by Steven Boone
I happened upon Roger Corman’s 1962 film The Intruder while casually surfing YouTube. Some twist of algorithmic fate led the site to suggest that movie for me. Less than five minutes into the film I understood why: William Shatner, America’s Captain, pop sci-fi royalty, utters the word ‘nigger’. YouTube knows that I like dissonance and collisions. Shatner’s role as a seductive, psychopathic East Coast demagogue stirring up a racist Southern mob is all collision.
I watched the film in early 2016 as Donald Trump methodically annihilated his opponents one by one in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. While he never publicly uttered the n-word he did make many outrageous claims and inflammatory statements that harmonise with Shatner’s stump speeches in The Intruder. These parallels were enough to get me started on a video essay.
This video sets a few observations about The Intruder against manipulated images and sounds from the film. I mention no contemporary parallels, as they are as plain as a cross burning in the night. Instead the transitions and sound mix reflect more interest in the stages of a demagogue/racist mob relationship – the courtship rituals, honeymoon, and eventual disillusionment/estrangement. Corman made it all so palpable on a shoestring budget on location in Jim Crow America.
Steven Boone has written film criticism for over 20 publications in print and online, including The Village Voice, The Star-Ledger, Time Out NY, and Salon.com. He is a writer-at-large for the website Capital New York and a contributor to three popular blogs: Keyframe (Fandor), Press Play (Indiewire), and The House Next Door (Slant Magazine). His experimental video essays blend film commentary, memoir, and documentary in a provocative DIY style.