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Adam Cramer (William Shatner), a stranger working on behalf of an
utlra-reactionary organisation, comes to a small town in the South of the
USA to help the people with their problem - integration. Of course,
almost all (white) Southerners are against it, but what can they do when
the gouvernment orders blacks to be admitted to high school ? Now Cramer,
with the help of rich businessman Shipman (Robert Emhardt), claims to have
the solution, and soon he has most of the whitefolks out on the street
picketing, and at night they dress in best Ku Klux Klan attire and burn
crosses. Things start to slip a little though when a couple of his
admirers take matters into their own hands, blow up the church of the
blacks and thus kill the black priest, which is a blow to Cramer's plans
who wants to win the battle aghainst integration without the use of
violence. At least, the townsfolks think, that will teach these niggers
not to come to our high school no more.
However, there is one man in town, newspaper editor Tom McDaniel (Frank
Maxwell) whose eyes have been opened by all that has happened, and he
personally escorts the black students to high school the next day ... and
is brutally beaten up by the townsfolks for it - a second blow for
Cramer's anti violence campaign.
In the meantime, Cramer has also made another mistake, he had sex with
the wife (Jeanne Cooper) of his next-door neighbour Sam Griffin (Leo
Gordon), a run-down salesman who sees right through Cramer's techniques of
pitching an idea - and he promises Cramer to get back at him.
Cramer soon realizes he needs a big showdown to end his war - so he
more or less forces McDaniel's daughter Ella (Beverly Lunsford) to accuse
black student Joey Green (Charles Barnes) of having raped her, otherwise
her father will be hurt even more. Of course, once these accusations are
made public, Cramer organizes an angry mob to put the high school under
siege and demand its principal (Charles Beaumont) to release Joey into
their custody. Joey realizes his only (slim) chance is to face the mob ...
however, it is not long before the mob once again slips out of Cramer's
hands, and instead of handing the boy over to the police (which Cramer
wanted to do) they prepare to lynch him - and almost succeed in doing so,
too, until Sam Griffin shows up with Ella and makes her tell the whole
truth - that all of her accusations were lies and she was set up to do it
by Cramer. All of a sudden, Cramer's grip over the townsfolks is broken,
and even his mentor, Shipman, doesn't only turn away from him, he also
slaps him out of sheer disappointment and frustration ... and Cramer
himself almost suffers a mental breakdown, while Sam Griffin, who looked
like a born loser from the beginning, has not only won over Cramer in the
end, he has also saved the black boy's life ...
Roger Corman's most ambitious film is quite probably also the best
anti-segregation film of its time (not that there were many good ones),
and for once, Corman's a tad rough, unpretentious, even gritty directorial
style, his cheap production methods and his dedication to entertainment
instead of socio-political commentary work entirely for the film
(interestingly enough though, The Intruder, perhaps because of its
controversial subject matter, was Corman's only film that did not make its
money back - at least not in the short run). Part of the impact of the
film has to be accredited to William Shatner though, who was a very
capable actor before he decided to play every role like Captain Kirk from Star
Trek and whi gives a frightfully believable performance, quite
probably the best of his career.
Highest recommendation !!!