Intruder, The (Region B) (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: May 31, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Intruder, The (Region B) (Blu-ray Review)


Roger Corman

Release Date(s)

1962 (April 10, 2019)


Los Altos Productions/Filmgroup (Carlotta Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B-

The Intruder (Region B) (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


[Editor’s Note: This is a Region B-locked French Blu-ray import.]

When producer-director Roger Corman died earlier this month at the age of 98, it got me thinking again about The Intruder (1962), Corman’s best film, and what a shame it was that a film so deserving of a big-scale, Criterion-level Blu-ray restoration and release wasn’t even available in a decent-looking home video version in any format. Until, that is, I stumbled across a Region “B” French Blu-ray release from 2019 that somehow slipped under my radar. Moreover, it was less than 10 Euros online, and even with shipping to Japan came to around $20. Was this even a legitimate release?

Apparently, it is, licensed from one of Corman’s later companies, and Carlotta Films’ Blu-ray of The Intruder looks great; extras are limited to a short featurette but, in this case, having a pristine copy of this remarkable film at such a reasonable price is remarkable enough.

Released the same year as the beloved racial drama To Kill a Mockingbird, Corman’s film is much more daring and direct. More than sixty years later, it’s still raw and relevant.

In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education outlawing racial segregation of schools, rabble-rouser Adam Cramer (William Shatner) arrives in the Deep South town of Caxton. Although nearly 100% of the white population opposes the imminent integration of black students into their formerly all-white high school, most are resigned to the inevitable. Cramer, however, supposedly representing “The Patrick Henry Society”—an organization possibly fabricated by Cramer—questions the Supreme Court decision. “Whose law?” he asks. “Isn’t this a democracy?”

Confident and superficially charming, Cramer obtains the backing of wealthy bigot Verne Shipman (Robert Emhardt) and stages an inflammatory rally in front of the town hall, prompting racists in the crowd to threaten a Black family innocently passing through town in their car. Local newspaper editor Tom McDaniel (Frank Maxwell, in an excellent performance), himself opposes desegregation, as does his wife (Katherine Smith) and openly racist father-in-law, but Cramer’s hateful speech, peppered also with anti-Semitism and anticommunist hysteria, combined with the confrontation with the Black family force him to question his personal views on the matter.

Cramer, meanwhile, is staying at a local hotel and becomes friendly with veteran traveling salesman Sam Griffin (Leo Gordon), though Griffin’s wife, Vi (Jeanne Cooper), finds Cramer morally repellent yet physically attractive. Recklessly, Cramer seduces Vi while Griffin is out of town. Cramer fans the already palpable racial tension further by organizing a cross-burning in front of a Black church which, in turn, inspires several locals (including William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson) to bomb the church itself, the explosion killing the preacher. Outraged, McDaniel himself escorts the black students to the high school the next morning, but angry whites beat him violently, breaking ribs and causing him to lose an eye.

The Intruder was based on a 1957 novel by Charles Beaumont, the speculative fiction writer best-known for his many teleplays for Twilight Zone and screenplays for Night of the Eagle/Burn, Witch, Burn! as well as several later Corman-Poe films. Corman initially sought mainstream studio backing but when no one in Hollywood would touch it, politically liberal Corman and his brother, Gene, were so determined to get the film made they partnered with Pathé Labs, paying the rest of the film’s $90,000-$100,000 budget out of their own pockets, an unprecedented move by notoriously tight-fisted Corman.

At considerable risk to his cast and crew, Corman shot The Intruder in southeast Missouri. While seasoned professionals (Shatner, Maxwell, Cooper, et. al.) played the major speaking parts, non-professional locals were enlisted for smaller parts and crowd scenes, Corman providing them a watered-down script, perhaps one positioning Cramer as a hero. Other roles were played by Beaumont himself (as the school principal), and writer friends Nolan and Johnson, all surprisingly credible. (Character actor Gordon was also a prolific writer.)

Corman was right insisting upon the verisimilitude of a real town in the Deep South populated by real southerners. Though made four years after the Little Rock Nine, The Intruder exudes an authenticity lacking in the filmed-on-the-lot To Kill a Mockingbird and later, effectively period films like Mississippi Burning. In scenes where Cramer whips his followers into a fury, or when Emhardt’s bigot taunts an innocent Black high-schooler, the approving townsfolk don’t seem to be acting at all. What Corman lost in big-studio funding he gained back and then some through the use of real small-town buildings for exteriors and interiors, and Cramer’s visit to the poverty-stricken “Nigger Town,” on the other side of the tracks, is a real eye-opener.

William Shatner was in 1961 a much in-demand actor, especially for television anthology dramas, but in the featurette included here admits he would have paid Corman to play Cramer in The Intruder. At the time, Shatner specialized playing handsome young men, often charming, with a hidden agenda or hiding psychological frailties, all expertly expressed by the actor. Traveling salesman Griffin immediately recognizes Cramer as a kind of fellow pitchman, noting Cramer’s effectiveness in some ways while also nailing his shortcomings: Cramer is good at whipping up crowds into a frenzy but just as quickly loses control of them. Cramer hopes to intimidate the Blacks from sending their children to school without resorting to violence, but they’re an angry mob looking for an excuse to lynch anybody.

Griffin also recognizes Cramer’s motives are driven less by personal prejudices than by a need to overcome self-loathing insecurities. He feeds off the racist crowd’s admiration, Cramer preaching to the choir, yet is also recklessly self-destructive in seducing McDaniel’s teenage daughter (Beverly Lunsford) and Griffin’s lonely equally self-destructive wife.

The Intruder was so ahead of its time that not only couldn’t it be made by a major Hollywood studio in 1961, no distributor wanted it, either—the Cormans ended up distributing it themselves for several years—and, surprisingly, reviews at the time were mixed-to-negative, mainly because the film was just too uncompromising in its language (racial epithets abound) and very authentic-looking threats of real violence.

Not only does this make the film disturbing to watch, even now, its continued relevance and immediacy hasn’t dated it at all. During his fiery speech, Cramer draws dubious connections between anti-segregation laws and Jewish judges influenced by left-wing organizations that Cramer charges are Communist fronts. When McDaniel challenges these accusations, Cramer’s response is, “It’s all documented. Look it up.” Where have we heard that before?

Carlotta Films’ French Blu-ray of The Intruder presents the black-and-white film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. (The actual title onscreen is I Hate Your Guts, one of the film’s many alternate titles.) The presentation looks razor-sharp with excellent blacks and contrast; even the title elements look great. The only time I had seen a decent print of the film was a screening at the L.A. County Museum 25 or 30 years ago, and this Blu-ray looks far better than that 35mm presentation. It looks almost brand-new. The DTS-HD Master Audio (1.0 mono), English only, is very strong, with Herman Stein’s excellent musical score helped considerably. Optional French subtitles are provided. Region “B” encoded.

The lone extra is a good one, Souvenirs de “The Intruder,a 10-minute featurette with Corman and Shatner.

Until/Unless a more extras-packed release comes along, this French Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s The Intruder is an essential addition to any serious film collector. Highly Recommended.

- Stuart Galbraith IV