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I'm no KISS lover, nor am I a KISS hater; I suppose I'm a bit of a casual
fan. I am however, a lover of movies of the genre that is sometimes called
"Inexplicable." KISS Meets The Phantom (Of the Park) is such a movie. A
real head-scratcher. You'll be scratching your head so damn much your scalp
will start to flake. I think this movie keeps Head and Shoulders in
KISS star as themselves (Sort of, they are the band KISS, but they only refer to themselves as "The Demon" or "Space Ace" and so on), in a, well, really, a TV movie, but even then, that doesn't explain how poor the quality is. TV movies look better than this, heck, most after school specials have this beat. Anyway, KISS is playing 3 days of concerts at an unamed amusement park (In reality, Magic Mountain in California), and in between their 2-song concerts (That's as much as we see anyway), they fight the evil shenanigans of an evil inventor who works in a secret lab underneath the park.
Although I can't recall him ever being referred to in the film as "The Phantom" I have to assume he is the titular character. He certainly doesn't wear pink tights and fire pistols; though that probably would have pepped up the plot, which is droll and inane to say the least.
Here's the main problem. Amongst the opening credits you will prominently see displayed as Executive Producer one Joseph Barberra, famous for the Hanna Barberra cartoons. You will also notice a lot of musical cues and story elements that seem plucked right out of bad episodes of Scooby-Doo, Super Friends, Josie and the Pussycats and others. I'm not reaching here, a lot of sounds and music are exactly the same. Basically, the film is a live action Hanna Barberra cartoon, complete with terrible laser beam eye blasts and fire breath (One time you can see the physical edges of the effect, not a proud moment for Gene). This movie could have worked as a cartoon, or as a KISS movie about, I dunno, a concert. Instead its A Hard Days Scooby, and a poor one at that.
KISS certainly don't help their cause, Gene is really the only one who seems comfortable in his non-performance scenes, and he's hindered by a weird reverb effect on his voice that makes him almost impossible to understand. Ace and Paul are both more wooden than George Washington's teeth, and "The Cat" sounds an awful lot like Duke from GI Joe (His voice having been redubbed in post because, well, it was bad). In one scene, Ace is also clearly a stunt double, who's...well, black. In another, he's Asian. Oops.
I know I've made it sound awful but...well, okay so it's awful. But KISS Meets The Phantom often achieves that rare goofy quality of a movie that isn't so much bad, as it is completely insane and way off base. It's not as funny as a Plan 9, or a Gymkata, but it is worthy of at least one viewing with a big crowd of rowdy friends.
Consider this: In 1978 Wonder Woman was a fairly decent sized hit TV
series. Cheese and camp were in. KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
originally was planned (and scripted) as "Star Wars meets A Hard Day's
Night." Unfortunately, the network censors decided that it was too
violent and too serious for all the kids that would likely be watching,
so the script was toned down. After 3 or 4 re-writes the script hardly
resembled that which the band and their management agreed to, but they
had already signed their contracts, so...
Out came KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park to TV screens in the Fall of 1978. It was bad, unintentionally funny in spots, and yet - it was still kind of cool if you "got it." The idea of KISS as superheroes was a natural, and, in fact, it followed the two Marvel Comics KISS special issues from 1977 & 1978 - including the idea of where they got their powers. There are some ideas in the story that if fleshed out and written well could have made for a good TV movie. Unfortunately Hanna Barbera was running the show, and turned it into a live action cartoon - with the approval (and outright urging) of NBC. The band so hated the script that even Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons - the guys in the band with good work ethic and aspirations of becoming serious Hollywood actors someday - didn't bother to study their lines. They just had their lines barked out to them and repeated them for each take. Peter Criss, as has been noted many times, didn't even bother to show up for the "looping," or overdubbing of his voice to fix the spots where the audio recording wasn't up to par (and had his voice replaced by a cartoon voice actor throughout the film as a result). Ace Frehley also seems disinterested for most of the movie (and as he was, and still is, a big Science Fiction fan that shows just how unhappy he was with the script - and the film-making process in general).
Anthony Zerbe and Carmine Caridi, however, do their best to salvage something out of this mess. They give solid, fairly believable performances despite dialog that is often cheesy, and despite their characters being written as cardboard cut-outs rather than 3 dimensional people. Kudos to them, they clearly were (and still are) professionals.
