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Impulse (Grindhouse Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Impulse (Grindhouse Releasing) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
    Released on: March 12th, 2024.
    Director: William Grefé
    Cast: William Shatner, Jennifer Bishop, Ruth Roman, Harold Sakata
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    Impulse – Movie Review:

    Directed by the one and only William Grefé, 1974’s Impulse is one of those rare films that allows you to witness what it would be like if a really sweaty William Shatner got mad at a lady carrying balloons. Before that happens, however, we witness through a black and white prologue the childhood trauma inflicted upon one Matt Stone when, as a boy, he walks in on his mother doing the deed with an abusive jerk (William Kerwin) with a samurai sword. When he interrupts them and the guy gets made, young Matt winds up running the bastard through with his own blade.

    Cut to the present day, such as it was in 1974, and Matt is now a grown man (and played, of course, by Shatner). He drives around in his swanky leisure suits wooing vulnerable women and then taking them for all that they’re worth by convincing them to let him help them invest their money before getting rid of them, permanently. He is, essentially, a conman and a gigolo all rolled into one but he’s not quite… normal. See, that childhood trauma we witnessed in the opening scene still comes back to haunt Matt now and then.

    At any rate, when he meets a lovely but lonely widow named Jennifer Bishop (Ann Moy), he sets his sights on her and quickly lures her in - hook, line and sinker. Julia's daughter, a kid named Tina (Kim Nichols), isn’t fond of her mom’s new boyfriend at all, however, and so she starts snooping around to find out what she can find out about the guy. Jennifer, when she isn’t working in her shop, likes to hang out with friend, Julia Marstow (Ruth Roman). When Tina learns the truth about Matt, just as his past starts coming back to haunt him in the arrival of an old acquaintance named Karate Pete (Harold ‘Oddjob’ Sakata), she does what she can to stop her mom from getting too involved before it’s too late, but Matt is a crafty sonofabitch so it isn’t going to be easy.

    Despite the presence of a pretty fun supporting cast, this is the Shatner show all the way. Old Captain Kirk yells and sweats his way through this loopy plot leaving no scenery left unchewed. It’s a beautifully manic performance and it’s seriously entertaining because of it. The rest of the cast are pretty fun too, especially Sakata and Roman, but Shatner outshines and out sweats them all (those polyester leisure suits probably didn’t breath so well).

    Grefé paces the film pretty well, it moves quickly and gives us just enough character development to work. The frequently bizarre moments with Shatner freaking out are well-shot and just flat out interesting to see, and he gets decent performances out of his cast. The production values aren’t going to blow you away but they’re perfectly fine for a low budget Florida-lensed exploitation films from the mid-seventies. It’s got an interesting and enjoyably wonky score and works pretty well as both a pseudo-slasher and an over the top melodrama.

    Impulse – Blu-ray Review:

    Grindhouse Releasing brings Impulse to Blu-ray each framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taken a 4k scan of a “rare archival film elements.” Picture quality is solid. Some minor print damage shows up now and then but nothing distracting, just small specks and scratches. Colors look, generally, pretty strong despite being obviously faded in spots, and we get a nice level of detail throughout the movie. Skin tones look good, black levels are fine, and there are no problems to note with any edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacts. Obviously a restoration from the original negative would have been ideal but Grindhouse has done a really nice job bringing this movie back to life.

    Audio options are provided in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono in English and French with optional subtitles offered in English. No problems to note here, the English audio sounds clean, clear and properly balanced, providing some nice depth to the score.

    Extras in the set are spread across two discs. An audio commentary from William Grefé starts off the extras on disc one, and it’s a good listen, going into plenty of detail about his experiences directing the picture, what it was like working with Shatner, casting details, locations that were used, what it was like on set, dealing with production issues, the film’s distribution history and lots more. Grefé is a good storyteller with a pretty sharp memory, this track is quite interesting.

    Up next is a featurette titled, simply, ‘The Making Of Impulse’ which interviews Grefé along with filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and crew members including makeup artist Doug Hobart and sound editor Henri Lopez and, actor William Shatner, talk for fourteen minutes about what went into making the movie and their respective experiences doing it.

    Don’t miss out on ‘Shatner Saves Sakata’ which is an amusing quick ninety second short piece in which Grefé and Shatner recount how Shatner broke his finger on set talking about how he saved Harold Sakata from choking to death during a scene where he had a rope around his neck went horribly wrong.

    The ‘40th Anniversary Screening In Tampa: Q & A with William Grefé’ is just what it sounds like, a talk with the director held in conjunction with a 2015 screening in the city where the movie was made. Grefé speaks for twenty-seven minutes, reiterating a fair bit of the information included in the commentary but seeming to enjoy himself.

