Movie Diary 3/26/2023

The Intruder (Roger Corman, 1962). By legend, the only Corman picture that lost money – a relentless broadside against the world of Jim Crow, absolutely blunt and pulling no punches. William Shatner plays an agitator from a John Birch Society-style organization who arrives in a small segregated town and riles up the locals about these new civil-rights laws that will force schools to integrate. Shatner also takes time to seduce a lonely wife (Jeanne Cooper) in the next apartment, and a teenage girl; and he organizes a cross-burning, of course. As usual with Corman, there’s not a lazy camera angle in sight, and plenty of evocative locations. Some effective scenes come from Corman’s tendency to underplay, including a near-lynching in a park playground, where the crowd terrorizing a Black teenager is populated by adults and kids alike, all gathered for a fun time. The script is by Charles Beaumont, based on his novel, and he also plays a sympathetic role as a high-school principal. Shatner is very good, full of young-actor brio, and he understands exactly what the role is and how it fits his bombastic side – his performance, and the film itself, is keen-eyed about finding hypocrisy in everyday exchanges, and (despite the melodrama otherwise on display) seeing the absurdity in this racist milieu.


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