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A small southern town has just been rocked by a tragedy: a young woman has been violently raped. The white town fathers immediately declare that the attacker had to be black, and place the blame on Garth, a young black man. Assuming that the men in white sheets aren't intent on holding a fair and impartial trial, Garth takes to the woods as the Klansmen lynching party hunts him down. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Samuel Fuller submitted a screenplay that was almost completely different from what was filmed. Among other things, the Lee Marvin character was not a sheriff, but a KKK leader whose racist viewpoint is completely changed around. However, Paramount got nervous about the provocative nature of the screenplay and ordered it rewritten, infuriating Fuller (who left the project because of this) and Marvin (who wanted out but had already signed a contract.) See more »
The Klansman could be one of two things. It is either a brave exploration of racial hatred and violence in the US Deep South. Or, it is a reckless film which is trying to generate entertainment by exploiting racial tension. I don't agree with the majority of critics who say that this film is violent and trashy rubbish.... in my eyes, it poses enough interesting questions and pushes the audience out of their comfort zone sufficiently to be a worthwhile film. I wouldn't say that it's a great, misunderstood masterpiece, but it is definitely a film that needs reappraisal.
The story is set in Atoka County, Alabama, where race relations are balanced on a knife edge. The rape of a white woman by a negro triggers off a campaign of Ku Klux Klan violence, including the castration of a black youth, which in turn leads to retaliation by black extremists such as O.J. Simpson. Thrown into the struggles are Lee Marvin (the town sherriff who knows that racism is bad but tolerates it in order to cling to a degree of order) and Richard Burton (a landowner who sympathises with blacks, but is haunted by memories of what the Klan did to his grand father).
The film contains at least one unwatchable rape scene and some tasteless dialogue. It also suffers because Burton is so clearly miscast as a southern sympathiser (his accent is dodgy and he seems disinterested in the story). However, it takes a highly chraged theme and deals with it interestingly and provocatively. The violence jolts you out of your chair and forces you to think about the two sides of the argument. The climax is memorable and leaves you feeling empty and sick, especially at the waste of life caused by the single-minded, lethal actions of racist extremists.
A decent film, then, worth seeing for yourself. The critics got this one wrong. Give it a go.
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