Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Intruder (1962)

The Intruder is a 1962 American film directed by Roger Corman, after a novel by Charles Beaumont, starring William Shatner. Also called Shame in US release, and The Stranger in the UK release. The story depicts the machinations of a racist named Adam Cramer (portrayed by Shatner), who arrives in the fictitious small southern town of Caxton in order to incite townspeople to racial violence against the town's black minority and court-ordered school integration. The film was shot in black and white on location in southeast Missouri. Some of the production took place in East Prairie and Charleston (two towns in Mississippi County, Missouri). Before it was finished, local people objected to the film's portrayal of racism and segregation. Parts of the film were later filmed in Sikeston, Missouri. Although it only had a budget of $80,000, until recently it was the only Corman film to ever lose money. The film is also known under its reissue titles as I Hate Your Guts! and Shame. The introduction to Cramer is a simple shot of him stepping off a bus, carrying only a light suitcase, with innate confidence, a confidence which remains with him. On an interpersonal level, starting with the first character Cramer meets, the audience sees he is a charmer, but it is soon revealed that the character uses this charm quite professionally, in furtherance of a hard, cunning political effort to incite Caxton's existing racial tension into violence. At the same time, Cramer seeks personal pleasure with every interaction. Cramer's racist, incendiary politics are thereby proven inseparable from his pleasure. By manipulating many of Caxton's citizens on a personal level, Cramer implements a strategic plan to incite violent action, which culminates in a way even more violent than he predicted. Following an inflammatory speech by Cramer in front of the town hall, the first act of open violence is when the Ku Klux Klan, headed by Cramer, burns a cross in the black district, followed by the harassment and near-lynching of a black driver and his family. It is then that a rational, internally secure character named Tom McDaniel, played by veteran actor Frank Maxwell realizes he is willing to stand up against both Cramer and the townspeople's hatred toward their black neighbors -- this costs him a severe beating by his white neighbors, resulting in concussion and the loss of one eye. Realizing his grip on the mob may be fading, Cramer shrewdly manipulates McDaniel's teenage daughter (whom he had also seduced earlier in the movie) into making a false claim of interracial rape, which causes a mob to gather around the Caxton high school.

A parallel plot line has developed meanwhile, around Cramer's next-door neighbors at the motel, salesman Sam Griffin and his emotionally unstable wife, Vi, whom Cramer seduces while Griffin is away on business. Upon returning, Sam discovers his wife has left and confronts Cramer. Accurately assessing Cramer's nature during the ensuing confrontation, he goes on to break up the high school mob using his personal skills and natural presence, as well as a true confession by McDaniel's daughter. Rather than approach Cramer's sociopathy violently, or take revenge for Cramer's seduction of Griffin's wife, Griffin, without animosity, offers Cramer bus fare out of town.

83 MIN

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