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A man in a gleaming white suit comes to a small Southern town on the eve of integration. His name is Adam Cramer. He calls himself a social reformer. But his aim is to incite the people against letting black children into the town's white school. Soon he has the white citizens of the town worked up. He thinks he's leading them; but a man he befriends and immediately betrays knows better. The people have become a mob. The black leader of a church and a white newspaper editor soon feel its wrath. But after a false accusation against a black student, Adam Cramer may find the people are totally and permanently out of his control.Written by
With 100 times the budget ($80K) of Roger Corman's The Intruder, lesser directors have created thousands of films with less than a hundredth of the intelligence, sensitivity, entertainment-value and raw power of this film. Charles Beaumont, the unfortunately short-lived author and screen-writer, was contracted to produce a screenplay from his novel (and appeared in the film as the beleaguered but morally just principal of a newly integrated school), a young but accomplished William Shatner was hired, and a few veteran character actors were brought on board. Most of the actors and crew were locals who, according to Corman, didn't know very much about what they were getting into. The rest is legend.
Corman indulged in a form of guerilla film-making to make a statement that he felt needed to be made. Corman, the cast and the crew were thrown out of two locations, worked under constant threat of physical violence, and wrapped this lean, tight, morality play in a grand total of three weeks. Most of the cast had literally NO acting experience. Does it show? Occasionally - but in the end the odd representations of some of the extras in the mob only adds to the film's realism.
The Intruder is a story which examines the ease with which a charismatic leader with a pernicious all-consuming hunger for power can exploit fear to rally otherwise normal people into irrationality, violence and hatred. William Shatner stars as Adam Cramer, a northern hate-monger who has just arrived in the small southern town of Caxton to sow the seeds of racial violence just as the town has begun to integrate its schools in compliance with federal law. Cramer preaches non-violent resistance, but is unwilling to stand in the way when his followers escalate the issue in their own way. His powerful and dramatic speaking ability and his cunning turn most of the town's white minority against their black neighbors, culminating in his orchestration of a vicious frame-up of an innocent student.
Cramer is, in one way or another, behind almost everything that happens in this film. Yet the film does not permit facile scape-goating of this single sociopath. Rather, it indicts ignorance in general, and racism, hatred and intolerance much more specifically. Amazingly, it does so without exploiting stereotypes of southerners, yankees, blacks, whites, or anybody else. The Intruder deals with its subjects without reducing them to anything that could be wholly represented or analyzed in the hour and half of intense drama the film gives us. Instead, the Intruder leaves its subjects wide-open and raw. If you view this film about once every 6 months, you might just take something different away from it each time.
I do not believe the rumor that Roger Corman has ever, in any way, suggested that William Shatner's performance destroyed this film's box office potential. In interviews, Corman has consistently given Shatner a great deal of praise for his award-winning portrayal of evil incarnate. And rightly so. Shatner is nothing short of incredible in this film. He clearly dedicated everything he had to this film, and it shows. Other noteworthy performances are given by Frank Maxwell, Robert Emhardt and Charles Barnes.
The film is pristinely directed - lean and economically edited, even for Corman. The cinematography is straightforward and clean. And the locations are entirely appropriate - another Corman trademark.
Possibly the best truly low-budget film I have ever seen. Would-be film-makers, even some established big-budget purveyors of modern junk-food-film should learn a great deal from a careful study of the Intruder.
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