KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
Released: October 28, 1978
Run Time: 96 minutes
Genre: Music, Science Fiction, TV Movie
Production: KISS Productions, Hanna-Barbera Productions
Paul Stanley as Himself
Gene Simmons as Himself
Paul Daniel Frehley as Himself
Peter Criss as Himself
Anthony Zerbe as Abner Devereaux
Carmine Caridi as Calvin Richards
Deborah Ryan as Melissa
John Dennis Johnston as Chopper
Lisa Jane Persky as Dirty Dee
Brion James as Guard
Don Buday - Writer
Gordon Hessler - Director
Jan Michael Sherman - Writer
Hoyt Curtin - Original Music Composer
Robert Caramico - Director of Photography
Peter E. Berger - Editor
Cathy Henderson - Casting
James Hulsey - Production Design
John H. Anderson - Set Decoration
William M. Aucoin - Executive Producer
Synapsis: The tale of rock band KISS and their efforts to thwart a diabolical plan by mad scientist Abner Devereaux. Devereaux has found a way to clone humans into robots in his laboratory at an amusement park. It just so happens that he plans to uses the KISS concert as a platform to unleash his plan on the world. KISS must use their special powers to stop him.
Beavis’s Movie Memories
Ho – Ley – Crap! Those are the words I uttered when I watched this movie about 5 years ago with the NoFadz crew. There were quite a few of us watching online that Saturday night who started to slowly realize we had seen this before. Then it came to us… We saw it on a very special night in 1978 when every teenager in the country sat in front of a radiating tube waiting to see the coolest band ever, KISS!
You have to remember that in 1978 there was no internet or MTV or anything like that. Back then the only chance a 14-year old had to see a band like KISS was to go to a concert that came around every 4 years or so, or see them on a television show like Midnight Special or Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. When word got out that this movie was going to be on TV, all plans were cancelled and we awaited the greatest thing we would surely see for a long time to come. Sadly, this was the cool-kid equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which embarrassed the collective Star Wars fandom for years to come. But this movie? Well… It kinda did the same, but in a cool way.
There’s some confusion as to the actual title of the movie. KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park was the title of the TV version that aired on NBC the night of October 28, 1978. The movie was subsequently shown in theaters everywhere EXCEPT the US. The Australian version, Attack Of The Phantoms, is the only version you still find rarely floating around out there. This is because KISS was apparently very displeased with the movie and tried their best to delete it from our collective consciousness.
There were a lot of troubles during shooting… None of them had acted before or were used to the snails-pace of filming a movie. Peter Criss’ dialogue in the film had to be over-dubbed by a voice actor (Michael Bell) because he refused to participate in post-production. Apparently the only time you hear his real voice is the dubbed version of “Beth” that they sing to a girl named Melissa.
While filming, Ace had a black stunt double. In the fight scene with the cats under the roll coaster (it will be explained later), Ace switches from a white guy to a black guy then back again. I guess they thought the KISS makeup would make the transition unnoticeable. Wait… If a black guy wears white-face makeup, is that racist? Nah, it was the 70’s, nobody was that uptight back then to give a shit.
Enough background… Put on your Tube Socks and get ready to Whip Inflation Now as we watch and review this 70’s forgotten gem!
The movie takes place in an amusement park where KISS will be performing in concert for three nights. It’s a typical 70’s amusement park with metal safety bars (or no bars at all). The real life park is Six Flags Magic Mountain.
The owner, Calvin, is not happy with the KISS fans invading his park but he puts up with it in hopes that the concert will really put the park on the map.
As a group of carefree young teens forms a pyramid in the middle of the fairway, Chopper, Slime and their gang come by and kick the bottom layer causing the group to mildly touch the ground as they “fall”. The builder of the park, Abner Devereaux, witnesses this and puts a stop to the shenanigans before somebody gets mildly bruised.
Abner meets up with Calvin and is upset with him because he has changed some of his vision. I don’t know… It looks like a pretty cool park so I can’t imagine his vision was much better. Abner claims he needs more money for his ‘research’ but the owner says they are stretched thin.
Once again, Abner runs into the hooligans accosting a mechanical ape. They tell him they’re looking for a more exciting ride. Abner seizes the opportunity and invites them to try his “Chamber of Thrills” ride. Chopper says he may or may not try it. They are SO cool!
