KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

kiss-phantom-poster“There are no right hands except ours!”

The Scoop: 1978 NR, directed by Gordon Hessler and starring Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss

Tagline: No tagline

Summary Capsule: KISS defeats a mad inventor named Abner. It’s a general rule of thumb that any guy named “Abner” is automatically evil.

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Justin’s Rating: “Hey Phantom.” “Oh, hey KISS.” Wow, short movie.

Justin’s Review: So, you’ve achieved fame and glory with a glam rock band — with all the women, money and white makeup that comes with it. What more could you possibly want? How about to become… a superhero! It’s a short step, anyway, from rock star to Captain America. It’s more than a few steps from convenience store clerk to Captain America, so there’s not much hope for you, Register Drone. But for KISS? They got the whole wide world in the palm of their hands.

See? I bet you didn’t know that KISS moonlighted as a superhero team, thanks to the power of their INTERGALACTIC MAGICAL TALISMANS! And also their INTERGALACTIC GROAN-WORTHY PUNS! Here you only thought they were a novelty act with about one decent song that’s lasted them for four decades. Not so. They really need to properly educate youngsters in school these days. Preferably with the cat o’ nine tails.

Just like The Star Wars Holiday Special, KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park was a 70’s television special, rushed to completion to capitalize on a (then) current phenomenon — and just like SWHS, this little flick is of considerable embarrassment to all involved. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the cheesy animation, Starchild’s tendency to say “ACK!” all the time, or… well, pretty much everything from start to finish. ‘Tis a silly place, and if you knew what’s good for you, you wouldn’t give it another thought.

Of course, you’re still reading, which means that you are reckless with all aspects of your life, including Twinkie consumption and asking that girl out who’s six social levels above you. Good for you!

Similar to many band-based movies, KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park is simultaneously trying to cash in on the group’s musical numbers while desperately hiding the fact that — with no exceptions — none of them can act. It helps greatly that they wear their black-and-white makeup for the entirety of the film, because grown men leaping about and making wisecracks at robots demands that they cover their shame. As a side note: what the heck was Peter Criss ever thinking, giving himself that wussy makeup design? I mean, a kitty cat? Was the bunny rabbit motif already taken?

It’s a bright sunny day in 1978, and crowds of tacky-dressed peasants roam Six Flags Magic Mountain. This is just your ordinary theme park, barring the facts that KISS is coming in concert that night and a mad scientist is creating robotic assassins to deal with all of those meanie-fo-feanies who just don’t understand how cool he is. After the scientist turns his assistant into an android and uses robotic doubles to make trouble for the WORLD-RENOWNED rock band, KISS gets on the case and infiltrates an amusement park out to kill them.

Now, if the words “mad scientist” and “mystery-investigating rock band” don’t instantly make you think “Scooby Doo”, then all hope is lost. This is partially why I didn’t derive as much enjoyment from this pulp trash as I’d anticipated; it really did just feel like a live-action version of the ‘Doo, only with entire scenes so incredibly dark that your house must experience a solar eclipse just to be able to watch them. Sun spirits, hear our plea!

I would’ve been totally fine if KISS had used the sole power of their musical beats to save the day, but someone must’ve loved the KISS comic books so much, that they brought with them the concept that KISS also had superpowers granted to them by a box full of oversized Lucky Charms. These special abilities give them a snobby god-like attitude, looking down on mere tax accountants and unwed teenage pregnant girls. In no particular order, the KISS team is comprised of:

  • Space Ace (Ace Frehley), who loves the word “Ack!” in all its incarnations (there’s only one incarnation, though), can both shoot lasers and teleport. He pretty much uses his powers to destabilize a rollercoaster and to be an emergency eject system for the group when they get in over their heads.
  • Cat Man (Criss) can… jump… kind of high. This does not come in handy, but does fit in well with the theme of “Cat Man is useless”. He can’t even find a set of drums, half the time, and ends up dejectedly drumming the air with his sticks. I think he and Aquaman have started a support group for misunderstood superheroes.
  • Starchild (Paul Stanley) has the quintessential hippie name, and also the ability to control minds and read lips from really far off. He spends most of his time glaring at people, who get the heebie jeebies and walk away quickly.
  • Demon (Gene Simmons) is my personal favorite, and not just for his freaky six-foot tongue. Demon gets fire-breathing, which is okay (better than okay if you have marshmallows on hand), but is also blessed with an overabundance of reverb. Every time he talks, it’s like someone’s shouting through a stadium PA system: “So, Demon, what do you think?” “NOW-NOW BATTING-ATTING, NUMBER SIX-SIX-SIX, JOSE-JOSE CANSECO-ACO-ACO!” He also randomly growls at people.

If, for some reason, you forgot what the 70’s looked like, then KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park is your teacher. If you are dying to hear “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” a good half-dozen times, then look no further. If you need an inventive torture device to break the will of a captured spy, I see no reason why this wouldn’t work. Otherwise, take two steps to the left, and give your best “I am SO not with these guys” look to anyone who passes by.

