KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978)
Article 5009 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley
What it is: Rock star superhero exploitation TV-Movie
A mad scientist at an amusement park seeks to replace the members of KISS with robots, but not if the members of the group can use their superpowers to defeat him.
I was in high school when KISS became popular, so naturally I was embroiled in the whole “KISS rules/KISS sucks” controversy; for the record, I was in the latter category. I think the reason this band had the controversy in the first place was because they had a gimmick; they all wore heavy makeup and had distinct personas on stage, with Gene Simmons’ fire-breathing tongue-wagging demon character merely the most prominent. The controversy mostly had to do with whether they were anything more than the gimmick itself. At any rate, the controversy means little to me now; though I still don’t think they were a great band, at least their music didn’t annoy the hell out of me like some bands I really dislike.
However, there doesn’t seem to be that much a controversy about this attempt to turn them into movie stars; the band itself hated the movie, and if it does have any fans, I suspect it’s more due to the concert footage than for the story. Granted, the group was told that the movie was going to be like a cross between A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and STAR WARS. Well, it does star a rock group and features special effects, but that’s about as close as it comes to that description. Perhaps a more apt comparison would be to say it’s like a Santo Mexican wrestling movie, which I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be seen as a compliment. The story is pure silliness, giving the group dumb superpowers and a ridiculous “mad scientist” plot. I’m tempted to say that one of the problems is that the members of the group can’t act, but the truth of the matter is that it’s hard to tell; one of the members was perpetually missing from the set and had to be replaced by his stunt double for most scenes, another missed the dubbing sessions and had his voice replaced by another actor, and all of Gene Simmons’ lines are either done with an echo box or consist of lion roars. Still, Simmons was the only group member here with enough stage presence to make an impression. Anthony Zerbe is a good choice for the villain, but his character is silly and tiresome. My favorite scene in the movie is the opening credits, where the group members appear as giants towering over the rides in the amusement park, and my favorite line in the movie has to do with someone mistaking the word “apocalypse” for the name of a rock group. Beyond that, unless you’re really into KISS concert footage, there’s little of interest here.