Directed by Roger Corman
Studio: Buena Vista
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 83 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Review Date: September 18, 2007
The gradual progression of integration into mainstream American life has been a slow and sometimes torturous process. Roger Corman’s The Intruder deals with one Southern town’s resistance to the coming change. The film is an ugly reminder of how close-minded and vicious some people can be who fear change, and the dark tone of the piece isn’t much lightened despite what inevitably happens to the person spewing the most hatred and bigotry.
It may come as a surprise to many people, but William Shatner was at one time one of the most dynamic young actors in the business. Long before Captain Kirk and Denny Crane took over his persona, he was a young actor of surprising potency. (I’ll never forget his performance as a pitiable psychotic in an episode of The Fugitive also filmed before he began commanding the Enterprise.) In The Intruder he plays Adam Cramer, a radically racist member of the Patrick Henry Society pushing for white supremacy and an end to integration. He comes to the quiet Southern town of Caxton where ten young black students are to begin attending the previously all-white high school and begins to stir up the white population with his rabble rousing techniques. Before long, the mob mentality takes over and intimidation tactics begin to appear. Soon thereafter, we start to see the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan, burning crosses, and churches being firebombed. White newspaper editor Tom McDaniel (Frank Maxwell) supports integration as the law, but the mob turns on him, too, led by town elder Verne Shipman (Robert Emhardt).
The violence is pretty stiff for an early 1960s movie, and the dialog is heavily laced with many pejoratives for African-Americans used at the time. Corman places the camera low at many moments giving an often monstrous heaviness to the people being shot, and in using some circular camera movements at other intervals, the viewer seems unsteady and slightly off-balance throughout, surely deliberate on the part of the director. The dramatic mood of the piece is decidedly melodramatic, but it certainly holds one’s attention.
William Shatner does the starring role proud giving a galvanizing performance that may not equal Burt Lancaster’s bravado in Elmer Gantry but which most certainly is worthy of comparison. Frank Maxwell, Robert Emhardt, and Leo Gordon (playing a traveling salesman whom Draper cuckolds and who later exacts his revenge) all lend a professional air to the proceedings. Sadly, Roger Corman cast some other important roles with local townspeople, and their inexperience and amateur stabs at acting are in poor contrast to their Hollywood counterparts. The drama suffers when tense moments are placed in the hands of non-professionals. Charles Beaumont, who wrote the incisive script and the novel on which it’s based, also appears in the film as the high school principal.
The film is presented here in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio though one suspects with all the head room in the frame that the film was meant for 1.85:1 projection. Buena Vista has done no digital clean-up or repair to the picture, and the image here is dirty and filled with scratches and missing frames. The black and white transfer (mistakenly mislabeled on the cover art as being in color) has decent blacks and good shadow detail, but the splotches and speckles are almost constant. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is decoded by Prologic into the center channel. The audio fidelity is mediocre though the audio quality is a step above the video quality on this title. It’s not terrible, but it’s not outstanding either, and there are moments when the volume level is low and there is occasionally a low level of hiss present.
“Remembering The Intruder” is a 9½-minute featurette in which producer-director Roger Corman and star William Shatner (separately) remember their experiences of working on the movie. It’s presented in 4:3 aspect ratio and in color.
Roger Corman remembers The Intruder as his only film that didn’t return a profit in its initial release (subsequent reissues and video sales have since put it in the black). For its day, it’s a powerful film with a melodramatic look at the problem of racial integration, but this bargain basement release doesn‘t do this worthy film any favors.