Intruder in the Dust is one of the best of Hollywood's postwar "racial tolerance" cycle--a cycle that would come to an abrupt end in the politically paranoid 1950s. Based on a novel by William Faulkner, the film takes place in a small Mississippi town (it was filmed on location in and around Oxford, MS). Juano Hernandez plays an African-American landowner who is arrested on a murder charge. Resentful of Hernandez' industriousness, the white townsfolk are eager to see him hang. David Brian, the attorney uncle of a young white boy (Claude Jarman Jr.) who has befriended Hernandez, agrees to take the accused man's case. His job is complicated by the lynch-mob mentality fomented by the dead man's brother (Charles Kemper) and Hernandez' refusal to reveal the name of the man he suspects as the killer. The hostile atmosphere reaches a fever pitch, but justice is ultimately served. Intruder in the Dust stands out among other films of its period with its refusal to stoop to any form of condescension towards its black characters or to rationalize the behavior of the bigots. Though produced by MGM, the film wisely displays none of that studio's patented glossiness, opting instead for a dusty, sun-scorched, fleabitten veneer that enhances the film's basic realism.
by Hal Erickson synopsis