And now, as is Schlocktoberfest tradition, here is a special guest review from our good friend and the Tri-State area’s seventh-best Paul Stanley chest hair impersonator: Jim!
KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
Allllll riiiiight primetime late seventies America! You wanted the best, and you got…well, this.
What’s It About: On Saturday, October 28, 1978, NBC aired a movie about the greatest rock band on the planet fighting Anthony Zerbe and his armada of havoc causing androids creating a big ruckus in Magic Mountain amusement park. Sounds shitty right? Well, it was the 2nd most highly rated TV movie that year behind Shogun. Take that Dr. Kildare. I’m not lying. Look it up.
Being a Kiss fan since 1977 you would think that this review would come across as extremely biased. It might be somewhat, but I never failed to get the humor and, if I may, the cheese-iosity of this now cult midnight movie. I always thought that this movie should have been on a double bill with the Star Wars Holiday Special – sending guys in their early forties into a state of nostalgic bliss while at the same time making their balls crawl with utter melancholic embarrassment.
To be fair, the European theatrical release of this movie (said Attack of the Phantoms) was tighter, more action-packed, and actually used Kiss’s music instead of the Hanna Barbera crap that was used by NBC in the domestic airing. Christ, even Romero’s public domain music in “Dawn of the Dead” sounded like Wagner compared to that. But only us aficionados went out and bought all of those Kisstory DVD box sets knowing that version was included as a bonus feature.
So on with the show. By the way yes, I am currently somewhat drunk and cranking “Firehouse,” “Cold Gin,” and “Deuce” as I type this. Not the shitty compressed “Double Platinum” versions either. The original versions from the 1974 Casablanca Records debut album recorded at Bell Sound Studios in New York City, that was originally supposed to be produced by Eddie Kramer but the label insisted on Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise.
Now that you know I’m serious, we can proceed.
Here are some of my observations as I watched the film:
- I never realized before that the announcer coming over the Park’s PA system could technically be categorized as a Greek Chorus. Yes, this movie is that deep.
- Biker gangs used to display their anarchic beliefs by kicking over human pyramids. I always thought they would kill policemen, rape teenagers, and do crank, but then again I didn’t grow up in California.
- There was once a time when Kiss memorabilia cost under $100.
- The earliest versions of “up-rock” and “pop-locking” can be traced to the androids in Abner’s laboratory.
- Robotic barbershop quartets who can still sing in various forms of assembly = always funny.
- A really good drinking game could be played by having to do a shot every time someone says “Kiss,” “Creations,” “Talismans,” and “Sam.”
- A well-timed lion’s roar can always silence a security guard’s annoying questions.
- Simmons really missed out on marketing cookies that looked like their Talismans.
- Speaking of the Talismans, does anyone else find it remarkably ironic that not only did Kiss derive their super-powers from them; but also their ability to play their instruments? I guess that explains the short tenure of Vinnie Vincent.
- Sam (take a shot) uncomfortably looks a lot like Gerrit Graham from “Phantom of the Paradise.”
- Silver-suited white monkeys can really fuck up a good roller coaster.
- Lightsabers were already being ripped off one year five months and three days later from the premiere of Star Wars.
- Rip And Destroy was a decent song, and would have been even better if re-recorded by Anthrax.
- To escape their force field guarded prison, NBC decided to give Kiss The Force. If so, they could have just mind-tricked Abner to do their bidding 45 minutes into the film – but now is not the time for rational thought.
- No on ever made a movie about Pearl Jam fighting the evil lord of Ticketmaster in the early nineties. I rest my case.
[The only time everyone’s real voice appeared together, and a really good version of this song.]
Is It Actually Scary: Well, if you’re a fan of the band this movie is completely terrifying. If not you’re probably asking yourself, who are those four douche nozzles in clown white fighting shitty versions of the Universal monsters in a cardboard dungeon? Looking back, I’m scared of the fact that that I once blew my curfew years later one night in 1986 watching this movie. Didn’t get drunk, didn’t get laid – no I wanted to watch this. At least my polyhedral D&D dice were polished boy howdy. Even sadder, that D&D line wasn’t a euphemism.
Scariest Moment: The scene where the Simmons stunt double plows right through an extremely obvious balsa wood concession stand after the real Simmons growls at some lackluster security guards. One of which was Brion James whose future roles in Blade Runner, 48 Hours, and Tango & Cash would immortalize him in the pantheon of cinema forever more. I’ve got goose bumps just typing that.
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Most Disturbing Moment: Hands down, it was when they replaced Ace with his stunt double; who was a black guy and had to wear three times the makeup than the actual Ace did from 1974 to 1982.
Dumbest Moment: Sitting down and watching this movie if you’re not a Kiss fan would do it.
How Much Gore: One of the albino apes got his head punched off by Paul Stanley, whose Kung-Fu was mediocre at best, and there was a slight frozen effect added to Zerbe’s face when he was defeated at the end. That was it really.
Best Line: “Ack!” Fuck you. Ace Frehley rules.
Any Nudity: On NBC? During primetime? This was the movie of the week folks, two years before cable swept the neighborhood. That being said, I would have loved to see Deborah Ryan naked but that’s just me.
[This is what’s finally going to get the boys in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.]
Overall: Since I was raised by a Mom who thought Kiss, “were shit” this movie holds a special place in the ‘ole ticker. No matter how much I begged for the Ace doll, I never got one. However, I did get 5 Star Wars figures from compromising. And who doesn’t love the original Kenner Star Wars action figures? Am I right or wrong here? This was about Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park right?
[I bet getting fired from this band goes like this.]
Score: 10 Demons, 10 Starchilds, 10 Catmen, and 10 Space Aces (out of 10) Does that even make sense?
Post Script: I’d like to thank my Droogies Brad and Brian for allowing me this Halloween Review Hat Trick.
I’d also like to dedicate this review to my late friend Chris, who loved this movie as much as I did, and who looked at me funny when I spent $75 on the original clamshell case VHS of this silly movie.