Intruder [1962]

The Intruder is the greatest irony of Roger Corman's film career. In 1962, after cranking out dozens of exploitation quickies and gaining recognition for his widescreen Edgar Allen Poe series, he put up his own resources to produce a serious work of drama on the explosive issue of racism and integration. Shot on location in a small town in Missouri, where he and his crew faced bigotry first hand when the locals found out exactly what they were actually shooting, the film went on to win rave reviews and film festival prizes and became Corman's first film to lose money. William Shatner delivers the most controlled performance of his career as Adam Cramer, a cool, charismatic white supremacist who rouses the smoldering white citizens of a small Southern town to mob violence on the eve of school integration. As the crowd slips from his control and events escalate, Cramer's true intentions are laid bare, and as he flails about in desperation Shatner's performance slides into near hysteria. There are few weak performances in the smaller roles and the film at times slips into didactic speeches, but Corman's strong direction drives home the film in powerful scenes and striking imagery: Cramer's incendiary speech on the courthouse steps, the deathly quiet KKK ride through the black part of town. By the climax Corman understands that controlled silence is even more terrifying than a mob's thundering cries. --Sean Axmaker

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