KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

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The rock band star in this cult-classic TV film as superheroes who must stop a notorious park employee hellbent on revenge.

At a local amusement park, fans are flocking as they await the presence of one of the greatest rock bands in the world, KISS. Meanwhile, the park’s head engineer, Abner Devereaux, is disgruntled when he learns the park’s owner, Calvin Richards, has taken away from his budget for the KISS concert. Part of Devereaux’s master plan begins when he takes an employee named Sam and makes him somewhat brainwashed through a chip on his neck. When he begins to ignore his fiancee, Melissa, she begins to get worried. He also kidnaps three punks and turns them into part of his own cyborg army after they nearly cause an accident, forcing Devereaux to be fired.

When KISS finally arrives, Melissa soon learns that the band are not just an average rock and roll band, but ones who are endowed with superpowers. When Devereaux creates a fake Demon (Gene) to beat up some of the park security, they are questioned by Richards but given the audience arriving for the final night of their two-day concert, he decides to wait it out. Meanwhile, Devereaux’s master plan begins to come in effect when he forces to band to go through a series of obstacles, but will be the able to stop the madman?

At the height of their popularity in the late 1970’s, KISS was given an opportunity to star in their own motion picture, which was somewhat inspired by their famous 1977 Marvel Comics tale in which the issue was known for having the band members’ blood in the red ink. According to interviews, Paul Stanley said the movie was pitched as A Hard Day’s Night meets Star Wars and the end result was nothing like that.

While that notion is totally true, the film has achieved cult value and it is clear why it earned it. The superpowers the band have are quite interesting in a weird sort of way. Stanley’s Starchild has the ability to shoot lasers from his eye with the star make up on and read minds. Gene Simmons’ Demon can breathe out fire and growls in moments of anger. Ace Frehley’s Space Ace is a martial arts expert and has the ability to transport the entire group while Peter Criss’ Cat-Man can fly and do a little transport himself. The band’s “action scenes” if you want to call them that are quite funny to watch but that’s just what makes this a cult film.

Criss and Frehley at this time were getting disgruntled with the group and what many will find interesting is that Frehley’s stunt double, which at times can be clearly seen is an African-American stuntman in whiteface while Criss didn’t show up for looping (in which an actor re-records his lines in a studio when the mic on set doesn’t pick up clearly) and he ends up having quite a few different voice actors re-dubbing his lines. As for the film’s director, Gordon Hessler, he would end up directing one of the best known Sho Kosugi films in the 1980’s, Pray for Death.

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park definitely is a “so bad it’s good” film. Back then, it may have disappointed fans of the band, but possibly in today’s world of nostalgia, this might be one for new generations of fans to see. Either way, it will always have a cult film value thanks to its ridiculous plot and devices.

WFG RATING: C+

A Hanna-Barbera Production in association with the National Broadcasting Company Inc. and KISS-Aucoin Productions. Director: Gordon Hessler. Producer: Terry Morse, Jr.  Writers: Jan-Michael Sherman and Don Buday. Cinematography: Robert Caramico. Editing: Peter E. Berger.

Cast: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Anthony Zerbe, Carmine Caridi, Deborah Ryan, John Dennis Johnston, John Lisbon Wood, Lisa Jane Persky.

 

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