After really hating Gordon Hessler’s Cry Of The Banshee, I was worried that the other two movies of his I planned on watching would fall flat. Luckily, I’ve had a much better It’s All Connected experience with his 1978 TV movie KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park. Less of a horror movie and more of a live action Scooby-Doo episode with a costume-loving rock band filling in for the kids and a talking dog, this is still a super enjoyable movie…if you don’t mind the title characters being VERY bad actors.
I was about to launch into my whole history with KISS, but it turns out I wrote about all that ten years ago! Basically, my rock-loving dad and I saw them on their late 90s reunion tour and I was hooked. I bought everything from a tie to the McFarlane action figures to, yup, a bootleg copy of KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park at a comic convention! Over the summer I was clearing out the garage and came across a box filled with VHS tapes including this one! Soon after, I bought a thingy (perhaps a dongle) that would allow me to record tapes onto my computer. So, after figuring out the best way to get in and out of this flick for It’s All Connected, I gave it a watch while digitizing!
This motion picture takes place at a theme park called Magic Mountain (now owned by Six Flags). The place has some incredibly realistic animatronics thanks to the park’s founder and main inventor (but not owner) Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe). His attractions aren’t bringing a lot of people in so the owner, Calvin Richards (Carmine Caridi), arranges for KISS to play. Somehow, this also leads to Abner getting fired, but instead of leaving he retreats to his in-park lab where he continues working on lifelike robots. Or are they?
Meanwhile, Devereaux’s assistant Sam (Terry Lester) goes missing and only his wife Melissa (Deborah Ryan) seems to care. She can’t even get much help from the security guards, one of whom is played by Brion James! Luckily, KISS shows up, plays the show and use their super powers to realize she’s distressed and start helping out. Abner doesn’t like their meddling, so he begins a plot to send a variety of different robots after those meddling kids…er KISS.
To tally up genres, this movie starts off as a pretty basic “shenanigans at an amusement park” pic complete with biker punks who get taken out in the house of horrors by Abner. It then becomes a mix of mad scientist, house of wax and Phantom of the Opera (or Phantom Of The Paradise) and THEN KISS shows up as a killer band, but also they have super powers thanks to a talisman. Devereaux unleashes KISS robot copies as well as a variety of sword-wielding, multi-flipping enemies who don’t stand against KISS…or rather their stunt doubles.
If you know anything about this film, it’s probably that even KISS hates it. This is pretty stunning considering Gene Simmons loves money and is somewhat more understated in this than, say, Runaway or Never Too Young To Die. That being said, Gene roars more than talks, Ace Frehley does his best attempt at the Three Stooges poorly, Peter Criss is totally dubbed and Paul Stanley sounds like he’s an alien who just learned his lines phonetically. They are truly very bad in this movie, but that just adds to the fun of it, especially in the scene where the whole band is sitting on very tall chairs next to a pool while wearing cloaks during the day. It. Is. NUTS.
The movie also features some great live performances by KISS, including a rendition of “Beth” just for Melissa, a super powered fight next to a roller coaster, another in an amphitheater, the robots changing the lyrics to “Hotter Than Hell,” KISS fighting the monsters from the chamber of horrors and KISS versus robo-KISS! Yes, it’s all ridiculous, but what else could you expect?
Initially I thought the only way to watch this flick would be through less-than-legal means like my tape or online sources, but there is an official release of one of the foreign cuts! It’s on the Kissology Volume II DVD set which came out in 2007. Better yet (maybe), it has the European cut of the film not only played in theaters, but also cut out some of the cornier aspects like Ace’s lines and the cartoony music (which I actually really liked!).
Up next, I’m getting back to Vincent Price through Gordon Hessler so we can see him hobnob with some fellow A+ horror actors for a few movies before moving on from the greatest actor of all time!