“There’s no two ways about it: this here thing’s gotta be stopped, and it’s gotta be stopped right now!”
When a white supremacist agitator (William Shatner) shows up in a southern town about to integrate its schools, he enlists help from a newspaperman (Frank Maxwell) and a local bigot (Robert Emhardt) to stir up hatred while romancing Maxwell’s teenage daughter (Beverly Lunsford) and putting the moves on the disturbed wife (Jeanne Cooper) of a neighbor (Leo Gordon). Will Shatner succeed in his goals of preventing integration and sowing violence?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Deep South
- Racism and Race Relations
- Roger Corman Films
Made on a shoestring budget (of course), this Roger Corman-produced, Charles Beaumont-scripted independent film is a marvel of brave innovation: rather than centering a white savior showing up in a racist town to save Blacks, we’re shown a white anti-hero who easily stokes existing bigotry into increasingly violent outcomes.
I’ll admit I kept waiting for a “big reveal” — Shatner’s true motivations must surely be good — that never came; what we see here is what we get, in unvarnished docu-realism:
While the storyline ultimately ends with an “easy out”, it’s made crystal clear that nothing has changed in this town. A near-lynching of an innocent black teenager (Charles Barnes):
… only doesn’t happen given another man’s non-race-related personal grudges against Shatner. Film fanatics should most definitely check out this unusual flick, which remains one of the most potent films about racism from its era.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- William Shatner as Adam Cramer
- Taylor Byars’ stark b&w cinematography
Yes, as a brave and unique (if flawed) independent film. Listed (appropriately so) as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.