Crisis (1963) & The Intruder (1962)

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Crisis

Directed by Robert Drew

Appearances by John F.Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and George Wallace

Robert Drew’s groundbreaking 1963 cinema verite documentary follows in real time the Kennedy administration’s struggle to integrate the University of Alabama during June of 1963.  As a piece of history, Crisis is essential viewing. Getting to see President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Governor George Wallace in action is fascinating.  JFK comes off as cool and collected, detached in his decision making.  Bobby is shown having breakfast with his family and managing the crisis through the telephone, a portrait of nervous energy and quiet intensity.  Governor Wallace, fierce defender of segregation, comes off as principled despite being on the wrong side of history.  The cameras also follows African-American students Vivian Malone and James Hood as they display stoic bravery. Crisis ends with President Kennedy delivering a moving speech on the need for equality under the law, because when the rights of anyone are infringed upon, freedom everywhere is threatened.

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The Intruder (1962)

Directed by Roger Corman

Written by Charles Beaumont

Starring William Shatner, Frank Maxwell, Beverly Lunsford

Tagline: He fed their fears and turned neighbor against neighbor!

Trivia: Roger Corman shot the film on location in Missouri to achieve a realistic look.

William Shatner stars as Adam Cramer, a Northerner who arrives in a Southern town and stirs up racial animosity for his own personal satisfaction in The Intruder (AKA I Hate Your Guts!). As the opening credits roll, he rides into town and observes the racial divide, and asks the taxi driver to take him to “Ni —-town.” Cramer claims to be a member of the Patrick Henry Society, an organization determined to uphold “American” values, which includes white supremacy.  Charming every white person he meets, he casually asks them how they feel about the integration of their schools, most reply they do not support it. When Adam asks them why they go along with it they answer “Well, it’s the law.”

He replies,”Whose Law”?

And with that he turns he turns the town into a cesspool of pure hatred over night.  With the school about to integrate, Adam convinces the white townspeople to oppose it with violence if necessary. Meanwhile he carries on affairs with his neighbor’s wife and the daughter of the liberal newspaper editor, revealing deep insecurities that may account for his ingrained hatred. After he delivers a fiery speech at the town center the white crowd goes on a frenzy of violence aimed at African-Americans.

21st Century audiences will be offended at the frank racial language used by the characters. But even more important, The Intruder explores the bully’s psychology, because when met with real resistance Adam collapses like a house of cards.  Despite some flaws, especially the abrupt ending, The Intruder remains one of the most effective studies of American demagoguery anchored by an astounding pre – Star Trek performance by William Shatner.

Watching The Intruder now it would be nice to believe America had put this shameful past behind it; however, as recent events indicate, there’s still a long way to go.

 

 

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