequel Superfly T.N.T. (1973). Unfortunately, his lack of experience showed as the poorly directed film lacked its predecessor's wit and pace, and proved a resounding commercial flop. Sadly, O'Neal's fame (as well as the blaxsploitation genre itself), would inevitably fade, and by the decade's end, O'Neal would be co-starring in such B-films as When a Stranger Calls, and the Chuck Norris actioner A Force of One (both 1979). His fortunes did brighten in the mid-'80s with television, earning semi-regular roles in two of the more popular shows of the day: The Equalizer (1985-89) and A Different World (1987-93). Better still, as scholars and film fans rediscovered his performance in Superfly, O'Neal gathered some movie work again. He was cast alongside fellow blaxsploitation stars Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Richard Roundtree in the genre's tribute film Original Gangstas (1996); the film was a modest hit, and O'Neal made the rounds in a few more urban action thrillers, most notably his final film On the Edge (2002), co-starring rap and televisions star, Ice-T. O'Neal is survived by his wife Audrey Pool O'Neal, and sister, Kathleen O'Neal. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening credits include the statement "Based on the character created by John Ball." The closing credits begin with an acknowledgment of the San Francisco police. The opening credits are preceeded by an approximately eleven-minute sequence, almost without dialogue, during which the robbers infiltrate the factory and steal the heroin.
       Sidney Poitier had previously appeared as "Virgil Tibbs" in The Heat of the Night (1967, ) and They Call Me Mister Tibbs (1970, see below). Barbara McNair and Wanda and George Spell, who respectively played Tibbs's wife and children in The Organization, played the same roles in They Call Me Mister Tibbs. Although producer Walter Mirisch asserted in a June 1971 Los Angeles Times interview that he planned to shoot a fourth installment in the series, Poitier stated in the same article that he had little interest in revisiting the character again. In his autobiography, Poitier noted that while shooting The Organization, he was preoccupied with editing chores on his directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher (1972).
       As noted onscreen, The Organization was shot on location in San Francisco, and press notes include the nearby location of Sausalito. Some scenes were shot in the then-unfinished Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system. Maxwell Gail, Jr., more commonly known as Max Gail, made his feature film debut in The Organization. A modern source adds Hal Needham as a stuntperson. While reviews were generally favorable, some critics cited The French Connection (1971, ) as a grittier version of a similar story.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971