Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roger Corman Week - Day 2 - The Intruder (1962)

We continue Roger Corman Week with a look today at one of his more unusual films and the one out of his whole body of work that he claims actually lost him money.

Corman, of course, is best known as a producer and director of horror, sci-fi, and exploitation films. However he certainly was not afraid to tackle other topics and genres. he made racing movies such as the original The Fast and the Furious, westerns like The Oklahoma Woman, gangster films like Machine Gun Kelly, biker films like the Peter Fonda vehicle The Wild Angels, and even a World War I fighter pilot movie, Von Richtofen and Brown. Then there's today's film, The Intruder, also know as Shame and I Hate Your Guts, which tackles the issue of racial prejudice.

In the film, which is based on a novel by Charles Beaumont, William Shatner plays a man named Adam Cramer who comes to the small southern town of Caxton in order to incite racial hatred and to fight court-ordered school desegregation. This was, of course, a hot topic at the time, and Corman was certainly trying to tap into the popular zeitgeist. Shatner's Cramer is an unapologetic racist who seems to be in town simply to see how much trouble and hatred he can stir up. He is presented at first as a very charming person who eaasily ingratiates himself to the towns majority white population. It is soon revealed, however, that his easy charm is a facade and he is simply out for his own goals and to lead the townspeople to violence against their black neighbors. Finally, after a fiery town hall steps speech by Cramer, the townspeople do turn violent, burning a cross in one family's yard and nearly lynching another.

Not all of the townspeople have fallen under Cramer's sway, however, and one of those, Tom Maxwell finally stands up to Cramer and his hate speech. Unfortunately, his reward for his bravery is a massive beating that costs him an eye. Cramer is then able to manipulate Maxwell's daughter into blaming the towns blacks for her father's beating and as a result she falsely accuses one of them of rape. Meanwhile, Cramer has also been busy seducing the wife of Sam Griffin, a businessman who has been out of town. Upon returning and discovering what Cramer has been up to, Griffin, rather than using the same type of violence against Cramer that the smooth-talker has been trying to incite, decides to get his revenge by really hitting Cramer where it hurts, destroying his reputation, calming the mob that has formed as a result of Maxwell's daughter's accusations, and even getting her to publicly admit that her story was a lie. In the end, Cramer shows the people the truth of what they have been doing, and gives Cramer a ticket to get back on the bus out of town that we first saw him arrive on.

By not allowing the film to simply degrade into some sort of slugfest or revenge flick or letting the film slide completely into melodrama, and by presenting both Cramer and Griffin as men who have both their good and bad points, Corman presents a much more mature and balanced film than one might expect considering the topic and the times. It is very much an exploration of the ways that people can be manipulated and how those manipulations can often swing beyond the control of their originators. It also, despite having a satisfying conclusion, does not really offer a "happiness and light" ending. Nonetheless, or perhaps even because of these touches, despite a modest $80,000 budget, the movie was not able to find an audience and did not make money at the time. Upon it's home video re-release some fourty years later, however, Corman says that it finally made it's money back. Still, one must credit Corman for going ahead with a film that he thought was important to make even though he was repeatedly advised beforehand that it would probably not be a winner. It's defnitely a powerful film, and one that deserves to be seen even today.

Rather than a preview, today I'm going to give you a little featurette featuring an interview with Corman and Shatner talking about the harrowing time they had making this film on location:

Ok, kids, here's the Skinny:
Title: The Intruder (aka Shame, aka I Hate Your Guts)
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 84min
Black and White
Starring: William Shatner
Directed by: Roger Corman
Produced by: Roger Corman, Gene Corman
Released by: Pathé-America Distrib.Co.

The Intruder is available to watch or download for free here.
It's available on DVD from Amazon: The Intruder (40th Anniversary Edition).

It appears to be unavailable at Netflix, though you can reserve a copy for when it is available: The Intruder.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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