The Intruder (1962 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Intruder is a 1962 American film directed by Roger Corman, after a novel by Charles Beaumont, starring William Shatner. Also called Shame in US release, and The Stranger in the UK release, it had its world premiere on May 14, 1962 in New York. The story centers around the machinations of a racist named Adam Cramer (portrayed by Shatner), who arrives in the fictitious small southern town of Caxton in order to incite townspeople to racial violence against the town's African-American minority and court-ordered school integration.

The film was shot in black and white on location in Missouri. The production was thrown out of East Prairie, Missouri, and Charleston, Missouri, because the locals objected to the film's addressing racism and segregation. Although it only had a budget of $80,000, the film lost money at the box office, as the major studios had predicted.

The Intruder is the greatest irony of Roger Corman's film career, after cranking out dozens of exploitation films he put up his own resources to produce a serious work of drama on the explosive issue of racism and integration. The film went on to win rave reviews and film festival prizes but became Corman's first film to lose money. It is Corman's highest ranked film on IMDb.


The introduction to Cramer is a simple shot of him stepping off a bus, carrying only a light suitcase, with an attitude of innate confidence, a confidence which throughout the film never diminishes. On an interpersonal level, starting with the first character Cramer meets, the audience sees he is a charmer, but it is soon revealed that the character uses this charm quite professionally, in furtherance of a hard, cunning political effort to incite Caxton's existing racial tension into violence. At the same time, Cramer seeks personal pleasure with every interaction. Cramer's racist, incendiary politics are thereby proven inseparable from his pleasure. By manipulating many of Caxton's citizens on a personal level, Cramer implements a strategic plan for incite violent action, which culminates in a lynch mob, after Cramer manipulates a teenager into making a false claim of interracial rape. A rational, internally secure character named Tom McDaniel, played easily by veteran actor Frank Maxwell, having accurately assessed Cramer's nature during a very interesting conversation in Cramer's hotel room while living next to Cramer in the hotel, breaks up the mob using his personal skills and natural presence. Rather than approach Cramer's obviously hopeless sociopathy vituperatively or violently, or take justifiably motivated revenge for Cramer's seduction of McDaniel's clinically depressed and therefore vulnerable wife (who flees), McDaniel without animosity offers Cramer bus fare out of town. This act preserves the film's focus on political manipulation of racial bigotry rather than getting payback for evildoing. A typical payback of the sort found too often in cinema would be too simple and easy a closure to a story situation that is difficult to develop yet unusually mesmerizing in execution, and would have interfered with proper perception of the characters. Arguably, since Cramer is a man of ideas, however destructive to human progress, McDaniel's ending is a uniquely personal form of justice which happens to preserve the film's focus.

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