    Grindhouse also includes two Grefé director bonus features, starting with 1966’s The Devil's Sisters. The movie follows a young woman named Teresa (Sharon Saxon) who, after getting dumped by her cop boyfriend Antonio (Frank Pinero) for not putting out, makes the bold choice of moving to Mexico to find work. She finds a want ad for a position and gets duped into working as a prostitute for a madam named Rita Alvarado (Anita Crystal). As Teresa's life starts to fall apart, she begins drinking too much, but it only gets worse for her when Antonio shows up at the brothel and berates her. It only gets worse for her at this point, as she winds up being sold by Rita's sister, Carmen (Velia Martinez)! Grefé provides an optional commentary for The Devil’s Sisters and also pops up in a quick eighty second featurette to provide some background on the movie and its history. We also get a still gallery and a radio spot for the movie. Unfortunately the final reel of the movie has been lost to the sands of time but Grefé fills in the blanks as best he can.

    1973’s The Godmothers, which comes with an optional four minute introduction from Grefé, is also included here. This one was written by and stars Mickey Rooney as a goon who, alongside his friends, winds up involved in a situation where they try desperately to not get forced into marrying their mob boss' unattractive daughter.

    And in typical Grindhouse Releasing fashion, the second disc is packed to the gills with more extra content. ‘Between The Treks: Shatner In The 70s’ is a twenty-six minute featurette hosted by author C. Courtney Joyner who does an entertaining and enthusiastic job of exploring the actor’s career in a post-Star Trek seventies and the various films he appeared in during this decade.

    In ‘Kingdom Of The Shatner’ we spend almost sixty-five minutes with the actor as he appears in front of a live audience at a screening that took place in 2022 at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. He’s in very good humor here, talking after a screening of the film about his work on the picture, getting along with the cast and crew and his thoughts on the film in general, as well as other career highlights and achievements.

    Bill Grefé and Associate Producer/Actor Doug Hobart are up next in ‘Doug Hobart: The Corpse Speaks’ where the pair spends thirty-four minutes talking about how Hobart got into movie making, the different journeys that his career has taken him on, and some of the different people that he’s worked with over the years.

    ‘Bill Grefé Is Furious: Don't Call Him The Swamp Man!’ sees Grefé talk for seventy-eight minutes about his career in general, going over how he got his start in the business, what it was like making films in Florida in the sixties and seventies, some of the highlights of his work, different collaborators that he’s worked with over the years and loads more.

    Grefé shows up again in a twenty-five minute piece called ‘Bill's Miami Stories’ where he talks about growing up in Miami and how its history and dynamics have had a hand in shaping his life and career. Not enough Grefé for you? He shows up again in the forty-three minute ‘Bill's Sea Stories’ who shares yet more tales of craziness from his life.

    Grindhouse has also included a wealth of archival material, starting with a thirteen minute interview with the director from 2011 that covers the making of ‘Stanley,’ meeting Orson Welles, dealing with the critical response to his movies and more. The ‘Live And Let Die News Report: 007’ bit is a three minute piece that explores Grefé’s 2nd Unit director work on the 1973 James Bond. The ‘Legend Award’ segment, hosting by Bruce Campbell, is a nine minute tribute to the director with insight from friends, family and co-workers.

    This second disc also includes three different entries in the ‘Bill Grefé Filmmaking Seminars’ running over four hours when combined. These are interesting educational talks about the perils of indie filmmaking with the director offering loads of insight and providing plenty of tips and advice for aspiring filmmakers.

    The ‘Industrials’ section includes a collection of the director’s industrial film work. Included here is the twenty minutes ‘Bacardi: Shatner’ piece, the twelve minutes ‘Fame with William Shatner’ and a twenty-three minute piece with Lauren Bacall titled ‘Investing In Movies. Along with that, we also get four short films, including the six minute ‘Thumbs,’ the five minute ‘Iceman,’ the nine minute ‘A Cask Of Amontillado’ and the twenty-one minute ‘Underwood.’

    Finishing up the extras on disc two are separate image galleries covering production stills, press, newspaper ads, video releases, Bill Grefé himself, the film’s revival and, last but not least, the cover art by Dave Lebow.

    As far as the packaging goes, we get a nice embossed slipcover with new art by esteemed painter Dave Lebow that, in addition to holding the clear keepcase and the two discs inside, also contains a glossy illustrated booklet with liner notes by acclaimed underground filmmaker Jacques Boyreau and a postcard sized painted portrait of Shatner. This release also comes with some nice reversible cover art

    Impulse - The Final Word:

    Impulse is fairly bonkers, a riotously entertaining slice of Shatner-mania with some stand out moments and fun supporting performances. The 2-disc Blu-ray edition presents the film looking and sounding good and with a ridiculous amount of extra content. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Impulse Blu-ray screen caps!

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