Impulse is the worst movie Ed Wood never lived to make; an inept, savagely edited shithouse that employs every conceivable camera angle to showcase what must live – will live – as the most delightfully sick, ham-handed masterpiece of emoting by the unmatched William Shatner. He’s Captain Kirk with a predilection for bite-filled rape – T.J. Hooker with a weakness for the pussy, jewels, and hidden safes of rich widows – and he’s not above tight red slacks to hammer home his perversion. It’s the kind of film that features a producer named Socrates, a ravaged Ava Gardner look-alike, acid-soaked flashbacks, incoherent interior monologues, and, as if understanding its need to salvage a slab of dignity, Bond legend Oddjob, dispensing with the deadly hat in favor of line readings so marble-mouthed that Shatner might as well be communicating with the dead. Character exchanges are cut-off midsentence, scenes transition from somewhere to nowhere, and chases begin at night, only to wrap up in stark daylight, but only before yielding to darkness once again. It’s a bizarre, low rent cheapie of the highest possible distinction, and calling it the most ludicrous movie ever made only speaks to its exalted status. Even now I’m not sure what I saw, but I do know that I’m holding on to the DVD case until I can track Shatner down and demand an autograph. I have to know if he meant it, though I’m not sure I want to hear the answer.
The crapfest begins in the past, in black and white appropriately enough, where we see a drunk Marine fondle a samurai sword like it’s the devil’s own instrument. World War II has just ended, and this fighting man has come for the only thing that got him through 1001 horror-filled nights: home front vagina, preserved like a fine wine. As he tickles and fondles his prey (“Isn’t that a fire to make love to?”), a child sits in the next room, shattered by the sounds he hears. You see, that woman is his mother, and he doesn’t like strange men pawing the dear sweet woman. As the sex turns violent, and the Marine begins to do what Marines do, the little boy – Matt Stone to you and me – runs out, screaming for his mother’s innocence. Before the Marine can land another punch, Matt grabs the sword and, before god and man and a roaring fire, slices the American hero to ribbons. “You crazy kid,” the dying man spits, and before we know it, the title card appears, announcing a blistering score that will alternate between 70s porno and B-movie action pic without regard for good sense. It’s an opening scene that promises excitement, especially when we see that the part of Clarence will be played by a man named James Dobson.
Cut to the present, and Matt is spending his day being ground to dust by a busty belly dancer. Matt, played by Shatner, is a man of butterfly collars and tight pants, sporting the sort of jewelry that would embarrass a cheap pimp. But Matt is horny, and not for the last time, only his quickie is soon interrupted by a jealous dame; a rich tart who had been financing Matt’s ventures, and she’s one who does not look kindly upon sexual indiscretions. “We’re just friends,” Matt insists, though his benefactor retorts with the first of the movie’s many truisms: “Nobody’s just friends with a belly dancer.” They drive off, arguing all the way, and as they stop beside a lake, the woman roars, “Go back to your belly dancer…She’s a tramp! A tramp! A tramp!” This unkindness sends Matt back into the past, and, with a tic that doubles as a murderous tell, he begins nibbling on his pinky finger right before attacking the defenseless dame. Channeling “The Enemy Within” from Shatner’s previous gig, the woman scratches his face, eliciting a roar that could shatter glass. Soon, it’s utter chaos in that front seat, complete with biting, strangling, and more eye-popping, teeth-baring grins than one should expect during an act of violence. Shatner loses ten pounds in sweat right before our eyes, and right after draining the final ounce of life from her body, he lights up a cigarette, apparently thinking he’s just had sex. He even nudges the dead girl, wondering why she won’t wake up. Realizing the deadly deed at last, Matt jumps out, sobs, and sends the car into the lake with a Chappaquiddick flair.
Having just lost his sugar momma to that dreaded impulse, Matt packs up his belongings, throws up in his hand, and seeks greener pastures. As he drives along, he damn near runs over a young girl (Tina), who thinks nothing of hopping in the car, I’m guessing because we hadn’t yet heard of Adam Walsh. As he speeds away, Tina in tow, Matt runs over a dog, killing it instantly. Tina cries, but with bon mot #2, Matt soothes a young soul: “No, dogs lick their wounds real good….He’ll be okay.” Cut in two now synonymous with “okay”, man and girl continue on, though the next scene has Tina crying in front of her dead father’s grave, Matt nowhere in sight. Next, a cut to Tina’s mother, Ann, who is listening to her rich neighbor Julia tell her about the man she wants to set her up with (“He’s a regular Burt Reynolds”). Both women are rich widows, so we know where Matt will end up next, but who knew that Matt would meet Julia in a hardware store and have her committed to a phony investment deal in the time it took to ring up a bag of screws. Invited to dinner and having convinced Julia that he’s a brilliant hedge fund manager, Matt is, within an hour, strolling with Ann around a zoo, practically begging for her hand. But as Matt tries to get through the turnstile, he bumps into a woman carrying balloons. “You fat….”, he yells, interrupting his insult with a far greater explosion. “People like you ought to be ground up, turned into dog food.” One could argue that the punishment did not fit the crime, and that yes, this stranger is prone to overreaction, but Ann moves ahead, ignoring her daughter’s concerns and fucking Matt in a seedy motel before the day is out.