Cool KISS Fact #101: To earn extra cash, they keep an eye on the tots at the neighborhood wading pool. Rockin'!

Cool KISS Fact #101: To earn extra cash, they keep an eye on the tots at the neighborhood wading pool. Rockin’!

Intermission!

  • The cartoon style music that appears during fight sequences was added after the production team realised that the film needed a lower certificate to enable younger KISS fans to see the film.
  • Peter Criss was dubbed, because he wouldn’t show up to do looping (re-recording lines in post-production).
  • KISS was asked, and had planned to write and record all new songs for “KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park”, but couldn’t due to time restrictions.
  • All four members of Kiss hated the movie and smear it to this day.
  • According to Paul Stanley in VH1’s “KISS: Behind The Music”, Ace Frehley was starting to become an unreliable member of the band at this point and would often fail to show up during the making of this film. And so Ace’s stuntman (an African-American) had to act in some scenes and fill-in for Ace on some of the fight scenes. The stuntman’s voice was overdubbed to sound like Ace (There are differing versions as to whether Ace or a sound alike did the overdubbing).
  • The movie was inspired by the KISS comic book series published by Marvel Comics. In the comics, they were a band by day and super heroes by night.
  • Kicks off with a crash course in KISS music: “I wanna rock ‘n roll all night, and party every day!” With the band superimposed over a theme park at night.
  • The drummer looks so sad, he doesn’t get any drums to work on… he just keeps waving his sticks in the air like he actually means something.
  • The park goers don’t seem disconcerted about a giant 200-foot Gene Simmons peering out behind a roller coaster
  • Kids at amusement parks like to make human pyramids for no reason
  • If you make a drinking game out of this movie and take a shot every time you hear the word “KISS”, you’ll be dead in about three minutes. Perhaps less.
  • Who would name their kid “Sneed”?
  • If a rollercoaster goes upside-down, shouldn’t they have more than just lap bars?
  • Man, those amusement park biker gangs bum me out.
  • Random samurai display!
  • I guess he… really likes to feel up walls
  • The Coke design hasn’t changed much since the 70’s
  • Random astronaut display!
  • Horrible redubbing
  • Random chained gorilla display!
  • Most unhelpful security guards ever
  • Mad scientists should always have an amusement park to experiment on
  • “The elevator mechanism”? As in, the elevator?
  • 70’s androids are sweet!
  • Android barbershop quartet… okay. This is one lame mad scientist.
  • The “chamber of thrills” is so stinking dark you can’t see anything
  • When you fall down a pipe, it makes a weird electronic/Bionic Man noise
  • KISS finally shows up about a half hour into this thing. With LASERS!
  • Gene Simmon’s tongue. I mean, that thing is supernaturally long!
  • AHH! KISS close-ups!
  • I guess KISS likes to either play megalomaniacs or growling demons
  • The goofy cop show music that plays during fight scenes
  • So… KISS likes to hang out during the day by the pool, sitting on lifeguard chairs and in full makeup, wearing hooded robes? Maybe they’re supplementing their income.
  • Magical talismans!
  • KISS’ room decorations include inflated palm trees and a giant stuffed snake
  • She gets so bored with their song that she gets up and wanders off
  • So he shoots up a rollercoaster’s support beams with eye lasers. And they don’t tell the park about it. I pity the people who take that first ride!
  • Androids can be confused
  • Another drinking game: every time a member of KISS says “cat”. They looove to call everybody and everything “cat”.
  • KISS takes a brief break to ride the merry go round
  • Well… that girl certainly isn’t wearing a bra. Did they have bras in the 70’s?

Groovy Quotes

Mr. Richards: Get with it, Sneed! They’ve even got a name, they call themselves “The KISS Army”.

Abner: Androids will soon take over mankind’s menial work.

Guy: You’re not allowed to smoke in here!
Chopper: I’ll smoke you!

Abner: I will destroy you! All of you!

Starchild: You’re looking for someone. But it’s not KISS.

Sneed: Rock ‘n rollers don’t bathe.

Ace: Ack!

Demon: There are no right hands except ours!

KISS #1: Looks like we took a wrong turn!
KISS #2: Doesn’t appear to be any RIGHT ones.

Starchild: What do you compute, Space Ace?
Space Ace: Insufficient data at the moment, Starchild!

Starchild: Gene’s clean.
Cat Man: A pussycat, almost.
Space Ace: Ack!
Sneed: This isn’t funny!

Starchild: He’s sweating the possibility that we might pull out. He’s just plain sweating.

Melissa: Too bad everybody doesn’t have a talisman.
Starchild: But they do, they just haven’t realized it.

Guard: He’s the one, almost tore my arm off!
Starchild: Highly improbable.
Cat Man: Not our Demon.
Space Ace: Hi, Curly!

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