CORMANIA!!! Two Cents Film Club Looks at Roger Corman’s THE INTRUDER

The Intruder is first up in a month of honoring independent film legend Roger Corman

Two Cents is a Cinapse original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team curates the series and contribute their “two cents” using a maximum of 200-400 words. Guest contributors and comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future picks. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion. Would you like to be a guest contributor or programmer for an upcoming Two Cents entry? Simply watch along with us and/or send your pitches or 200-400 word reviews to [email protected].

James Cameron, Francis Coppola, Gale Anne Hurd, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, James Horner, and Martin Scorsese all have something common: they all got their start working with Roger. And that’s FAR from a comprehensive list. Amazingly, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Roger Corman may be the single most influential filmmaker of the last century. As a director, he pioneered the art of crafting movies with low budgets and high returns. As a producer, he perfected it. His productions have lent a start to scores of actors and filmmakers, including many of the biggest names in Hollywood.

This month on Two Cents we look back on the legacy of a legend and say THANK YOU, in our own way, to the late, great Roger Corman.

First up is the film that I imagine he would’ve most wanted us to cover, were it up to him: his incendiary and thought-provoking drama The Intruder, set in a small town at the onset of racial integration. William Shatner stars as a racist bigot, a member of a larger coordinated operation, who descends on the town with one goal – to stir up as much trouble and racial turmoil as he possibly can.

Ed Travis

Alternately titled I Hate Your Guts (the vastly superior title, though The Intruder is apt enough), Roger Corman truly crafted a rage-filled thriller set amidst the racial tensions around school integration. While it does fall victim (as so many of these kinds of films do) to being mostly about white people on either side of the integration battle, it nonetheless feels like a combination of prescient in its depiction of demagoguery embodied by William Shatner’s titular character Adam Cramer (perhaps the most loathsome character Shatner ever portrayed), and a kind of democratic wish-fulfillment that in the end the spell of self-satisfied, self-interested hate will be broken and cooler heads will prevail.

Cramer rolls into town with nothing but his white suit and devilish charisma and immediately begins to entrance all the white folks in town who are opposed to integration but who are accepting it as the law of the land. He also immediately begins wolfishly pursuing both a high school aged girl and a married woman. He’s absolutely skin-crawling, and the film is all the more compelling as a result. Whipping the city of Caxton up into a state of violent, grievance-based self-righteousness, mob rule begins to take charge and threaten the safety of the African American community there.

The Intruder features shocking imagery of the KKK, crosses burning, churches bombed, and frequent use of the N-word, so viewers should be advised at the frank depictions of real world trauma present here. In my opinion the true value of all of this is in the telling of how easily desperate white people can be swayed and influenced by a slick tongued “social worker” and how dangerous one overly confident white man with a narcissistic complex can be to a community. [Spoilers ahoy] It makes for a satisfying conclusion to a movie when all the heroic members of the community who break free from Cramer’s spell manage to diffuse the crowd, save a local Black student from a lynching, and essentially run Cramer out of town. It sends us out from a film loaded with evil vitriol hoping and believing that we might have the power to collectively work towards racial justice and to kick the demagogues out of their positions of influence, but one can’t help but feel that this kind of outcome only happens in the movies.

(@Ed_Travis on Xitter)

Jay Tyler

The most depressing thing about the Intruder (aka The Stranger, aka I Hate Your Guts, aka Shame) is that instead of feeling like “of its time” discourse examination, it feels unnervingly prescient and contemporary. William Shatner’s Adam Cramer, a truly horrific character based partially on the real life agitator John Kasper, spews a rhetoric that may be more explicit in its bigotry, but is not that far from the most vitriolic right-wing talking heads of our modern political discourse. His dramatic speech scene in particular will be chillingly familiar to folks in 2024, blaming everything from Communism to the Jews as the root cause of desegregation and demanding freedom. But freedom for what precisely? Freedom to live hateful lives?

It is not hard to figure out why Corman struggled to find financing for this movie; it is incendiary by modern standards, and at the time it was released would have been seen as a direct attack on essentially half the country. But its boldness and uncompromising bleakness are hallmarks of the sort of filmmaker Corman proved himself to be. Yes, it digs itself into some salacious territory, gawking at unapologetic bigotry in all its true horror. But from the first moment he is on screen, it never feels like it doesn’t control the tone of the ship, which could veer wildly if not handled correctly.

