October Horrorshow: Impulse (1974)

A fun game to play when watching a William Shatner flick is to pretend that it’s not fiction, and that this is Shatner’s real life, post-Star Trek. This is helped by the fact that Shatner, not once, ever, was sublimated to the role. Like Al Pacino, Shatner is a larger than life actor whose personality dominated every part he played. That sounds like a bad thing, but so many of these duds Shatner were in would have been totally unwatchable without him. He singlehandedly saved many of the films he was in, including this one. His unique take on the craft of acting was truly special.

From way back in 1974, Shatner’s involvement with Impulse came about because of a chance meeting at the Miami airport with director William Grefé. That’s what the internet has to say about Shatner’s casting, so it must be true.

Shot entirely in the Tampa Bay area, Impulse is a cheapie slasher flick that took only a couple of weeks to film. We like movies that were shot on the quick here at Shitty Movie Sundays. Rushed and ill-considered productions are always the best fodder.

Shatner plays Matt Stone, some kind of scam artist who targets rich suburbanites. He has a very checkered past, having been institutionalized at a young age after killing his mother’s one-night stand back at the end of WW2. He begged the doctors not to release Impulsehim when he became an adult, and they should have listened. Matt still has demons inside, and, as suggested by the title of the film, he has trouble controlling them.

He’s also a smarmy sonofabitch, which was right up Shatner’s alley. I’ve never seen a man so comfortable in a leisure suit and a toupee. Shatner was naturally smarmy, so this role must have been a walk in the park for him.

After some early film murder, Matt sets his sights on wealthy widow Julia Marstow (Ruth Roman) and local store owner Ann Moy (Jennifer Bishop), also a widow. Julia and Ann are close friends. I was expecting Matt to do a little double-timing on these ladies, but he only pursues a romantic relationship with Ann. Unbeknownst to Matt, dating Ann is when things begin to unravel, all because of Ann’s precocious daughter, Tina (Kim Nicholas).

Tina wants nothing to do with Matt. She is still grieving for her father and doesn’t like her mother stepping out with another man. Her instincts are right, of course, and all her worries are confirmed when she sees Matt murder a man from his past named, and I am not joking, Karate Pete (played by Odd Job himself, Harold Sakata). Tina tries to warn her mother, but by then her credibility is shot, and Ann doesn’t believe her.

Meanwhile, Matt is getting ever closer to the edge. It all winds up with a somewhat bloody finale where, expectedly, Matt Stone gets his in the end. Trust me, that’s not a spoiler. Potential viewers need to know that they will be gifted with the rare William Shatner death scene.

Shatner really is all this flick has going for it. Unlike most shitty movies, the acting was professional from most of those in the cast. Sakata stumbled, but Roman and Bishop were both Hollywood veterans when this was filmed, and both were good. But without Shatner, this flick would lose just about everything that brings it to life. Shatner was the king of overacting. There wasn’t a range of emotion that he would not explore and pound into the dirt. Playing a crazed maniac, as he does in this film, only makes his emotional outbursts all the more delightful. Pay close attention, and there are even scattered moments where his acting is actually quite good. Mostly, he’s a canned ham, but there are spots where genuine emotion seeps through.

It’s a good thing that not all actors are like Shatner. It makes him a rare and precious stone in the world of shitty movies. We shitty movie fans are blessed with his career — especially the stuff from the ’70s.

Impulse isn’t the most watchable shitty movie Shatner has been in (that title will remain with Kingdom of the Spiders), but it’s silly and stupid enough to make it into the top half of the Watchability Index at #75, displacing Final Score. Shitty movie fans rejoice! It’s Shat-tastic.

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