Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Director: Roger Corman
Screenplay: Charles Beaumont, based on his novel.
Starring: William Shatner, Frank Maxwell, Jeanne Cooper, Beverly Lunsford, Robert Emhardt, Charles Beaumont
Running Time: 84 minutes
Genre: Drama, social issue
Summary: A young man named Adam Cramer (Shatner) arrives in the small town of Caxton in the southern United States on the eve of the schools finally becoming desegregated. Using his superficial charm, the racist Cramer soon begins to stir up the town's simmering racial tensions with increasingly violent results.
Opinions: This often overlooked film was shot on a budget of $80,000 and still managed to lose money on it's initial release. It was re-released under a variety of different titles such as Shame and I Hate Your Guts! in the US, and was re-titled The Stranger for it's British release. At the time Roger Corman was known primarily for his string of low-budget horror and science-fiction "B" movies, and writer Charles Beaumont, who appears in the film as the high school principal, was known mainly as a writer of horror and science-fiction and was one of the key writers on the original series of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). This fine film, although very much of it's time, is a vital reminder of a comparatively recent time, and of attuitudes and situations that still exist today. William Shatner, who is of course most famous as Captain Kirk on Star Trek (1966-1969) is often unfairly dismissed as a hammy "B"-grade, but here he turns in a powerful performance as the horrific Adam Cramer, all slick surface charm but underneath bullying, bigoted coward. Cramer is certainly a villain of the first order with absolutely no redeeming features at all. However, perhaps most disturbing is the blatant prejudices of the townspeople themselves. It certainly doesn't take much for them to get riled up. Corman's direction is customarily effective and makes good use of the stark, black and white images. The movie was shot on location in towns in south east Missouri although, apparently the film-makers were run out of a few towns by local people who objected to the film's subject matter. It is a tough and intense drama and still genuinely shocking even by today's standards.
This film is Corman and Shatner at their best and is a powerful and still relevant piece of work and is well worth your time checking out.