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Impulse
(a.k.a. Want a Ride, Little Girl?)
(1974)
 

Director: William Grefe                      
Cast:
William Shatner, Ruth Roman, Harold Sakata


It's been a long time since I've reviewed an unintentionally funny movie, but it was worth the wait for this movie. Impulse gets on the pedestal of classic turkeys almost solely by the performance of its lead actor, William Shatner. Now, contrary to popular belief, Shatner has not always been awful; check out the 1962 movie The Intruder (a.k.a. Shame and I Hate Your Guts!), where he gives a superb performance as a cold-hearted bigot. But it can't be denied that he has given far far more bad performances than good, sometimes hilariously so. I think his role in Impulse takes the cake concerning his hilarious performances and his just plain bad performances. Here, you see him suck his pinkie, jump up and down as if he has to go to the bathroom, using his start/stop acting technique on lines like, "You're-a-big-tough-broad-aren't- you?", and twist his face into expressions so ludicrous, even viewers who don't have a sense of humor will find it tough not to crack a smile. To be sure, Impulse has a few dull stretches, but even if it didn't have anything else of merit, it would be a must solely for Shatner's performance.

We first see Matt as a child in a black & white flashback, during 1945. Seeing his mother getting abused by her soldier boyfriend, Matt picks up the boyfriend's souvenir samurai sword and stabs him. ("You crazy kid..." mutters the boyfriend before falling down dead.) This must have been a traumatic experience for Matt, because cutting to the present day, we see he's grown up to be William Shatner. Though some reviewers like Leonard Maltin say he's a child molester, there's no indication that he is in any part of the movie (and despite the alternate title.) Matt is actually a con-artist who specializes in swindling rich women out of their money and living a life of luxury before he flees to his next victim. But he was a little slow to do his work on his latest victim, for she sees him with a belly dancer at a night club. When she insults him and says she's throwing him out, Matt goes bonkers and strangles her, dumping her in her car in a nearby lake. The director then shows some lovely underwater close-ups of her corpse in the submerged car.

Across town, we meet Tina, an extremely spoiled little girl who makes life miserable for mommie dearest. After stealing money from her mother, she stands in the middle of the road to get a ride from the next car - which happens to be Matt. She realizes quickly something's up with Matt when he runs over a dog, so she quickly gets out of there. Later, through some coincidences, Matt meets Tina's mother. Although she is a bit reluctant at first to dive into a relationship, lines from Matt like, "Hey, I have the most beautiful view from my hotel room..." soon win her over. Tina later spies on them, and is horrified to see them make love. Well, if your mother was making love to William Shatner, wouldn't you be upset?

Harold Sakata then appears. Harold Sakata? He was "Oddjob" in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Here he plays "Karate" Pete, a criminal with connections to Matt in the past. Pete wants a cut of Matt's upcoming cons. Matt arranges to meet him at the car wash that night, and Tina slips into the back seat of Matt's car before he drives there. While it took just a few minutes and some electricity to fell Oddjob, Matt is a bit more sloppy; he first slips a noose around Pete's neck and hangs him. When Pete cuts himself free, Matt jumps into his car and drives after the fleeing Pete through the (working) car wash. Somehow alive after being scrubbed and waxed, Matt finally has to run over Pete twice before he finally stops moving. Of course, Tina is horrified, and soon after tells her mother what she saw. And of course, her mother doesn't believe her, taking a cue from the 1949 movie The Window. Will Tina somehow figure out how to stop Matt before he hurts anyone else?

One of the most interesting thing about Impulse is Shatner's hair. This movie was made between Shatner's old Captain Kirk haircut, and his current set of curly locks. Here, he has a different head of hair - actually, more than one different hair of head, because his hairstyle keeps changing from one scene to the next. Sometimes his hair changes during the scene he is in. Maybe the movie was sponsored by a toupee manufacturer, on condition that Shatner provided a chance for the manufacturer to let it plug several kinds of its product. Or maybe Shatner himself was in a "What should I wear?" mood during the filming. Whatever the reason, it just adds more hilarity to the production, especially when these various haircuts are complemented by the typically tacky 70s wardrobe Shatner wears.

Also interesting was the director's fascination with filming close-ups of women's rear ends. There could be reasons for this, such as the director being behind schedule, or wanting to show how women were being reared in 1970s Florida, or the director was just an ass....okay, I'll stop it! Ignore the scratchy print, and just sit down and enjoy the movie. There's no excuse for missing Impulse - no if, ands, or butts about it. Sorry, couldn't resist that last bit.

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See also: Blood Freak, Troll 2, Sonny Boy

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