William Shatner starred in The Intruder, a truly horrible movie that can be watched for free right now.
It’s obviously impossible to think about William Shatner without thinking about Star Trek and his iconic performance as Captain James T. Kirk. However, like many aspiring Hollywood actors, he ended up taking many odd jobs before he linked up with George Roddenberry and landed the role that made him famous. One of William Shatner’s biggest early movies was the Roger Corman film The Intruder (admire the sparse IMDb entry), and it was a hilarious flop that you can now watch the entirety of online.
Part of what makes it so weird to watch William Shatner in this role is that Roger Corman had him play an insanely unsympathetic role in The Intruder. Charles Beaumont wrote the movie and adapted his novel of the same name that focuses on a bigoted character named Adam Cramer who tries to rile racist white people in his local town to violently protest integrated schools. Honestly, the plot alone is cringe, and it’s downright disconcerting to see television’s Captain Kirk (a character often considered a bastion of tolerance) as a violent and virulent racist.
Regardless of how you feel about William Shatner, Roger Corman’s stories of how he was able to get The Intruder made are much more entertaining than the film itself (which is admittedly a low bar to clear). For example, when multiple studios declined to buy and fund the film, Corman and his brother ended up contributing their own money to bring the film to life. Later, a defensive Corman pointed out that he did so because he thought the movie was worth it, though audiences and critics disagreed.
One of the crazier production stories concerned William Shatner delivering an insanely racist speech, and Roger Corman came up with an ingenious way to get a crowd of extras that he didn’t have to pay for to make this climactic scene of The Intruder so impactful. Knowing that the locals would object to the racism of the speech, the director advertised where he would be filming this speech on the local radio. Many locals came out to see a real Hollywood film being made, and Corman got many great crowd shots before Shatner delivered the full racist speech in the predawn hours, long after the crowd had cleared out.
For all of the efforts of both William Shatner and Roger Corman, The Intruder (which also went by the names I Hate Your Guts and Shame in the States and The Stranger in the UK) never really found much of an audience. Facing difficulties getting the film released anywhere else, Roger Corman and his brother handled distribution on their own, but the audiences and critics who saw the movie were less than impressed. Critics pointed out that the movie’s depictions of racism were downright uncomfortable despite the filmmaker’s good intentions, and Corman later reflected that audiences didn’t want a movie that was one long lecture.
The good news is that things obviously worked out for both William Shatner and Roger Corman despite The Intruder being a critical and commercial flop. For example, Corman credits this film for showing him that movies needed to embed social commentary inside the entertainment (something Star Trek would later excel at), and he went on to a successful Hollywood career while helping big names like Jack Nicholson and even Martin Scorcese get their big breaks. As for William Shatner, he was starring in Star Trek only four short years after The Intruder flopped, establishing himself as one of the most charismatic and bankable stars in the entertainment business, who is still headlining shows like the upcoming reality program Stars On Mars.