Forgotten ’70s William Shatner Dark Thriller Brought Back To Life

By Robert Scucci | Published

Star Trek actor's dark thriller

You may not know this, but William Shatner once starred in a horror thriller called Impulse in 1974. That’s right, between Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Shatner took a deep-dive into some pretty unhinged territory with his portrayal of a homicidal widow-killing maniac named Matt Stone. Grindhouse Releasing restored the film in 4K for those who are willing to seek it out.

William Shatner is obviously most well-known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk, but his performance in Impulse shows us what he’s capable of outside the sci-fi genre. He understood the assignment and channeled his inner psychopath, as he preys on unsuspecting wealthy women, bilks them out of their money, murders them, and hides their bodies before moving on to his next victim.

Wiliam shatner thriller movie

Impulse centers on William Shatner’s Matt Stone, a leisure suit-wearing homicidal maniac who first exhibited violent tendencies when he was a child. We learn about his abusive childhood, which led to him killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend in self-defense. As an adult, he becomes a conman who makes no qualms about getting his hands dirty and continuing to orchestrate deadly scams.

It’s hard to put into words how far off the deep-end William Shatner goes in Impulse, as his kills are quite inventive. When Matt’s former prison cellmate, Karate Pete, wants to take part in his violent and profitable escapades, Matt decides to take him out of the picture. And he doesn’t do this by stabbing or shooting Karate Pete (Harold Sakata), but rather by running him through a car wash in a sequence that will make you bite your fingernails down to the bone.

Shatner's thriller

The production for Impulse was also frightening in its own right. Though principal photography took place over the course of 15 days, the production was not without incident. In fact, William Shatner broke his finger while shooting a scene that involved a hanging because the rope wrapped too tight around Sakata’s neck on set, and Shatner had to support his weight until the crew could assist him in saving his life.

After watching Impulse, it’s hard to look at William Shatner performing his spoken-word rendition of “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Saturn Awards the same way. On the other hand, it makes a whole lot of sense that John Carpenter ultimately ended up using a Captain Kirk mask for Michael Myers in the first Halloween film. We’re not saying that William Shatner’s face is synonymous with a babysitter-stalking serial killer, but it’s easy to make the connection after watching Impulse.

Impulse title

If you’re a fan of B-movies, horror, and William Shatner, then Impulse is a must-see. It’s a unique look at a legendary actor taking on a questionable role that’s outside of his usual scope. And believe it or not, he does an excellent job making you root for the bad guy while also hoping he gets eliminated before he claims yet another victim.

It’s worth noting, however, that Grindhouse Releasing doesn’t currently have any copies in print, so you’ll have to be patient if you want to order a copy of William Shatner’s Impulse from their store.