Monday, February 17, 2020

Quick Takes: The Intruder

In The Intruder (Roger Corman, 1962), William Shatner delivers a delightfully hateful, coldly calculating, and ultimately unhinged performance as a racist who, with insidious charm and diabolical plots, riles up a southern town against the then-new integration of public schools.

The Intruder is cheaply made but powerful; its low budget and c-list distribution might very well have contributed to its frankness, because lacking in production value the screenplay and direction really had to sell the narrative. And a challenging narrative it is, holding nothing back when it comes to the open vitriol and hatred many whites had (and have) for their black neighbours. Kind old ladies, children, and respected businessmen alike toss around the n-word and hateful stereotypes openly and without provocation, assuming everyone with white skin shares the same views. And in this film, virtually everyone does, with exception of one public school teacher and the wavering newspaper editor and his wife and daughter.

This isn't an easy film to watch, because it doesn't gloss over deep-seated hate, nor is the ending really a happy one. Shatner's character gets run out of town when one of his schemes finally goes a little too far, yes, but with the exceptions noted above, the people of the community are as hateful as they were prior to Shatner's arrival. Its black citizens are no more welcome, especially the vulnerable black children and teens who will have to continue living with the hate and scorn they endure at the newly-integrated public school. 

The Intruder is an overlooked gem I'd never heard of until a few days ago, and while an uncomfortable watch, I think it's an important one. How far have we really come, deep down?

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