Hello. On October 28, 1978, my 4 year old mind was shattered when I watched the NBC-TV premiere broadcast airing of the film mentioned in the following post. I lived to tell the tale. Here's my story.....
I've recently went on a KISS binge, due mainly to my reaction to the recent wave of merchandising that swept through the Wal-Mart chain promoting the release of the band's (well....it's really just Gene and Paul with two new guys they've plastered Ace and Peter's makeup on) latest album offering, the Wallyworld exclusive "Sonic Boom" (which sucks ass, IMO). And even though I detest the new music, it has afforded me the opportunity to score all three season box sets of Gene Simmons' reality show for 9 bucks a pop, and picked up some otherwise pricier DVD and CD releases for cheap....I'm speaking mainly of the KISSology Volme II: 1978-1991 DVD set, which I recently discovered has a nice little surprise that several cult and b-movie fans are not aware of...it contains the European theatrical cut of KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParK (them crazy Euros call it "KISS: Attack of the Phantoms"). That...and the KISS M&M candies...I'm a sucker for candy.
So, by "binge" I mean going back and reacquainting myself with the music (I'm a fan of the original line-up, make-up era 1974-1979), reaffirming some opinions I've always held about the band. As a child, I was a Peter Criss fan, and in hindsight, seeing as how I was really too young to really dissect and formulate opinions about the music.... I was 5 when the original line-up was pretty much kaput in '79, though I did have a mother, uncle, and aunt who were HUGE fans, it was all about his stage "persona" and the cat make-up. I'm a cat person...my life-long fascination with anthropomorphic cats such as Felix, Heathcliff, and such is a testament to that. As a teen and young adult, I became a member of the Ace Frehley cult,...being a guitar enthusiast did that. Frehley truly is a genuis on the strings, plus....he's somewhat of a space-case (pun intended), a genuinely funny guy and all around eccentric. Hence the reason why his cover of "New York Groove" is presently playing on the blog's embedded jukebox...scroll down to the bottom of the page to activate it if you already haven't.
Now....the thing I love about Phantom is....all four original members detest the film, each individually on a different level. Some say this is what caused the recall on the 2005 DVD release of the NBC TV-Movie of the Week cut by Cheezy Flix (you'll be familiar with that manufacturer if you own their Billy the Kid versus Dracula disc, with the excellent Joe Bob Briggs commentary). Though, I have heard that Simmons would've liked to see it released, citing that it'd be a great midnight movie thing...though I'm thinking that's Gene "Let's slap a KISS logo on it and it's like having a license to print money" Simmons, marketing guru, speaking, and not the musician that was filling a seat on the tour bus. Oh, and then there's Ace, who wants it released because, quote: "It's the funniest shit I've ever seen." Unquote.
Man....I love Ace. I truly do. My favorite KISS album? Probably "Love Gun", mainly because of the tunes "Christine Sixteen" and Frehley's "Shock Me". There's a reason why Ace's solo album was the best selling of the four, because he an amazing musician....and he's slightly bugnuts crazy, God bless his little heart.
One thing I find surprising is that a soundtrack album for this flick has never been released (I mean...c'mon....Simmons has capitalized on every other available means to market KISS), and I kinda figured out why: one complaint that fans have about the NBC TV cut is that for a film showcasing musicians, little if any of their music is contained. Well, when one watches the European theatrical cut of the film...one comes to discover that in place of all the Hanna- Barbera incidental library music...there's actual KISS tunes. Plus...it's in widescreen.
Peter Criss (who was reportedly ego filled during the production, as well as allegedly...um....well....drunk as a skunk) is still over-dubbed over by Zan the Wonder Twin from The Super Friends, though (aka voice actor Michael Bell).
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (also known as KISS in the Attack of the Phantoms) is a 1978 television movie, starring American hard rock band Kiss. The movie's plot revolves around Kiss, who must use their superpowers to battle an evil inventor (Abner Devereaux, played by Anthony Zerbe) and to save a California amusement park from destruction.
The movie was aired by NBC at the height of Kiss's popularity in the United States. While it was one of the highest-rated TV movies of the year, its poor acting and semi-comedic script causes it to be regarded poorly even by most Kiss fans. Despite this or, perhaps, because of this, it has attained cult film status.
The film opens at Magic Mountain, where Melissa (Deborah Ryan) and her boyfriend Sam (Terry Lester) are enjoying a day at the amusement park. Sam, a park employee, disappears early in the film while investigating the laboratory of Abner Devereaux, who is the park's head engineer and the creator of a series of lifelike cybernetic creatures on display throughout the park. It is subsequently revealed that Sam has been transformed by Devereaux into a mindless cyborg through the use of a tiny mind-control device attached to Sam's neck.
