02 June 2008

More On "The Intruder"

Am watching, or rather, listening to, a copy of "The Intruder", which I discussed in my last entry, as it's closing up, and here are a few, pretty raw thoughts on the picture.

The film is pretty powerful indeed, though marred by a few flaws.

William Shatner's performance as Adam Cramer, the traveling right-wing agitator, is fairly good, and we get a fairly nuanced portrait of a kind of amoral young man(Shatner was 31 or 32 years old at the time "The Intruder" was made), who sells his gospel of racial hatred, just like a traveling salesman or an itinerant preacher would sell their respective goods, though there are times, particularly at the film's climax, when we see a bit of the over-acting for which he would later become infamous.

The other cast members, whose names I didn't catch, also give a generally good calibre of performance, albeit the style of acting found in "The Intruder" is of a much more hyper-emotional type than to-day's.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of "The Intruder" is the struggle that the town's newspaper editor undergoes with his conscience throughout much of the film over his very mixed feelings about the integration of the town's high school.

We see this struggle within him from the film's start, and, while the editor eventually ends up, rather predictably, on the integrationist side, what makes this struggle work for me is that, as he tells his wife in one scene before the film's climax, he really doesn't know why he feels the way he does.

Why I find that interesting is because I've come to believe that, while all of us, including Yours Truly, all have our reasons for believing and acting on our beliefs, there is also, at the most unconscious levels of our minds, a certain inarticulate sentiment, what have you, that helps propel us, or not, into action.

While much of "The Intruder" will seem a bit creaky and dated to most modern film-goers(the ideological fire-brand who turns out to be a louse, the last-minute confession by the white girl who's accused one of the African-American high school students of rape, and the agitator's exposure), the reason I think it still packs at least something of a punch is because, while many of the sentiments shown by many of the European-American townspeople in the film are now stated differently and more covertly than in 1962, those sentiments, as some of the logic and reasoning exhibited by some of Sen. Rodham-Clinton's supporters, as well as by portions of the right-wing media, show, they have by no means died out in American society and culture.

If anything, the racial, ethnic and cultural picture of America has grown more complex than at the time "The Intruder" was released.

But, then again, perhaps, it is, to a degree, that our view of America's racial, ethnic, religious and other forms of diversity has become much more sophisticated than in 1962.

America, like its neighbours throughout the hemisphere, always was something of a complex racial, ethnic, religious and social mix, and it has really been only in the last 40-odd years that the American mass media and educational system have really begun to acknowledge that, however grudgingly and half-heartedly at times.

At the same time, there are still many Americans out there who retain the older view of being an American as meaning being of European ancestry, exclusively English-speaking, upper- or middle-class, and either Jewish or Christian(BTW, there is a fair amount of Jew-baiting used by Shatner's character to stir up the small town mob early on in the film, which is something I've not noted in the very few other comments I've seen on "The Intruder"), and not all of these people are all middle-aged or elderly, nor are they all to be found exclusively in Radical Right groups, like the various branches of the Ku Klux Klan or Nazi-Skinhead groups.

Likewise, the race-baiting going on in this country doesn't solely come from the European-American side of the aisle, as some of the Reverend Wright's or Father Pfleger's recently brought to light on YouTube have shown.

Add on to that, the growing inter-racial tensions and violence between Latinos and African-Americans in various parts of the US, including Los Angeles and parts of my home town, and one can see that a tremendous amount of work still must be done in this country in terms of inter-racial relations.

There has been considerable progress, especially legally, in American inter-racial relations since "The Intruder's" first release date.

But, to repeat myself yet again, there is still a very long way to go indeed, and, especially because we are undergoing the stage of changing people's thoughts and attitudes toward each other, which is really the hardest part of any cultural change, there are no guarantees that we may not fail in that attempt, and do ourselves great damage as a result.

That is, I think, still quite possible, though not inevitable. It is only if we let it.

Be seeing you.

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