The highlights of the movie end up being the music and the cheesy fight scenes - and maybe the interplay between Zerbe's Abner Deveraux and Caridi's Calvin Richards. KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park can be fun to watch IF you go into it expecting a cheesy 70's superhero camp movie. If that's all you expect, then it meets and exceeds those expectations. It's a great bit of nostalgia as well.
KISS survived this movie, but just barely. A year later they had a huge hit with their Dynasty album, but then saw Peter Criss leave the band, with Ace Frehley following suit a couple of years later. They saw their fortunes fade for a few years (despite the introduction of the late, great Eric Carr on drums in 1980) before their career revival minus the make-up with albums like Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, and Revenge. In 1996 the original group got back together for a wildly successful reunion that lasted for 5 years. Once again, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley proved to be too unstable and erratic to continue in the band, and they each ended up leaving KISS (or being asked to leave) for a second time. Despite a "Farewell Tour" in 2000-2001 KISS still continues today, and they still hate this movie. But like a veteran telling war stories, they still tell the tale of making this movie, and of how a great idea was turned into something profoundly stupid yet still strangely compelling.
KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK... what a film! I first encountered this film as a Movie-Of-The Week on TV when I was about nine years old. I thought it was great then, of course, because back then (late '70s) ANYTHING Kiss-related was "great." When I saw it again years later on the late movie I found it hard to keep my drink from spraying out of my nose while I laughed hysterically through the entire movie. I ran out and found the movie on VHS the next day and spent many a happy Saturday night during college exposing my friends to this underrated gem. It became a surrogate "Rocky Horror" midnight movie for the metal heads in my dorm. The other posts on this movie have already beaten the "plot" (or lack thereof) to death so I don't need to berate it any further. Let's just say this: the script is hilariously bad, as are the performances, the special effects, etc., etc. But for KISS fans this is mandatory viewing at least once. In fact, I use this film as a litmus test when speaking to other KISS fans to find out how hardcore they are. I ask "Have you seen KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM?" and if they answer "Yes," I ask "How many times?" If the answer is more than five times, then I know I'm in the company of a hardcore member of the KISS Army. The band may hate this movie (I believe they even sued a DVD distributor recently for releasing the film on DVD and had it taken out of circulation) but I simply can't get enough of the Star-Child ("you're looking for someone...but it's not KISS"), Space Ace ("Insufficient data, Starchild! ACK!"), the Demon (There ARE no right hands but OURS!"), and the Cat Man ("Gene's brother was an only child!")in action. It's a bad movie to end all bad movies. I love bad movies, and I love KISS, so for me it's a match made in heaven.
Yes, the movie is horrible, and yes it is an embarrassment. However, if you grew up with KISS in the 1970's this movie will be very near and dear to your heart. The fact that this movie was even made is a testament to the KISS phenomenon of the 70's. It isn't so much a movie as it is a magical moment in time captured.
I'm going to assume that you, the reader, have already been privileged enough to view this masterpiece. Most likely, like most of the world's population, you have seen it multiple times and probably own your own copy, as I do. I will also go out on a limb and assume that you are aware of Gene Simmons' acting chops. They speak for themselves. Here we see a master thespian at the peak of his craft, eliciting emotions and feelings as only one as trained and skilled as he can do. Assuming you already know these things, I will spare you intricate plot details and my hypothesis on all of the metaphors and double-entendres that exist in this cinematic celluloid achievement. What we've got here is a cultural landmark the likes of which may not be fully understood for centuries to come. Like "Riding With Death" and Steven Speilberg's "2001: A Space Odyssey" before it, "KISS Meets a Phantom in a Park (1978) (TV)" asks questions of the mind, heart, body and soul. Where Speilberg failed, George Lucas succeeds with this film, his directorial debut. And what a stellar debut it is. Originally titled "KISS in Attack of the Phantom", Lucas wisely retitled the film due to his imminent release 20 years later of the similarly titled films "Attack of the Clones" and "The Phantom Menace". Whatever title he chose, "KISS Meets the Phantom in a Park (1978) (TV)" surpasses those two films by leaps and bounds, and indeed is even vastly superior to the 1982 original "Star Wars". Though released in (1978) for (TV), the special effects and brilliant stunt work were far ahead of their time and truly belonged on the big screen. Only with `The Star Wars Holiday Special' and perhaps "Corvette Summer" would Lucas come close to the greatness he ultimately captured in "KISS in KISS Meets a Phantom in a Park Who Attacks Them (1978) (TV)". Sadly, he would never approach that level of mastery again, though some (myself included) would argue that his Executive Producer credit on "Glitter" should have earned him an Oscar. To sum up, an overall brilliant film, utterly bereft of flaws. A timeless and intriguing piece of work that to this day does not fail to frighten, educate, thrill, and provoke thought. This is the quintessential Rock and/or Roll film that writer/director/star Kevin Costner tried to bring to fruition in his half-baked, ill-fated, ill-received 1984 film `Pink Floyd: The Wall'. Costner failed, and failed miserably. Of course he would go on to make some of the best short films of all time, including `Waterworld' and `The Postman', but neither he, nor anyone else would ever attempt again to match the glory, mystique and power of the film that is `KISS Star in a Phantom Meeting In The Park (TV) (1978)'.
