Impulse [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Grindhouse Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (19th April 2024).
The Film

Matt Stone (Visiting Hours' William Shatner) is a gigolo and conman who seduces lonely, wealthy women and swindles gullible men with investment opportunities. When his latest sugar mama Helen (Marcia Knight) catches him with a belly dancer (Paula Dimitrouleas) and dumps him, Matt flies into a psychotic rage and strangles her. After dumping the body, Matt skips town and heads south to Florida where his looks attract the attention of wealthy serial widow Julia (Strangers on a Train's Ruth Roman) and young, widowed single mother Ann (The Female Bunch's Jennifer Bishop). Matt lays the groundwork for another fleecing, pitching an investment opportunity to Julia and her shop owner friend Clarence (What's the Matter with Helen?'s James Dobson) and leaning on Ann's sympathies to loan him ten thousand dollars which he promises to double. The only person who sees through Matt's slick exterior is Ann's daughter Tina (Kim Nicholas), but everyone believes she resents her mother's involvement with any man as a betrayal of her father's memory. Matt's past catches up on him in the form of Pete (Goldfinger's Harold Sakata) who wants a cut of Matt's operation, Tina becomes witness to Matt's deranged "impulse" but will anyone believe her?

Long difficult to see outside of bootlegs and a few festival screenings of rare prints, Impulse has been a tantalizing curio in the filmography of director William Grefé. With multiple DVD and Blu-ray releases of his best-known "when nature attacks" film Stanley and Something Weird Video's DVD double bill of Sting of Death and Death Curse of Tartu, the release of his long unseen "roughie" The Devil's Sisters – from a rare German print missing the last reel – and finally Arrow Video's seven film Blu-ray set He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection and the feature-length documentary They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé – followed shortly after by a Blu-ray release of Mako: Jaws of Death from the rediscovered negative besting the 16mm transfer from the Arrow set – having audiences wondering when Grindhouse Releasing would put Impulse once it was announced a few years ago as being in the works. Working from a screenplay by Tony Crechales whose authored the screenplays of a handful of low-key psycho-thrillers usually revolving around the psychoses and neuroses of male protagonists like the Peter Carpenter duo Blood Mania and Point of Terror along with Curtis Harrington's The Killing Kind as well as a few female-centered ones House of Terror (also starring Bishop), So Evil, My Sister, and his final work The Attic – alongside a number of pornographic pulp novels under the Point of Terror main character nom de plume "Tony Trelos" – Impulse fits in thematically with those other films, but it is a rather disappointing work despite some points of interest.

While it would be easy to blame Shatner and his over-the-top acting style, that is actually not even remotely where the film's faults lie. Unlike most of the aforementioned Crechales titles, Impulse is never as seedy as should be; and one wonders whether this is just due to the personal tastes of Grefé – whose The Naked Zoo also featured a gigolo protagonist and was made the same year as Blood Mania but was rather limp in comparison – or if he was mindful of his reputation as the president of Ivan Tors' Miami studio which produced the likes of Flipper and Sea Hunt, which was only one of the reasons he refused to invest in and own half of Deep Throat. Despite its gigolo protagonist and the intimation that Sakata's heavy might be his pimp who expects his cut from the money he siphons from his marks, Grefé shies away from the Freudian aspects of the opening flashback in which a young Matt (Chad Walker) murders a drunk G.I. (Blood Feast's William Kerwin) for hurting his mother (Vivian Lester) in a manner similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie. In spite of the promotional campaign that suggests a relentless psycho killer, the film affords Shatner a quasi-sympathetic lead as Matt reveals in a moving moment opposite Sakata's hulking Pete that he begged not to be released from the hospital ("I said it was like putting a puppy dog out in the middle of the road and leaving it there") and making his subsequent kills acts of desperation rather than compulsion. Unfortunately, while the film initially draws parallels between Tina's immaturity and Matt's pathological arrested development, there is no ensuing battle of wills between the two once Tina states she is no longer afraid of him upon seeing how "childish" he can be (which really is the child actress' only scene in which her performance is not grating). Tina instead is relegated to the background for much of the third act only to turn up again to be chased for the purpose of suspense and to effect an ending that mirrors the pre-credits sequence. The problem is not that Impulse is bad but that it could have been better.


