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The new Blu-Ray of William Grefé’s Impulse (1974) from Grindhouse Releasing is by all means superb. In addition to a gorgeous restoration of Impulse itself the set also includes two other feature films by William Grefé, short films, interviews, and an amusing industrial short starring William Shatner. Impulse is likely some of the best work that director William Grefé and star William Shatner have ever put to film. This release highlights this and beckons audiences to reappraise these two often misunderstood iconoclasts.

In Impulse William Shatner plays con man and compulsive murderer Matt Stone as a man-child caught in a state of arrested development by some terrible childhood traumas. Shatner’s performance undulates from the smooth charm of Cpt. James T. Kirk to the sinister viciousness of Adam Cramer. Matt Stone is the kind of part that requires the tour de force camp that only William Shatner can provide. Stone is a lunatic who reacts more than he plans or calculates, making him the perfect fit for Shatner’s trademark reactionary melodrama. It takes an actor as infamous as Shatner to sell Stone as “real” to the audience and William Grefé knew it.

As evidenced by the two feature films included in the Impulse set (The Devil’s Sisters and The Godmothers), William Grefé possesses a knack for enacting the most lurid of fantasies with the campiest flourishes. Impulse is no different as William Grefé stages and photographs violence as a kind of cathartic explosion that defies all logic. Improbable murders (the car wash sequence) erupt on screen suddenly and transform all of the players involved into Punch & Judy puppets let loose with a reckless abandon. Grefé’s style is expressive and wholly based on instinct; honed to tap into the most bizarre aspects of his performers’ styles and personalities.

Impulse is a sleazy, ugly little movie that has been orchestrated by William Grefé to maximize its inherent sensationalist qualities. Impulse is all larger than life gestures, characters, and cinematographic trappings that have been focused to create a spectacle of sadism and suffering. Yet, for all of the grandiosity of Impulse its portrait of predatory male behavior remains moving and relatable. Grefé’s large scale thrills and melodrama create an intentionally safe distance between the concepts behind the plot of the film and the reality of the everyday for the audience. Matt Stone is an absurd character performed absurdly but his “type” is an all too familiar one to anybody who has ever dated.

Impulse is ultimately a far better film than it has a right to be. A movie where William Shatner snaps “People like you ought to be ground up and turned into dog food” should not be as engrossing or affecting as Impulse is. Impulse is one of those rare films where low-brow or “trash” aesthetics actually achieve a genuine sense of purpose and urgency. Impulse is a must-see movie and the Grindhouse release is definitely a must-own disc for anyone who is at all serious about the cinema.