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In the first battle, Abner sends ape-like creatures to attack our superhero rock’n’rollers, but they kinda screech like cats. Never mind – after a supremely cheesy fight sequence – poorly choreographed, done partly in slo-mo, and also scored to cheesy 70s funk, KISS is triumphant. By the way, at this point in the film it’s all starting to feel like an episode of Scooby Doo, and yes, there’s a reason for that. The next fight features kung-fu fighting robots, so that means more martial arts, jumping, acrobatics, and even swords that appear out of nowhere (when they first appear in the robots’ hands they look like light sabers, which is obviously a total coincidence). By the way, here is where we find out that Ace can teleport everybody away, which he probably should have done in the first place.
Devereaux sends Sam to retrieve the talismans again, but this time he gives him a special ray gun to get through the force field. With their powers taken away from them, KISS is captured and then replaced with robot lookalikes. Abner’s plan is to send the fake KISS onstage for the final show, where the robot imposters do a decent impression of the band, but they alter the lyrics to the song “Hotter than Hell” to read “Rip and Destroy.”
Here are the original song lyrics:
I said “Lady, oh lady, can I take you home
There’s just so much we could do
I’ll take you all around the whole wide world
Before the evening is through”
Hot, hot, hotter than hell
You know she’s gonna leave you well done
Hot, hot, hotter than hell
Burn you like the midday sun
Here are the lyrics from “fake” KISS:
It’s time for everyone to listen good
We’ve taken all we can stand
You’ve got the power to rip down these walls
It’s in the palm of your hand
Rip, rip, rip and destroy
You know the hour’s getting late
Rip, rip, rip and destroy
Break it down and seal your fate
The idea is to incite the crowd to riot (hey, this is a very stupid crowd), but the real KISS manage to get their talismans back (by concentrating real hard and using the force.. uh,I mean, using telekinesis) and escape just in time to destroy fake KISS and put on a final concert, the right way! (First of all, with their talismans out of reach, why do they still have powers? And second – Holy Crap! The ending of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey totally ripped this movie off!) With the impostors vanquished, the band finishes out the show with a performance of “Rock and Roll All Nite” (from the 1975 album Dressed to Kill. After the show ends, everybody descends upon Devereaux’s lab only to find the mad scientist frozen solid in his chair, with white hair and an aged face. Oh, I get it! You see because… wait, no, I don’t get it at all. What the hell happened to Devereaux? Anyway, Star Child finds the little diode in Sam’s neck and gets rid of it, bringing Sam back from Westworld/Futureworld. By the way, did I mention that this movie steals from Westworld/Futureworld? Well now I did. Richards, after saying what a genius Abner was, utters this nugget: “He created KISS to destroy KISS…and he lost.” By the way, the ending credits confirm what I suspected – this was a Hannah Barbera production!
Needless to say, KISS was not happy with the outcome of this very “special” telefilm. The script was rewritten a bunch of times during the process (by idiots), and it is said that the band didn’t have a good experience making it. Naturally, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park was savaged by critics, but when does anybody listen to critics? The movie was a huge hit anyway (it even got a theatrical release in other countries). But the band members still thought they looked like clowns up on the screen (hmm, I wonder why they thought that?) and part of the fallout was that nobody who worked for them could ever mention the film in their presence. Rumor has it that KISS still hates the movie today, but that hasn’t stopped Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park from being a cult favorite. I understand why, in a way. The cheesy acting, amateurish fight sequences, goofy 70s score, a bizarre/amazing performance from Anthony Zerbe, the way Ace Frehley says ACK! all the time, beyond-stupid robot creatures, Gene Simmons’ modulated voice (and tiger growls), the obvious use of an African-American stunt double to replace him, and the whole thing just kinda being one big live action cartoon for kids.
If you are a 70s child or a KISS fan, you probably will love this. It will make you nostalgic, even as you realize it’s bad. But – since I brought up George Lucas before, I will say that KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park has one other thing going for it. This movie was shown on “NBC Saturday Night at the Movies”, on October 28, 1978, but it was not the worst thing on television that year. Just a few weeks later, on November 17, 1978, CBS aired the travesty known as The Star Wars Holiday Special. Compared to that man-made disaster, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is like Citizen Kane.
– Bill Gordon
KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park Trivia
- When the screenwriters interviewed the band members, Ace Frehley didn’t say too much except “Ack!” So that’s what they wrote for him to say in the movie. The first draft described Ace as “monosyllabic and super-friendly. Communicating largely through gestures and sounds, Ace might be best described as an other-galactic Harpo Marx.” Frehley got pissed about that, so they revised to script to give him actual dialogue. (I don’t think it helped).
- Other band members say that Peter Criss’s dialogue was overdubbed by voice actor Michael Bell because Criss never showed up for post-production. Criss himself denies it.
- Sometimes Frehley would get pissed at the director Gordon Hessler and storm off the set, leaving his African-American stunt double to take his place (which is obvious in some scenes).
- The concert KISS puts on in the movie was a real concert that took place at Magic Mountain on May 19, 1978, in front of a crowd of 8,000 fans.
- The movie actually got a theatrical release in some other countries, which is an altered version that has a different soundtrack and some scenes that weren’t in the TV version. One of the changes was that the cheesy Hanna-Barbera music during the fight sequences was replaced with music from KISS’ own catalog. You can get this particular version by purchasing Kissology Volume II.
- Interestingly, director Gordon Hessler had previously directed Vincent Price movies like The Oblong Box, Cry of the Banshee , and Scream and Scream Again. The 70s were mostly a stretch of TV movies and shows, but in the 80s he managed to direct some Shô Kosugi films like Pray For Death and Rage of Honor.