The would-be horror movie Impulse, which concerns a psychopath who makes his living by swindling gullible women with shady investment opportunities, was doomed to become an exercise in camp the moment William Shatner was cast in the leading role. For example, the lead character’s signature gesture is placing his pinky on his lower lip, so whenever Shatner gets caught in a homicidal fury, he delivers florid dialogue while mimicking a baby with a binky. Suffice to say, the effect is more comedic than chilling. And so it goes throughout Impulse, because at nearly every turn, Shatner reduces his characterization to something infantile, even though he’s supposed to seem dangerous. In one special moment, Shatner strings up a victim by a noose, then dances around the victim and swats the dangling body like it’s a punching bag. Making matters worse, Shatner’s ridiculous costumes include the staggering ensemble of a striped wife-beater T-shirt accompanied by red bell-bottomed slacks and a wide belt. Wow.
The story begins with a bizarre prologue, during which young Matt Stone watches a WWII veteran attempt to rape Matt’s mother. Setting the pattern for his life, Matt “impulsively” murders the man with the samurai sword the man brought back from Japan. (The prologue also introduces the pinky-in-the-mouth trope.) Afterward, the movie cuts to the present day, revealing that adult Matt (Shatner) is a smooth-talking swinger who uses women for money, then kills the women once they’ve outlived their usefulness. One day, Matt meets a little girl named Tina (Kim Nicholas) and gives her a ride home from school. During the ride, Matt runs over a dog. Yet when Tina shares this anecdote with her sexy single mom, Ann (Jennifer Bishop), Ann scolds Tina for lying. Meanwhile, Ann’s best friend, blowsy socialite Julia (Ruth Roman), meets Matt and decides to fix him up with Ann. You get the idea.
A final thread of the story involves Matt’s criminal connection to Karate Pete—played by Harold Sakata, best known as “Odd Job” from the 007 flick Goldfinger (1964)—because ex-con Karate Pete demands a piece of Matt’s earnings as a kind of protection money. Although Bishop and Roman try valiantly to deliver legitimate performances, every scene with Shatner is so innately silly that Impulse is impossible to take seriously. Sakata’s acting is terrible in a different way, just plain old-fashioned incompetence, but he appears in only a few scenes. All in all, Impulse is quite shoddy, but thanks to its high quotient of unintended humor, it makes for a somewhat amusing 82 minutes.