An unlucky film debut for the band
In 1978 “KISS Meets the Phantom of The Park”
On October 28th, 1978, at the height of their popularity, rock band KISS made their feature film debut in the TV movie “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”. In the film, KISS play a super-powered version of themselves as they fight an army of evil androids and unravel a missing-persons mystery at a failing amusement park. But don’t worry, all that doesn’t stop them from performing a series of concerts and treating us to several classic KISS songs. Does this movie sound awesome, or what? Wait, did I mention it’s a super low budget made-for-TV movie, produced by Hanna-Barbera (the same guys who produced Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo)? Yeah, “awesome” might not be the right word to describe this flick. In 1977 Kiss and Marvel Comics had recently produced two giant-sized Super Special comic books starring the band, who became super-heroes with mystical powers thanks to a set of mysterious amulets. The rockers’ battles with Doctor Doom and other Marvel Universe villains were silly as hell, but the books broke all of Marvel’s sales records, and the band’s camp decided that a “KISS as Superheroes” film was the logical next step. A deal was quickly struck with Hanna-Barbera Productions and the NBC television network. In the rush to get the project on the air in time for Halloween, no one seemed to worry about unimportant details like a coherent script, or whether anyone in the band knew how to act. The result was a film that bad movie aficionados and KISS Army members alike have been laughing about for nearly forty years. In “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”, the members of KISS are all given their stage characters. Paul Stanley is Star Child, Ace Frehley is Space Ace, Gene Simmons is “The Demon” and Peter Criss just makes a lot of “cat” puns while playing his “Cat Man” character. Better yet, Gene has a weird, electronically modified voice, and growls like a lion all the time. Weirdest of all, Ace is constantly making this bird noise, like “awk” or something, for no discernible reason. Plus, they are given dialogue to spout that no human being would ever say, things that make no sense. Even a real actor would have trouble with these lines. In fact, the actual, professional actors in this flick don’t do much better. It has to be seen to be believed. If there was a bad movie hall of fame, this film would be inducted. It’s been said that the members of KISS were so ashamed of this movie that no one around them was even allowed to talk about it for years after it’s release, however, despite all that, the movie has now attained cult film status. Maybe not a bad choice for your Halloween movie night!
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Starring: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley
Watch the original 1978 NBC trailer for “KISS Meets the Phantom of The Park”
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
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