If you are looking for monstrous special effects (even by 1970's standards),
this is not the film for you...
If you are a KISS fan, it is definitely worth a watching. Especially if you are a classic KISS fan.
Brief synopsis: KISS is about to play for an amusement park. The brains behind this park (Abner Deveraux played by Anthony Zerbe) grows resentful that a rock-n-roll band is overshadowing the technical expertise that he created at this park. He vows all-out war against the band using his creations to attack the band members. And their secret talisman which gives them powers.
BTW, Gene Simmons does most of his own stunts, probably preparing himself for a future theatrical career (which he did, in the 1980's). Peter Criss's lines are dubbed in by a voice guy from Hanna Barbera. Strange how Peter Criss sounds the same as Dirk Daring from G-Force.
Anthony Zerbe does a great job in acting as the villain in this one. His best IMHO is in North and South as General Grant.
Ok, this is not an epic adventure that got critical acclaim, yet after a few beers, it is good entertainment.
With tunes like "I Stole Your Love" and "Shout It Out Loud". This movie leaves no stone unturned for Kiss fans. It's so period, so dated, yet completely fun (especially if you're a nostalgia freak). Yet another one of those films where technically the acting stinks, the script is lame and the set is an amusement park but you just have to watch it once or twice or again and again. Choice is yours! (but I'd check it out:) As a Kiss fan I have no choice but to stick it a 10.
This movie sucks so bad it is great. With the added bonus that it is also almost a "Greatest Hits" collection. When you are throwing a party, just throw this in the VCR and if you can play it several times. People will love it for several reasons, mostly the music. But you can also make fun of the acting, the special effects, and the thing I love the most the back ground music. When the flying monkeys are going around the roller coaster, I could swear that in the back ground music is someone saying, "Walk a chicken". Anyway, I highly advise anyone to pick it up.
...or is that a "master piece"? Either way, I loved it. How all 4
were completely ignored for "Best Actor" Oscars is beyond
How can you beat a movie that has an "evil KISS" out to ruin the real KISS, so they go on stage at a KISS show and change the lyrics of the classic tune "Shout it out Loud" to "Rip and Destroy", to the dismay of the packed Amusement Park, who don't know there's something amiss, so they start booing the evil KISS, thinking it's the real KISS ruining their own song by changing the lyrics (how's THAT for fan loyalty?), etc, etc....I could go on.
Let's just say...this IS A CLASSIC FILM!! Rent it!! Thank you very much.
I have been a KISS fan since I was a little tyke, and back when this
stinkburger came out on TV, I had to watch it. I only now realize that
the world of music-related films must be pock-marked with bomb craters
(no pun intended)left in the wake of such cinema gold as this poor
excuse to sell cheaply-made action figures by MEGO. I mean, even Sgt.
Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) makes sense compared to this.
It was a cartoon. A live-action cartoon. Joseph Barbera must have felt horrible after unleashing this poor excuse for a film on an unwitting public.
But yet, as with so many other films that are real cheese-fests, I can't help but sit mesmerized by the events on screen. I'm not following the apparent lack of plot, nor am I really caring about the equally detestable special defects, I guess it's that I just go into Zombie mode with this film. If Dr. Forrester of MST3k really wanted to rule the world so bad, he would have used THIS film to turn Joel & the 'bots into so much mental cabbage.
I am still a fan of KISS, however. This film failed to change that. All the same, I am NOT a fan of the people responsible for convincing Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter that a TV movie of the week would be a great idea for publicity.
I think that any film aficionado worth his/her salt owes it to themselves to see this film once. after that, appropriate dosage should be determined by your physician.
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