Cut to some woman looking for someone named Sam. She finds security guards and asks the guy from Blade Runner for directions to his lab. They point and she heads off. As she approaches the door, Abner is inside working on a robotic arm. He speaks with her over a video doorbell and lets her in. Turns out she’s really looking for Sam Sparrow, his lab assistant, and her fiance.
As he escorts her through the lab we see a K-Mart Shields and Yarnell, followed by a robotic version of the Hudson Brothers (HEY MARGOLIS!). As he briefly looks at a monitor he sees that Chopper and his gang decided to check out the “Chamber of Thrills” ride. He quickly escorts her out so he can get back to work. At what? Well, you’ll find out soon.
Chopper, Slime and the gang enter a haunted house looking attraction with plenty of ‘robots’. After kicking out the only other people in the room, Chopper and his gang start falling down trap doors and other enclosures. The last gang member is treated to several animatronic displays including one of a man whipping someone in the face repeatedly, resulting in a louder than needed SLAP sound. This was part of the Moe Howard attraction. After they all disappear, Abner moves on to his latest creation… A robotic replacement (or cyborg?) of Sam!
Finally, the big night arrives… The KISS concert! Abner looks at the crowd through his video monitor and yells that he will destroy them and that his robots will be his instrument. As KISS is introduced, we see their various magic powers on display (just go with it). Ace shoots beams from his fingers which produces Peter Criss from thin air. As he falls back into space, he turns into Paul Stanley, who in turn produces solid beams of light that he can walk on. Then he uses his eyes to produce Gene Simmons who can breath fire. They then proceed to play “Shout it out loud.” SWEET!
Back in his laboratory, we see Sam, who is now part robot (or all robot?) and is a much more efficient lab helper for Abner.
The concert is over and as KISS leaves, Abner sends Sam out to get photos of the band’s faces. Hmmm, what could he possibly want those for?
HEY! There’s Melissa, and she sees Sam. She calls his name but he robotically passes her by. The security guards accost her, upsetting Gene. Paul shoots a beam at them which makes them ‘happy’, causing the guards to let her go. Paul’s eye then lights up, attracting her to it. As she approaches, Paul tells her, “You’re looking for someone, but it’s not KISS!” She tells the band she’s looking for her fiance, Sam. A guard approaches and tells her that there are hundreds of photographers and that she’s probably mistaken. This further angers Gene and he growls at him. Paul tells her Sam is still in the park.
As the park closes, she walks out, taking one last look back for Sam. She tells the guards she will be back tomorrow and she’s not giving up. So, now we have all the plot ingredients mixed… Melissa is looking for her fiance, Sam, who is now part of Abner’s evil plan, and KISS is involved because they… Well, they’re the stars of the movie.
The next day, she goes back to see Abner. He gives her an all access pass to help with her search. After she leaves, Abner reviews the photos taken by Sam. They zoom in on a photo of Peter Criss, then segue into the band sitting together in the closed park singing “Beth“… To Melissa.
Cut to Robotic Sam as he proceeds to trash KISS’s dressing room house looking for talismans. He finds a red box and opens it. It contains the four KISS member symbols in dry ice. He tries to touch one but it shocks him. As he exits (without the box), Beth sees him and runs up to hug him. He brushes her off and she gets hysterical, thus alerting KISS to run to her side.
They take her into their dressing room house that contained the red box that contains the talismans. They show them to her and tell her that without the talismans they are just normal human beings.
Back in his lab, Abner looks over his Gene Simmons robot and tests it’s fire breathing ability. The Blade Runner guard guy and his partner check the grounds of the park. They hear a commotion and see Gene Simmons breaking through a brick wall like the Kool-Aid guy. He approaches the guards menacingly and more arrive to try and take down robotic Gene. In the background we hear “Radioactive” as Gene proceeds to easily dispense with the guards and destroy a Coke stand.
The next day at some pool somewhere, the band members relax as the management of the park approach along with the security guards. They tell them there was some trouble at the park and it was Gene that trashed the place. The band members tell them it couldn’t be him because he’s a pussy cat, to which Gene growls at them as he walks through. The guards excuse themselves to have a private chat. But wait… Paul shoots a beam from his eyes that can ‘hear’ what people are saying? They return and tell the band to continue with the concerts, but behave themselves.
