Thursday, October 2, 2014

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

The film was also known as "KISS Meets the Phantom" and  "KISS in Attack of the Phantoms."
In 1978, at the height of their popularity, rock band KISS made their feature film debut in KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.  In the film KISS play a super-powered version of themselves as they fight an army of evil androids and unravel a missing-persons mystery at a failing amusement park.  But don't worry, all that doesn't stop them from performing a series of concerts and treating us to several classic KISS songs.  Does this movie sound awesome, or what?  Wait, did I mention it's a super low budget made-for-TV movie, produced by Hanna-Barbera (the same guys who produced Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo)?  Yeah, "awesome" might not be the right word to describe this flick.  Read on to find out what word is...

The film begins with KISS playing Rock and Roll All Nite while superimposed over amusement park rides.  I think they're supposed to be giant sized KISS performing in front of the rides, but the green screen effects were bad, so all the guys ended up translucent.

.And the word is... "lame."  Okay, it's an entertaining kind of lame, sure.  But basically, this film is a failure on almost every level.  The acting, directing, editing, screenplay, and special effects are all atrocious.  The only exceptions to the awful being the scenes where KISS are performing their songs.

Knights!  In!  Satan's!  Service!

To begin with, the guys in KISS can't act.  I guess we can't hold them against them too much, though, because they are rock stars, not actors.  But The Beatles weren't actors, either, and A Hard Day's Night was amazing.  I think the difference is that the Beatles were just playing themselves, and were given naturalistic dialogue that sounded like something they would actually say, and put in to situations that were based on things they actually did in real life.  The whole film was tailored around them, to make them look good.  In KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, the members of KISS are all given weirdo personalities.  Paul Stanley is Mr. Spock, Ace Frehley is Curly from the Three Stooges, Gene Simmons is... I'm not even sure, maybe a samurai or something?  Oh, and Peter Criss just makes a lot of "cat" puns.  Better yet, Gene has a weird, electronically modified voice, and growls like a lion all the time.  Weirdest of all, Ace is constantly making this bird noise, like "awk" or something, for no discernible reason.  Plus, they are given dialogue to spout that no human being would ever say, things that make no sense.  Even a real actor would have trouble with these lines.  In fact, the actual, professional actors in this flick don't do much better.

Android Albino Apemen

The situations the band is put in are just ridiculous, as well.   In A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles had to do the things they normally did in real life, like ride trains, stay in hotels, give press conferences, all situations they were pretty comfortable with.  In KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, KISS fly around in space, shoot laser beams out of their eyes, and get in fist fights with an army of androids.  The guys seem really awkward and uncomfortable in all of these scenes. 

Paul Shoots an Energy Beam Out of His Eye

The only time they don't seem awkward is when they are on stage, which unfortunately, doesn't happen often enough.  There aren't nearly enough KISS performances in this movie.  Which is sad, because the movie plays like a 45 minute film stretched out to an hour and a half.  There are scenes were we watch people ride a roller coaster for like, 5 minutes straight.  This film would have been much improved so much if they had edited down all of the acted sequences to just the good parts, and instead padded out the film with more musical performances.

KISS Imprisoned Behind Laser Beam Bars

Still, the movie isn't all bad.  Well, it is bad, but bad in a "so bad it's good" kind of way.  The plot is a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and Westworld.  It involves a series of mysterious disappearances at an amusement park that KISS is playing at.  The park is being menaced behind the scenes by a mad scientist android maker.  It turns out that the animatronic figures at the park are more than just animatronics, they are actually killer androids.  And their inventor seems to kidnapping visitors to the park to tun into his cyborg slaves, as well.   KISS get sucked into the mystery when they meet a young woman who is searching for her missing boyfriend.  But don't worry, this version of KISS has actual super powers, so they are totally up to the challenge of fighting off a bunch of weird androids, including android versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy, some Japanese Swordsmen,  a whole bunch of albino apemen in shiny blue jumpsuits, plus evil duplicates of KISS themselves!  Just throw all of those things in a blender, and you've automatically got something that's entertaining, on some level.  The problem is, that's basically what the filmmakers (again, Saturday Morning Cartoon kings Hanna-Barbera) did, just filmed a bunch of random weirdness with KISS, throw it together in the editing rooms  into a series of twenty minute segments to make room for the commercials, and called it  a day.

Peter Criss Makes a Joke About Cats

This is the original TV release of this film that I am reviewing, the version  of this movie that aired on NBC TV the Saturday night before Halloween, October 28, 1978.  It's from a bootleg VHS, so the picture quality of my screencaps is kind of poor.  Apparently the European theatrical version, with different music and an alternate cut of the movie, is out on a higher quality DVD.  I'll be on the lookout for a copy of that, and if I find one I'll be revisiting this movie for an updated review.  On paper a version of this movie with more KISS music and better editing sounds like an improvement, although I doubt there was enough worthwhile footage shot for this film to turn it in to an actually good movie.


KISS - Rock and Roll All Nite (KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park opening credits)

European Theatrical Release Movie Poster

Mind Controlled Cyborg Attacks KISS's Talismans of Power With a Ray Gun 

KISS Dance Around on Water Spouts

A KISS make-up contest for the kiddies, hosted by real-life DJ "The Real Don Steele."

"I've been making a man, with blonde hair and a tan, and he's good for relieving my tension."


Ace in Space

Later in the film, Dracula will show up to get his cape back

Paul's Eye has Powers

The Mad Scientist Pins Photos of KISS to His Wall

The Talismans of Power


In this photo, he may not be saying "awk," but you know he's thinking it.

Paul Looking Fierce

March of the Evil KISS Androids

1 comment:

  1. This movie is awesome! I watched it at my uncle's house one time on VHS and it has always stuck with me. I saw KISS in concert this summer and that was an amazing experience. It was the only KISS experience I've had that was more amazing than this film.

    I need to own this on DVD. Or Blu-Ray.