Review: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
by James Ross – jameslikesthings.tumblr.com
Best Bad Quote:
“Leave it to me Star Child, I’ll bend these beams with my mind.”
Sometimes I wish I were a child of the 70’s instead of the 80’s. I’ve watched Dazed & Confused and fantasized about what it might have been like to be a teenager in the days of disco and Zeppelin. I think if I was, my favorite band might have been KISS. I mean how could I resist their combination of sweet rock n’ roll and superhero cos play. What kid doesn’t want to paint their face and pretend they’re a demon or a kitty cat?
Even though KISS is still rock n’ rolling every night and partying everyday, the height of their popularity was really the late 70’s. Their KISS Army of fans was so large in fact that they were given their own movie, albeit a TV movie. KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park is like a bad live-action episode of Scooby Doo. And most episodes of Scooby Doo are already pretty bad. The film opens at Magic Mountain where KISS is going to play a series of big concerts. But behind the scenes of the amusement park a mad man is loose. The park’s head engineer Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe) has been kidnapping patrons and employees in and around Magic Mountain and turning them into lifelike audio-animatronic attractions throughout the park, like a modern take on the House Of Wax. Sounds kind of cool, right? Wrong.
The most absurd thing about this schlock is that the four members of KISS (Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) are portrayed in this film as actually possessing super-powers. Paul Stanley aka The Star Child has the ability to shoot lasers from his eyes, read minds and see things, Gene Simmons aka The Demon has super strength and can breathe fire, etc. They owe these powers to four mystical talismans that conveniently have four cute shapes: a cat, a dragon, a star, and a lightning bolt. They look like friggin’ Halloween cookies. Without these trinkets though they’d just be regular old guys who wear make-up and play rock music (dime a dozen, right?)
Abner hates KISS and I’m assuming the young punks who love their music. So he decides to frame KISS. He creates a robotic Gene Simmons, which he unleashes on the park damaging buildings and injuring security guards. Then there are a series of crappy fight sequences where KISS uses their super-powers to fight some shitty robots that look like reject Star Wars cantina characters. The fight music sounds like a combo of funky 70’s porno and bad 70’s TV like the live-action Spider-Man show. Also, the film is so poorly lit at times you’re just making assumptions as to which member of KISS’ stunt double is poorly fighting in the shadows. Eventually, Abner disables the talismans and locks KISS in his underground lair beneath the park. He replaces KISS with fake-robot KISS to destroy their credibility (I think this piece of shit movie did that just fine). As I write this I wonder now if there was somewhat of an homage to this film in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, what with the robot-Bill & Ted replacements and the use of KISS’ “God Gave Rock N’ Roll” at the end of the film. But I digress. In what may be the lamest plot device ever, Devereaux changes the lyrics to one of KISS’ songs in an attempt to anger their audience and incite a riot at the park. Luckily, using their collective mind-powers (?) they are able to get back the talismans using “the force” I’ll assume. Then the big finale as KISS fights itself to the death. Watch in awe as stuntmen in stupid make-up fight other dudes in stupid make-up in a really lame fight sequence. Once the robo-KISS are vanquished its time to rock n’ roll all night as the real KISS send us off with a big bang. Zzzz.
They cram in KISS songs whenever they can, even if they don’t make much sense at the time. I like the ballad “Beth” but I guess until now I never realized how absolutely absurd a grown man in cat make-up looks singing that song with any sincerity. The KISS performances are kind of cool I guess, but I think I’d rather just watch a concert video than this poor excuse for a TV movie. That’s right, it’s a poor excuse for a TV movie even. When a band is as well known for whoring itself out to merchandising as KISS, doesn’t trying to make a dollar off this piece of crap, that says something (they have officially licensed KISS coffins BTW). I have a bootleg DVD copy of this movie. I’m sure they’ve tried to bury it as best as possible. It’s just plain awful though. I don’t think anything could have saved it. Maybe if the Harlem Globetrotters would have showed up too. I mean, it took place in a sort of haunted amusement park, and no one even said; “I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling, KISS”.
2 out of 5 Mystical Talisman Cookies