Of course it isn’t perfect. As Ed alluded to, it centers white peoples struggles with desegregation, with Charles Barnes’ Joey, the most prominent black character in the film, unfortunately serving as mostly an object of scorn and danger. The climax of the film relies on us not wanting to see him in peril, but the majority of his role up to that point is as a passive observer while the primary action is taken by others around him. Also, as if to drive home just how terrible Cramer is, there are a pair of romantic subplots centered around him that while linked into the main plot, also feel like they are taking up air that muddy his actual characterization slightly. And the actual final moments of the film feel painfully naive; the revelation of a single untruth unsettles the whole hold that Cramer has generated, and disperses the tension as if nothing happened.

Of course, if our current political climate has taught us anything, simply addressing people with the truth very rarely will dissuade them from their most loathsome beliefs. Still, as a testament to Corman as a maverick filmmaker, it stands as an excellent early entry into our journey through his career: an unflinching political statement that is settled in some observed human behavior, and then plays it for the cheap seat.

(@jaythecakethief on Xitter)

Justin Harlan

I was warned by others here that this was an extremely racially charged film, but I was still ill prepared for how jolting hearing the N-word thrown around time after time by the white folk in this fictitious small town created by Roger Corman and writer Charles Beaumont. Thankfully, it’s not a word I hear too often in my everyday life or the films I tend to watch the most. However, as much as formal segregation is in the past, it’s important to recognize that it also is our history. And, day after day we’re reminded that racism hasn’t remotely disappeared.

William Shatner’s Adam Cramer is a truly vile bastard. From the moment we meet him, we know he’s reprehensible. He hits on a young woman whom he learns to be underage almost immediately, but still takes her as a lover. He makes another woman uncomfortable very early on with his advances, as well. Then, when we begin to hear his racist rhetoric and see that his sole purpose in town is rousing the white townsfolk to violence against the black population, it cements just how dastardly he is.

Not an easy watch, but one as poignant now as ever, Cramer is the prototype for the white populist rhetoric we hear seeping into the American right from the far right and alt-right influence today. Cramer places blame on evil Jews and uses fear mongering in his rabble-rousing techniques. While the date, time, and scene has changed, this tale is extremely applicable to the very real threat that is posed by Trump’s branch of the American right here in the US and far-right populist candidates/leaders around the the world.

In far too many ways, this film hit close to home and left me with a feeling I couldn’t shake. It’s exceptionally well made and Shatner plays his role to perfection. Great film, extremely difficult watch.

(@thepaintedman on Xitter)

Austin Vashaw

I never would’ve thought of William Shatner as a favorite actor, but there’s no denying he’s in some great films including some of my schlocky favorites like The Devil’s Rain and Big Bad Mama.

The Intruder occupies a more rarefied air, though, and holds the distinction of being perhaps Roger Corman’s greatest film. Unlike his usual drive-in fare – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, we adore it – this is a film that’s got something to say. This is a firecracker of a film and the perfect movie to kick off our appreciation of Corman.

Watching this in 2024, this put into context for me just how recent American racial integration and the expansion of civil rights really are. The outward attitudes on display – in which racism is considered natural and unquestioned – aren’t ancient history. Even now, this is the recent past; literally within a lifetime. In 1962, the year of the film’s release, its setting was only a few years in the past and the March on Washington was about a year in the future. Corman was definitely making a statement, and the making of the film, like the film itself, was fraught with opposition (it was, he recounted, his only commercial failure).

If I could highlight one thing the film does pull off quite adroitly, it’s the idea that people aren’t just their surface. Initially Adam Cramer (Shatner) just seems like charming, dapper guy who’s new in town – and this being a movie, you’re perhaps a little predisposed to accept him as a protagonist. Early on, he’s contrasted with his obnoxious hotel neighbor Sam (Leo Gordon), who comes off as loud and boorish. But both men are more than their first impressions. When the truth is on the line, Sam puts himself on the right side of it – while Cramer is rotten to the core.

@VforVashaw on Xitter


Our June block of films pays respect to legendary independent producer and director Roger Corman, who passed away in May. We’ve covered many of his films before, including here on Two Cents, but for Cormania, we’ve curated an eclectic lineup of films that we feel say something about him not only as a producer and director, but as a rebel and visionary as well.

Got something to say? We’d love to have you join us!

Upcoming picks:
June 10 – PIRANHA
June 24 – LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) 

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