“You can’t judge a hot dog by its skin,” Matt reasons, and it’s as close to a personal mantra as he’s likely to reveal. Though in Matt’s case, profuse sweating, unprovoked tirades, and facial expressions than run the gamut from hallucinatory to epileptic just might reflect the man within. Ann cares little for the obvious madness, and yes, she too would like to hear more about this great investment opportunity. A woman might wonder why a self-proclaimed millionaire is staying in a rat trap called the Motel 11, and that he is unable to produce a lick of paperwork related to what he claims to do for a living, but Ann misses sex, and it’s been at least a month since her husband’s death. Soon, Tina is watching her mother fuck Matt inside the motel, and oh how she cries. Naturally, she runs to the cemetery. Random cuts follow – how can Matt be “introduced” to Tina when he’s already met her? – before Matt is forced to leave a bar after spying Oddjob at a nearby table. Back at the motel room, Oddjob garbles endlessly, though we do catch the threat, “I need cash…NOW!” I think Oddjob has something to do with Matt’s childhood, because within seconds, Matt is crying about the institution that once housed him, and how he didn’t mean to murder his own mother with a scarf. “I heard her neck snap,” he whispers, arguing that slowly tightening an article of clothing around a person’s neck for a good ten minutes can, at times, lead to an accidental death. He ends the confessional with a long look at his mom’s picture, chanting “Damn, damn, damn!” with a Florida Evans flourish. And yes, Oddjob, I’ll get you some money.
So Tina hides out in Matt’s car for some reason, and is conveniently able to witness the next sequence of events. You see, Oddjob has asked Matt to meet him at a car wash to give him some loot from Julia’s safe. Matt does not know if there is a safe, but it’s a sound bet. As Oddjob waits by his RV (identified by a big sign that reads “Karate Pete”), Matt gets on the roof, drops a noose around his neck, and cranks him up to hang like a punching bag. Thankfully, Matt sees the humor in the scene and dances around his swaying body like he’s Ali in training. “Hang in there, Pete,” he chuckles, punching and jabbing with relish. Suddenly, Pete pulls out a knife, cuts himself down, and chases Matt into his car. Turnabout is fair play, however, as Matt backs a desperate Pete into the car wash, only to run him over and back over his head for the killing blow. Tina leaps out, Matt gives chase, and as day turns to night and back again, Matt screams, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill ya.” The next day, Tina remains remarkably calm, but as Matt buys food in a sleeveless vest best described as “70s sailor”, she whispers to her mother that Matt is a murderer. Not believed, Tina runs away again to the cemetery, prompting Matt to cry, “Kids don’t go to graveyards! It isn’t normal!” He convinces Ann that her daughter is crazy and out to get him. This takes all of 30 seconds, which is appropriate, as he has known the mother and child for two days, while Tina and Ann shared a good decade of bonding. Matt doesn’t take any chances, though, telling Tina, “Listen, he deserved to die…He was bad!” But Matt is running out of time. He needs cash fast, and it’s time to up the ante.
So yeah, Ann finally hands over $10,000 in large bills, asking no questions, so Matt checks out of his motel and runs over to steal Julia blind. “Where’s the safe? The safe! Yes, the SAFE!” Turns out there is a safe, which conveniently houses a gun, a fact that doesn’t amuse Matt in the slightest. A fight ensues, Matt grunts, and Julia happens upon a knife that she uses to slice his hand. Expectedly, Tina is watching the whole thing from the window, and just in time to see Matt hop around like a giddy child and slaughter Julia with great cheer. Tina screams and Matt gives chase, though the girl doesn’t exactly make it difficult by running once again to that goddamn graveyard. After a minute or so of cat and mouse, the chase wraps up in the mortuary, just in time to interrupt the only funeral where the mourners huddle six deep at the very back of the room while the open coffin sits a good 100 feet away. Matt pushes one man, punches another, and he completely flips out after seeing the corpse. Yes, there’s a flashback to his own mother’s funeral, where his attendance is curious indeed as he’s the one who killed her. Then, for no reason, Matt runs back to Julia’s, a smart move indeed as he left the door wide open with a bloody corpse within eyesight of the entire street. But he must get at that safe!
But before making off with untold riches, Matt pauses to sob in the corner, giving time for Ann to arrive, scream, and have her head shoved into a fish tank. Matt sweats off another five or six pounds, gives us whatever facial expressions he’s neglected so far, and damn near kills the woman. Thankfully, that little dynamo Tina is back, ready to shove a sword into Matt’s back. Is this a repeat of Matt’s young trauma? Is it coming full circle? Perhaps, but that’s for the sequel. Matt folds like a tent and dies in the fetal position, while mom and daughter cry, run away, and head home to ponder why the next time, the adult of the relationship should not put life and limb and money and child at risk for a man who, a few days before, had introduced himself to the family by nearly running over that same child. It’s a hard lesson to be learned, but let us not judge from the comfort of our internet savvy present. Women had no way of investigating prospective beaus in that more innocent age, and sometimes you had to clear out your life savings to keep a good man around. And if he’s slick, sweaty, and covered in bites and scratches, so much the better.