Craptastic Cinema

Celebrating The Best Of The Worst Movies

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

Year : 1978 Director : Gordon Hessler Running Time : 96 MInutes Genre :
Movie review score
3/5

ALRIGHT CRAPTASTIC CINEMA… YOU WANTED THE BEST, AND YOU GOT THE BEST… THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD… KISS!!

For almost forty years, the band KISS has been setting the standard for rock concerts.  While their show was influenced by bands like The New York Dolls, and Alice Cooper, KISS always took it to a higher level.  The face paint, the seven inch platform heels, the blood, the fire, guitars that shoot rockets, smoke bombs, fireworks, levitating drum sets, fetish clothing, sex appeal, and so much more make up a KISS concert.  While their music wasn’t tearing up the charts, their tours are always among the highest grossing year after year.  KISS very much is a band that people needed to see to believe.  Near the end of the 1970’s, a radical shift in KISS’ fan base occurred.  KISS found that their fan base had become children.  They were considered a family attraction.  This opened many interesting doors for KISS.  They became a marketing machine.  They had dolls made, lunch boxes, comic books (made with their own blood no less), and in 1978 they acted in a made for TV movie called “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park“.

Produced by Hanna-Barbera, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is a movie that is based on the characters the band portrayed.  It was more or less trying to capitalize on the popularity of the KISS comic book that Marvel Comics put out the year prior.  That being said, the characters were all given super powers.  Gene Simmons, as The Demon, had super strength and breathed fire.  Paul Stanley, as Starchild, shot a laser from his eye that blew stuff up, controlled minds, and gave him super hearing (how something from his eye gave him super hearing is never answered).  Ace Frehley, as Space Ace, also shot lasers, but from his hands or guitar, and had the ability to teleport to different locations.  Peter Criss, as The Catman, had the ability to jump really high and act like a cat.  Of course on top of this, KISS was “the greatest rock group in the world”.

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is about an amusement park, Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA, that has fallen on hard times.   The owner of the park, Calvin Richards (Carmine Caridi), wanted to increase their visitors by bringing in KISS to perform a series of concerts at the park.  This upsets Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe), who is the creator of all the rides and attractions of of the park.  He felt that KISS brought in a bad crowd, and cheapened the value of the park.  When some members of this bad crowd, who look like every stereotypical biker gang ever put on film, break one of his rides, Devereaux gets blamed and fired for the incident.  This made Devereaux want to seek revenge on the park, and most of all KISS.  Never mind the fact that KISS has done nothing to him at this point.

At the same time, a young woman by the name of Melissa (Deborah Ryan) is searching for her missing boyfriend Sam (Terry Lester).  Sam was Devereaux’s assistant, so Melissa began to suspect that he was involved in the disappearance.  While this is going on, the viewer learns that Devereaux has the ability to make robot clones of humans.  In addition, he also can enslave humans to do his bidding with a little transistor circuit he implants on their necks.  He creates a robot version of Gene Simmons who goes on a rampage on the park and it’s security one night.  Devereaux hopes that it would get the real Gene arrested.  The plan backfires.  Go figure Gene had alibis with his other three band members stating that he did not do the crimes he was accused of.  D’Oh!!!!  So his next plan was to trap all the members of KISS, and replace them with his robot versions.  These robots would then perform the concert, changing lyrics to songs, and create a riot with the gathered crowd.  The real KISS manage to escape, and an epic battle of KISS vs KISS ensues.  Needless to say, the crowd goes crazy for the fight, and the outcome.

This movie comes off like it could have been directed by the late Edward D. Wood Jr.  It was so bad, that it was good.  Every element of a low budget movie’s mistakes are present here.  In fight scenes, you can clearly see the wires used to lift people up.  The special effects look like they were produced not by Hanna-Barbera, but by the children who watched their shows.  In addition, the acting was horrible.  Oh my lord was the acting bad.  One can not expect much from the band KISS, but according to them, they didn’t even know the script.  They were told their lines, and minutes later recited them in front of the camera.  The other actors; however, did not have the same excuse.  Yet, they delivered the same level of quality acting.  Most of the dialog was dubbed over in the studio after filming, and this caused some problems too.  Peter Criss had been in a car accident after the filming, and they used a voice actor for his lines.  This causes Peter’s voice to alternate between two different tones quite frequently, sometimes in the same scene.

I mentioned the fight scenes before, and perhaps this is where the greatest movie flub happens.  In an act of casting genius, Ace’s stunt double was an African American.  This person would bounce between being the real Ace, and the robot Ace in the same scene.  It was at some points confusing as to which Ace he was portraying.  You would see the black Ace throw a punch, then the black Ace get hit by a white hand and fall backwards from said punch, only to cut back to the black Ace doing a back flip, and ending on the real Ace delivering a line.  Sometimes, the stunt double would be standing with the real members of KISS like they forgot to get Ace for the scene… and Ace’s real voice was dubbed over his lines.  It really is something to behold.

On the Craptastic Scale, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park gets a 3 out of 5.  You will either love this movie, or your will hate it.  Plain and simple.  I lean more towards the love it side of things, but acknowledge that this movie has some issues.  Outside of the problems mentioned before, this movie does have some pacing issues.  There are several scenes that just drag on way too long.  This is even  more of an issue in the international version of the movie, named KISS in the Attack of the Phantoms, which adds more scenes into the film.  Also the title is bad, due to the fact that there is not one actual “phantom” in the movie.  There are robots, and a mad scientist.  KISS Battles the Evil Robots would have been a more accurate title.

Despite it’s shortcomings, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park does have its good points.  It can be very funny to watch and point out the problems.  This is even more enjoyable with a group of friends.  Plus, there is a lot of KISS music in the film, in addition to footage from the actual concert they performed at Magic Mountain.  The international version has more KISS music in it than the American release, mainly because Hanna-Barbera did not want their stock music used in it, as it was in the States.  In addition, it does actually have a decent story to the movie.  Given a better cast, and higher budget, this plot can be made into a really good horror movie.

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park has been released on home media several times over the years.  In the 80’s, it had a VHS release followed by a Laserdisc release in the early 90’s.  However, these were never with the consent of the band.  In fact, KISS tried very much to have this movie buried forever.  KISS fans, being the collectors that they are, bootlegged the movie in tape trading circles for years.  This lead to KISS finally releasing the movie on their own terms as part of their KISSology series of DVDs.  Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, it was the Attack of Phantoms version of the film.  It did get remastered picture and sound, and presented in anamorphic widescreen for the first time.   The main advantage of buying the KISSology version is that it comes as part of a four DVD set that covers KISS’ career during perhaps their highest point.  You will also get a lot of concert footage from the late 70’s through the early 90’s.  Of the three volumes of KISSology, Volume 2 is considered the best among many fans.  Part of that is because of the inclusion of this movie.

So if you like to Rock N Roll All Nite, and Party Every Day, be sure to check out KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park.  It good for a few laughs, and a fun night with friends.

If you want pick up your own copy of this movie, check out the great deals over on Amazon

….Now it is time for the Rock N Roll National Anthem

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