Impulse (1974)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 27, 2009  | 
Hollywood Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 87 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: William Grefe
Starring: William Shatner, Ruth Roman, Jennifer Bishop, Kim Nicholas, James Dobson, Harold Sakata, Marcie Knight
Screenplay: Tony Crechales
Country: US
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Now a lot of folks will pooh-pooh William Shatner – no, wait, come on back – but honestly, in his pre - and post - Kirk days, he did a lot of good, in some cases, bordering on the classic, stuff (as in the Twilight Zone classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", the Man From U.N.C.L.E..episode "The Project Strigas Affair", the The Outer Limits episode "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" or feature length films as Incubus – the only film made in Esperanto, or the awesomely terrifying Kingdom of the Spiders and if you didn't like Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, then I hate you and everything you stand for). As an exploitation actor, I honestly think he was pretty darned top notch. Yeah, maybe he liked to place a little too much emphasis on certain words and had an unnatural love of the pause in the middle of a sentence, and for a pudgy guy, he wasn't all that credible in action scenes (TJ Hooker, anyone?), but you can get fucked if you can think he didn't go into every scene he ever did boots and all, and with his his tongue sticking so firmly in his cheek it was practically poking through it. Me? I've got a lot of time for the Shatner. Charisma goes a long way, and Shatner had that in spades. Count me in as a big Shatner fan.

Matt Stone (Shatner) is one pretty messed up kid. As a child, he killed his mother's druken GI boyfriend with a Japanese samurai sword, which is not normal behaviour. As an adult, he's not much better, but a hell of a lot sleazier. As we can see from our first shot of him as an adult, leering at a belly-dancer in a night-club. Where no man has ever leered before... Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Matt's certainly got an eye for the ladies as an adult, and likes to have more than one on the go at the same time – some for sex, some for cash. His current girlfriend busts him coming out of the house of ill-repute, quite reasonably upset that maybe he's been up to naughtiness: "Nobody's just friends with a belly dancer" - never was a truer word spoken in Matt's case, and ooh, if it doesn't sum up Matt's life. He just can't hold down a relationship, or indeed much of anything, including the rich girlfriend he's trying to throttle. But oops, he just killed someone, and even if she was really annoying, that's not the way to get out of a relationship. Mind you, he only seems to get into relationships to bilk lonely dames out of their cash, so maybe he needs a bit of counselling at both ends of the relationship spectrum.

There's a bit of over-acting from Shatner, even at this early part of the game – but I'm more putting this down to the fact that Shatner was an early victim of type-casting, and post-Star Trek could barely get arrested. It's only in low-budget flicks like this that he could eke out a living at this point of his career – as far as everyone was concerned, he was Captain Kirk, and that was that, even though TV parts weren't exactly flying around thick and fast either. So the rather ripe performance here could be construed in either one of two ways – that a) he'd resigned himself to his fate and bought into himself as a B actor and so hammed it up because he thought he ought to, or more optimistically b) he was trying hard to get noticed again. Truth be told, he's trying a little too hard.

After bailing town, Matt nearly runs down young Tina, a precocious brat whose habits run to cutting school and stealing money from her single mother Ann – and demanding lifts from sleazy older men with dubious tastes in plaid sports coats. Accidental death seems to follow Matt around, as he knocks down a dog. He drops Tina off at the cemetery, where she goes to sit at her father's grave, feeling that he's the only one she can talk to. In rapid order, the following plot points are revealed: Matt, in cruising around town, inadvertantly comes across Ann; Ann has been living an eremetic life since the death of her husband, and her gossipy friend Julia is now trying to set her up with young men; Matt's passing himself off as something he's not in true con-man ways, as an investment broker – and it would appear that the director seems to be trying to make a film noir, just mainly in colour and without the camera artistry or use of light and shadow.

Matt and Ann meet at a dinner party and hit it off right away, meeting up again the following day. Tina's not best pleased by Ann having met another fella, given that she was daddy's little girl, and acts like a right bitch over the next few days – imagine how she'd feel if she knew it was the dog killer... Mind you, given that she's taken to stalking her own mother to find out what she's up to, and more to the point, who she's up to it with, that point can't be too far away, especially when she's peeking in through the window of Matt's motel room watching the two of them have sex.

And I thought my threads were pimp. Ann brings Matt back home – y'all oughtta check out the clothes he's wearing. I think Shatner might have forgotten who he actually was, and started thinking he was Richard Roundtree, or maybe Jim Kelly – regardless, man, that's one hell of a white suit and fedora pimp-hat combo. Either Tina's recognised him, or she's terrified of his outfit and runs away. Ann and Matt go for a drink, but Matt is recognised by a fellow grifter, Pete, and leaves on business pretences. But then he reveals a bit too much of himself, and his past and Pete comes on a little too strong with an offer to do business together – we've now heard and seen three different versions of Matt's past, and we've seen his propensity for violence. What do we believe – what we see, or what we hear? And if we believe what we hear, which version of it do we believe? And what's it all going to mean for the other characters, more to the point? How much of a threat does Matt really represent?

Tina, in the manner of annoying film children since time immemorial, has stuck her nose in too far, and sneaks into the back of Matt's car when he heads off to do his deal with Pete. Bad idea. Why do children do this in films? I've never understood it, and I certainly don't now – it's like that irritating, precocious little kid in The Blob with his cap-guns. For crying out loud, get off the screen and let the adults get on with things, and take your whiny, egocentric arse outta my viewing experience. I'll guarantee she was wishing she hadn't gone along on that ride following the nifty action scene that follows. And the fact that Matt knows she was there is not exactly bespeaking well for her future.

And now Matt has to work out what the hell he needs to do to in order to survive – who gets to live? Who gets to die? How best to proceed? Befriend Tina, or demonise her as being a nutter so people won't believe her stories? Things don't seem to be working out well for Matt, just little things, but they start to build up. And when Matt feels threatened, people have a certain habit of dying around him – watch and see what happens... If for no other reason you'll be entertained by Shatner's outrageous performance as the film winds to a close.
Well, it's VHS quality, and generally good VHS quality, if that makes any difference – but there's crackle and grain at times and the clarity sometimes dips with great big lines running down the screen. No, it's not terribly sharp, and yes, it could be better, Yes, it's full-frame, and no, it's not presented in the original aspect ratio.
VHS quality again. The 2.0 mono track is weirdly hollow, presumably because of a poor audio transfer.
Extra Features
Not a bit of it. Nothing. Booo!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This noir-ish little tale of a barely keeping-it-together con-man and the hi-jinks he gets up to reminded me a little of something like an old episode of Naked City or maybe The Twilight Zone, just seamier and sleazier, and in the case of the latter, with no element of fantasy or the supernatural, but still retaining that sense of poetic justice. It's not an easy film to get a hold of, but I think if you're a fan of early 70s film, it's definitely a rewarding watch – it's low budget and it's B-grade and it'll never win any awards, but I think Impulse is definitely a film worth a look at, if only for Shatner's lurid performance as the more-than-slightly-unhinged grifter, Matt. Entertaining? Certainly, but by no means essential.

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