Impulse (1974)

*. Wow. How does a movie with William Shatner playing a psycho killer manage to be this dull? Even with the mid-’70s decor and fashion on display Impulse still fails to provide any real entertainment value for connoisseurs of camp or crap. I know a lot of people consider this to be a classic of the so-bad-it’s-good genre but I was bored out of my mind. What went wrong?
*. William Grefé. That’s basically the answer. Grefé was one of those ultra-low budget exploitation directors who have later been discovered as auteurs by later generations of dumpster-diving film fanatics. Their work can often be seen on DVDs put out by the Something Weird Video people, which is a big help because they’re a lot more fun to watch with the commentary than they are with the regular audio track.
*. Impulse is not Grefé’s worst movie. It may even be his best. It’s just that I don’t imagine there’s that big a gap between the two. It’s another cheap, quickly filmed piece of crap, only without quite so many leering booty shots. In fact, there’s even a bit of self-regarding humour in this regard with some dialogue and camera work during the hot dog scene. That was a plus.
*. There is, however, a respectable attempt at a story. Shatner is a ladies man who cons women out of their money before killing them. He targets a lonely single mom whose irritating daughter, who spends a lot of time mooning over her father’s grave, is the only one who knows what’s really going on. But nobody believes her. Hitchcock might have made something out of this. In fact I think he did.
*. This is not Hitchcock. Hitch wouldn’t have stood for a mess like this. Harold Sakata, Goldfinger‘s Oddjob and a total non-actor, is thrown into the mix and then killed off (almost for real, as there was some mix-up with the stunt where Shatner tries to hang him that almost led to Sakata’s death). There’s a historical prologue that’s presumably meant to show where Shatner’s character went off the rails, but it just seemed pointless to me. I think “Matt Stone” would be scarier if he were a little more self-possessed.
*. I put “Matt Stone” in quotation marks because it’s such a stock name it can’t be real. And given the kind of character Shatner is playing it probably isn’t.
*. Yes, Shatner’s performance is hammy and occasionally funny, though it’s not that far removed from Richard Burton or Oliver Reed over-emoting on one of their bad days. Matt Stone’s wardrobe also helps. I think it might have even been weird by the standards of Florida in the ’70s, and it never ceases to surprise with each costume change.
*. This is important because, let’s face it, the only reason you’re watching a movie like this is to laugh at it. But while Shatner does his bit I really didn’t find this to be a great bad movie. There were a couple of scenes I got a chuckle out of but that was it. The rest of the time I was just bored and not paying much attention.

4 thoughts on “Impulse (1974)

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