Released theatrically in 1974 and then on VHS by International Video Entertainment, Impulse was one of the many Grefé films for which the original negative elements were discarded by the labs and prints were in short supply. Grindhouse Releasing's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is a composite of three 35mm prints restored surely to the best of the company's abilities given the quality of their other releases. Scratches and tears are largely absent or have been repaired apart from a few emulsion scratches but corrections to fading are evident throughout, shadow detail is limited in the day-for-night and night-for-night scenes, and skin tones range from pink to burnt orange sometimes within the same scene. The presentation is watchable and but largely on par with the Arrow Grefé restorations of similar or worse materials.


The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track sounds better than the film looks with clear dialogue and effective support from the scoring with its delicate strings and sudden incidental horn spikes. A French dub is also included along with optional English SDH subtitles.


Extras start off with an audio commentary by director William Grefé in which he reveals that production's real mover was actor Socrates Ballis who had appeared briefly in Grefé's The Hooked Generation and worked behind the scenes. He had already started raising the money with Crechales' original script before contacting Grefé about directing, and that their intended trip to Los Angeles for casting was aborted when they happened to run into Shatner in the Miami airport and pitched the film to him. Grefé reveals that the character in the original script was more of a standard psycho killer before he, Crechales, and Shatner sat down and rewrote the script. Of the production, he discusses shooting around Shatner's availability and Roman's reaction to the possibility of being upstaged. He also recalls working with Kerwin on earlier films, casting Bishop and Nicholas, and reveals that child actor Walker was the son of crew members, Shatner's then-girlfriend later wife Marcy Lafferty was cast as flirty receptionist, and musical director Lewis Perles who plays the corpse of a motorcycle accident victim was later responsible for getting Charlie Daniels to score Whiskey Mountain.

"The Making of Impulse" (14:27) is an interview with Grefé who pretty much relates some of the same commentary anecdotes verbatim while "Shatner Saves Sakata" (1:45) is a 16mm behind the scenes clip supplied by associate producer/Grefé creature actor Doug Hobart (Flesh Feast) depicting the incident in which Sakata's hanging rig malfunctioned and Shatner broke his thumb holding him up to keep from suffocating. The clip is accompanied by two separate commentaries from Grefé and Shatner.

Also included is a 40th Anniversary Screening: Tampa Theater, Nov. 7, 2015 (27:10) introduced by filmmaker Frank Henenlotter (Brain Damage) in which Grefé makes an appearance and refers to his brand of low-budget filmmaking as "guerilla filmmaking" before taking questions.

A pair of theatrical trailers (1:18 and 2:52, respectively) are also included.

The first disc also includes two bonus Grefé features. The aforementioned The Devil's Sisters (84:15) – in which a virginal woman spurned by her policeman boyfriend for resisting his advances answers a job ad for "extensive domestic and social activities" and becomes a sex slave – is presented here in the same incomplete standard definition transfer as the limited DVD-R edition with the same extras including the audio commentary by director William Grefé in which he discusses the technical challenges of the ten day shoot, the "The Devil's Sisters Resurrected" (2:42) introduction in which he discusses the recovery of the one extant print, "The Devil's Sisters Revisited" (9:21) interview which overlaps with the commentary, covering his financing of the film from a treatment and writing the script himself, as well as the recreation of Mexico in Florida, along with a newer shorter interview "Bill Grefé and The Devil's Sisters" (1:20), the "Sisters of the Devil" 1968 reissue radio spot (0:13), and a photo gallery (1:20).

The other bonus feature is the execrable Mickey Rooney-scripted The Godmothers (77:38, 480i) in which bad Brando-impersonating "godfather" (Frank Fontaine) tasks Rooney, his brother (Jerry Lester), and "The Hawk" (Willow's Billy Barty) with finding a husband for his daughter, by abduction if necessary. The film is painfully unfunny and it no surprise that Grefé reveals in his introduction (3:55) that he was brought on by the sugar mama of a wannabe producer who insisted on a professional director, and that Rooney would rewrite scenes and present them to Grefé on the day of shooting, necessitating delays to find new locations, wardrobe, and props thanks to a producer who would not put his foot down.

