You might say I'm a social worker. I've come to do what I can.
When Roger Corman's name comes up, the phrase "maker of hard-hitting social dramas" doesn't exactly spring to mind, but he did make one -- 1962's The Intruder, which starred William Shatner as a representative of the Patrick Henry Society who arrives in a small southern town to fight racial integration of the local high school. Following an unbroken string of financial successes, this was the first film Corman made that didn't immediately reap a profit, which is why he retreated to the exploitation films he was known for and didn't look back. The major studios could afford to make the occasional prestige film for the sake of posterity; Corman needed each film to make money so he could go on and make the next one.
Long before he became known for his hammy acting, Shatner put in a credible performance here as the anti-integrationist (who's also rabidly anti-commie and antisemitic to boot) who talks a good talk, but can't control the situation once he's stirred up the hornet's nest. He's ably assisted by Frank Maxwell as a newspaper editor who's against integration, but finds Shatner's methods even more distasteful, Beverly Lunsford as Maxwell's daughter, who goes to the high school that's being integrated, Robert Emhardt as a rich southern gentleman who gives Shatner crucial backing, Leo Gordon as a traveling salesman staying just down the hall from Shatner who unwisely leaves his wife Jeanne Cooper on her own, and Charles Barnes as one of the black students reluctantly going to the white school, much to the majority population's consternation. To illustrate this, Charles Beaumont's screenplay (based on his novel) is peppered with racial slurs (I counted 21 uses of the n-word alone), some of which were voiced by local nonprofessionals who were probably all too comfortable using them. While the film may lack subtlety, one can't deny its power.
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