This entry is for the Pop Stars Blogathon (NOTE: KISS are ROCK stars, but this entry was deemed acceptable for the theme!) hosted by Real Weegie midget.
It’s almost as if I was destined to be a KISS fan, as I was born in 1996, the year KISS reunited with the original four- and officially became a fan in 1998, thanks to my Mom, a fan since the 70’s.
With the band currently on their, “End of the Road Final Tour Ever” (note- my Mom saw them on their 2000 “Farewell” tour… so…), I decided to review the 1978 made for TV movie: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park aka KISS in Attack of the Phantoms in Europe. Their are slight differences to the versions, with the most noticeable difference for the Attack version being the inclusion of the band’s 1978 solo albums as part of the film’s soundtrack.
The plot of the movie is wacky, but it goes as so: Due to the KISS concert at Magic Mountain, engineer Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe) is jealous because the band is stealing attention from his attractions. Once he is wrongly blamed for a ride breakdown, park manager Calvin Richards (Carmine Caridi) fires him. To get back at KISS, Devereaux mind controls park employee Sam (Terry Lester) to steal KISS’s magical talisman that give them superpowers. Meanwhile, Sam’s girlfriend Melissa (Deborah Ryan), is worried and after their show asks KISS for help to find Sam. But when a Gene Simmons clone wreaks havoc on the park, and KISS clones show up for their concert instead, while the real KISS is imprisoned and weakened; it’s up to KISS to escape, regain their powers, take down Devereaux and their clones, save Sam, and do it in time to put on the concert their fans deserve!!!
Originally described as A Hard Day’s Night meets Star Wars, there were many factors that initially made this movie seem like it would be the ultimate KISS fan’s dream: it was being filmed on location at Magic Mountain, it was backed by Hanna-Barbera productions, KISS was at the height of their popularity, PLUS a real concert attended by fans was going to be filmed and placed in the movie!!!!
However, behind the scenes, things were seriously going wrong. For one, none of the members of KISS could act, it showed, and the script went through countless rewrites, which, in turn translated to the screen. Secondly, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were dealing with substance abuse; with Criss getting into a car accident with the band’s tour manager on the final day of filming (and true to his Catman ways, came through with minor injuries).
Then, there’s the obvious stunt doubles and of course, the now urban legend of Peter not showing up for ADR sessions resulting in the voice dubbing with Michael Bell. (I, as well as my Mom, personally believe Peter did some, as his voice can be heard in certain scenes, not counting the Beth scene. Just hear the line: “We’re just ordinary human beings” and THAT’S PETER!!!).
Production issues aside, the magic touch of this film certainly HAS to be the fact this movie is all about KISS. To see the original four playing at the concert is a real thrill and time capsule moment in KISSTORY. The music makes the movie in this case, with many songs from the band’s catalouge being used as well as in the Attack version, multiple songs from each of their individual 1978 solo albums (a highlight: Ace’s New York Groove being played during the second fight sequence: complete with Frehley flips!!!!).
Speaking as a KISS fan and a movie fan, I say this movie is still best (because you wanted the best!!!). So what if Paul Stanley’s “magic eye” laser looks fake- it’s only something he as the Starchild could pull off. Gene Simmons’s voice was ridiculously altered to play up his Demon persona- but he makes it cool. And even though Peter’s stunt double is especially noticeable – it’s still awesome to know the Catman has enhanced jumping abilities!!!
And of course I have to mention Ace’s ACK! (sorry Mom!! HAHAHA!) I think it’s hysterical and makes the movie extra legendary and funny! Only Space-Ace can make something so pointless and dumb so likable and iconic! It may have caused problems on set, as Ace was originally only supposed to say Ack! the whole movie- (he threatened to leave if real dialogue wasn’t written for him)- but it’s ironic because that’s what he would say in real life when writers were trying to write material around his personality.
Today, the film is a real fan favorite and a true cult film. It’s just super fun for KISS fans, 1970’s film fans, and music fans alike to just enjoy the film for what it is: a cheesy, funny, entertaining film involving KISS. I admit I was laughing- but in a lovable manner. Even KISS has gotten over the initial embarrassment (it being known that for years, KISS employees were not allowed to mention the film in any of the band’s members’ presence) with Ace later stating it was “tons of fun” to film. As my mom says, “This movie is so hokey, but I love it!!”
Farewell?! KISS! We’ll always have the Phantom (and your music… and the dvds… and the action figures… and all the other kollectibles! !!)