There is also an entire second Blu-ray of extras of variable interest. The first section consists of new and archival interviews starting with "Between the Treks: Shatner in the 1970s" (26:26) in which filmmaker C. Courtney Joyner makes the case that Shatner's more serious and versatile acting career has been largely overshadowed by his Star Trek fame and his lampooning of his image in most of his more visible roles. Joyner gives the viewer a survey of his pre-series career in a number of significant roles in episodic television – including iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller – supporting roles in big features, larger roles in lesser-known works like the Esperanto-language horror fantasy Incubus, significant made-for-TV films like Pray for the Wildcats and Horror at 37,000 Feet, as well as the challenge of being the straight man in genre works like Kingdom of the Spiders and The Devil's Rain.

"Kingdom of the Shatner: William Shatner Live in Santa Monica Oct. 9, 2022" (64:37) in which Shatner notes that his memories of the film are cloudy and claims not to have seen it before answering audience questions.

"Doug Hobart: The Corpse Speaks" (33:58) is an interview with Grefé and Hobart who designed and played creatures in some of Grefé's films as well as working in production and doing promotion upon release. He also notes that Impulse was one of his early roles as a "professional corpse" in his subsequent filmography. They also relate some of the anecdotes from the feature, with Hobart expanding on some of the ones related by Grefé elsewhere on the disc including more difficulty from Roman over her fear of knives (including the fake one Hobart rigged for her death scene).

"Bill Grefé is Furious" (77:46) is another interview that covers a wide range of topics for those who do not have the Arrow set, including his early horror duo, working in Florida with Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Freidman, the various genres in which he worked – noting that he dropped a racing film at the last moment when he saw that biker films were catching on and quickly made The Wild Rebels, shooting The Psychedelic Priest in Los Angeles, making The Naked Zoo with Rita Hayworth, shopping around the script "Sharkenstein" with no success until the release of Jaws whereupon he turned the script into Mako: Jaws of Death, the making of Impulse and the subsequent Whiskey Mountain, auditioning and turning down a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the loss of materials for his films as labs disposed of negatives and prints.

"Bill's Miami Stories" (24:45) has Grefé reminiscing on growing up in Miami during the depression as the son of restaurant owners encountering people who came down from the north in search of work, while "Bill's Sea Stories" (43:17) are his recollections as a teenager during World War II – including an anecdote about meeting a con artist who showed him how he operated and might have inspired that element of Shatner's character in the film – while the Bill Grefé 2011 interview (12:34) is a shorter archival piece in which he discusses the making of Stanley, meeting Orson Welles, and how he met his wife. The interview section also includes the "Live and Let Die News Report" (2:39) documenting the Florida shoot of the Bond film on which Grefé directed second unit, as well as the "Legend Award" (9:25) interview introduced by Bruce Campbell who co-starred in the Miami-lensed show Burn Notice on which Grefé's daughter Melanie Grefé also worked.

The disc also includes three Filmmaking Seminars (125:05, 103:07, and 80:23 respectively), a video series produced by Grefé on independent filmmaking, and three industrial films including "Bacardi & Shatner" (19:32) and "Fame with William Shatner" (12:09) along with "Investing in Movies with Lauren Bacall" (23:01), and four short films including a humorous take on Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado" (9:22) in which Grefé bricks up an associate who tires of hearing his stories about making Stanley.

The disc closes out with comprehensive still galleries, Grindhouse Releasing Prevues covering the whole line as well as some as-yet-unreleased titles, and disc production credits.

Scattered throughout both discs are a series of hidden Easter Eggs including underground filmmaker Jacques Boyreau tribute short "Tina's Impulse" (1:56), a performance by the band Prolapse of a song inspired by and sampling dialogue from the film (5:45), a piece in which Grefé recalls when he was asked to invest in Deep Throat for half ownership (2:19), a lengthy interview on Grefé's second unit director work on I Eat Your Skin" (18:14) where he shot roughly ninety-percent of the location scenes while director Del Tenney shot interiors and exteriors built in the studio due to his dislike of the Florida heat, "William Shatner's Full Moon Fright Night" (5:00) in which filmmaker C. Courtney Joyner recalls writing Shatner's hosting segments, a gallery of background text on screenwriter Tony Crechales and his pulp paperback novels under his "Point of Terror" lead character name pseudonym Tony Trelos, as well as a TV news report on the making of the Whiskey Mountain (1:55).


The two discs are housed in a Scanavo case in a slipcase with a reversible cover, a booklet by underground filmmaker Jacques Boyreau, and a mini-poster of Wililam Shatner.


Long hard to see outside of the bootleg circuit and a few festival screenings, Impulse is not bad but that it could have been better given the possibilities of the story and the cast.


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