The second concert, or is it the third because there was a day / night / day sequence earlier when Melissa was looking for Sam? Oh well, just sit back and enjoy the song “I stole your love.”
Back in Abner’s lab, he tells robotic Sam to go back and get the box of talismans. He gives him a ray gun in case the box gives him trouble again. He returns, opens the box, and shoots the talismans with the ray gun.
In the security office, the guards talk about the previous night’s trouble. Suddenly, a greenish gas seeps in and robots enter. They grab the Blade Runner security guard and his partner.
After the show, KISS walk through the empty park trying to figure out what happened (and so am I). Apparently they know their talismans were stolen and that they must find this Deveraux guy. But that can wait because they decide to stop at a merry-go-round and have a seat. Ace asks Gene, “What’s up, Demon?”
As they ponder their next move, Abner starts all the rides as “Man Of 1,000 Faces” plays. We then see various rides spinning and periodic evil laughter from Abner as the song plays. Then, it all shuts down. Okay, not sure what role that played other than an excuse to play the song.
The band continues looking for Deveraux. As they approach the roller coaster, they are attacked by robotic cat people… Or the cast of “Cats.” The robot cat people climb the sides of the roller coaster and then jump down to attack them. As KISS beats the shit out of Rum Tum Tugger and Skimbleshanks, we’re treated to “Back in the New York Groove” as the background music. Super-cool!
Though not technically a Railing Kill, there is a robotic cat person that gets shot and falls from the coaster rails. Close enough.
Once the cats are vanquished, they enter a room full of Kung Fu robots! Actually, it’s looks more like “middle-aged Asian guys in robes” robots. They dispense with a few and when cornered, the band disappears in a puff of smoke.
Now they’re crossing a rope bridge into the “Chamber of Thrills.” As they pass the Moe Howard stooge slapping display, they look for clues. Rut-roe, now the robotic displays have a new mission… Attack KISS! At first, the band is winning, but then Abner shoots their talismans with the ray gun, turning them into mere mortals. Somehow though, they are able to concentrate and disappear, only to reappear a short distance away in the same room.
Abner has the robots round them into the middle of the room. He then flips a switch and some tubes come out of the ceiling and sucks the members up and into the lab. Once locked inside a laser protected cell, they see their robot doubles and figure out Deveraux’s evil plan to replace them.
Abner leaves with the robots so they can replace KISS at the last concert. The robot versions are able to pass themselves off as KISS onstage but it is short-lived when they start singing a song called “RIP and destroy” (which is their song “Hotter than Hell” with different lyrics). The crowd is not amused. They start booing, angering the actual band members locked up below who are watching on a monitor. They decide they need to get out, to which Peter states, “Leave it to me, Star Child. I’ll bend these beams with my mind!”
They stare at the box of talismans conveniently left on Deveraux’s desk. It levitates towards them and they are able to get their talismans out. Yay! Somehow getting their talismans back enable them to fly to the stage where they beat the shit out of the imposter robots to the cheer of the crowd.
The real KISS take the stage and stirs up the crowd with another rendition of “You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy.” There’s some awesome shots of the crowd which I don’t recall on the TV version but must have been added to the Australian version because it shows a guy flipping off the camera and some very suggestive boobie shaking.
After the concert and back in Abner’s lab, Melissa tries to communicate with robotic Sam. It looks like all is lost. But wait! There’s a resistor stapled to his neck. Paul sees the device and shoots his eyeball beams at it. Now Sam is back to normal. As for Deveraux… Well, apparently the clash with KISS killed him because he is sitting still in his chair, all old and frozen and zombie-like.
But wait, next we see him walking through the park in the daytime which is confusing because it’s the same footage we saw of him walking through the park at the beginning of the film. Are they saying he’s still alive and it’s his robot that was left in the lab? Is it a memory, or a twist?
Oh well. Thus ends our trip to a simpler time and a great memory of when KISS ruled the world. As far as rating this film, it deserves 3.5 snarks. 3 for the film itself (there’s some riffing possibilities but not quite enough) and a half snark for the railing kill. It does however deserve a 5 for the flood of memories brought back to those who were lucky enough to see this when it was on TV. KISS_tastic!