Devereaux's increasingly erratic behavior is a cause of concern for Calvin Richards (Carmine Caridi), the owner of the amusement park. Faced with a budget crunch, Richards decides to channel money away from Devereaux's projects in order to pay for a Kiss concert. Richards explains to Devereaux that the concert will generate much-needed revenue, but Devereaux is livid. Later, three punks (dressed like members of a biker gang) sabotage one of the rides, placing a group of riders in danger. Richards blames Devereaux for the incident and fires him. Devereaux swears revenge upon Richards, the park, and Kiss, all of whom he blames for his misfortune.
When Kiss arrives for their show, Devereaux first attempts to discredit them by unleashing a robotic Gene Simmons, which proceeds to damage buildings in the park and to injure a security guard. The next day, Kiss is questioned by Richards and some security guards, but no action is taken. His first plan having failed, Devereaux attempts to sabotage the scheduled Kiss concert. He manages to neutralize Kiss's abilities and imprison them in his underground laboratory. Finally, he sends the fake Kiss onstage, where they perform a version of "Hotter than Hell" (called "Rip and Destroy") with altered lyrics meant to incite the crowd to riot. The real Kiss manage to escape from Devereaux and fly to the stage for a final battle with their robotic doppelgängers. After the real Kiss dispatches the fake version, the concert continues and the crisis is averted.
After the show, Kiss, Melissa, and Richards converge on Devereaux's lab and attempt to convince Devereaux to release Sam from his control. But when his chair is spun around Devereaux, has newly white hair and a frozen expression on his face. It is unknown if Devereaux is now dead, or has slipped into a state of catatonia. The group is despondent, but Stanley stumbles upon the mind control device on Sam's neck and removes it. Sam returns to normal, and with no memory of what had happened.
Kiss's commercial popularity was at its peak by 1978. The group's gross income in 1977 totalled $10.2 million. Creative manager Bill Aucoin felt, however, that the cycle of album releases and touring had taken Kiss as far as they could go, and that it was time to elevate the group's image to the next level. He formulated a plan to cast Kiss as superheroes, a process that began with the 1977 release of a Kiss comic book. The band agreed, and plans were developed for a Kiss movie.
To reinforce the idea of Kiss as superheroes, each member of the group was given superpowers in keeping with the theme of their characters—Gene Simmons (the Demon) could breathe fire and had super strength; Paul Stanley (the Starchild) emitted a beam from his eye that could control minds and allow him to hear "distant" conversations; Ace Frehley (Space Ace) could teleport himself and the group and shoot laser beams from his hands; Peter Criss (the Catman) had super agility, and could leap great distances.
Filming for Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park began in May 1978, and it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, known primarily for cartoons such as Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear (in the late '60s, they filmed and produced the live action series The Banana Splits). Most of the movie was filmed at Magic Mountain in California, with additional filming taking place in the Hollywood Hills. Much of the production was rushed, and the script underwent numerous rewrites. All four members of Kiss were given crash courses on acting.
Prior to completing the script, screenwriters Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday spent time with each Kiss member, in an effort to get a feel for how they each acted and spoke. Frehley, known for his eccentric behavior, said little to the pair but "Ack!" As a result, Frehley was not originally given any lines, except to interject "Ack!" at various points. In the first draft of the script, Frehley was described as "monosyllabic and super-friendly. Communicating largely through gestures and sounds, Ace might be best described as an other-galactic Harpo Marx." Upon learning of his lack of dialogue, Frehley threatened to leave the project — soon after, lines were written for him.
The band, none of whom had any prior acting experience, had difficulty adjusting to the demands of filming. Frehley and Criss, in particular, became increasingly frustrated with the long periods of downtime normally associated with movie-making. They were both also dealing with increasing levels of substance abuse.
Criss's dialogue in the film had to be over-dubbed by well-known voice actor Michael Bell (who had worked with producer Joseph Barbera on a number of past projects), as he refused to participate in post-production. The only time Criss's actual voice is heard in the movie is during an acoustic performance of "Beth." (Criss denies this story, stating that he "went to all the looping.")
On May 27, the last day of filming, Criss and tour manager Fritz Postlethwaite were involved in a serious car accident. Postlethwaite suffered burns but soon returned to work for Kiss. Criss's injuries were minor.The concert depicted in the film was recorded in the parking lot of Magic Mountain on May 19, 1978, in front of a crowd of 8,000 people. Tickets for the concert were given out by local radio station KMET. The group performed a full concert, which was followed by lip-synched performances of some songs. "Rip and Destroy," an altered version of "Hotter than Hell" that was featured in the movie, was not performed during the concert.
All four members of KISS despise the movie and smear it even to this day.
Much of this was inspired by the comic book spin-off that starred the characters of the band.
Prior to the movie's airing, a private screening was held for Kiss, as well as their management and friends. Despite the positive reactions from all in attendance, Kiss hated the movie for the buffoonish way it made them appear. For years after its airing, no one who worked for the group was permitted to mention the movie in their presence. Despite the band's displeasure with the results, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park was one of the highest-rated TV movies of 1978
In 1979, Avco-Embassy released Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park in cinemas outside the United States, with translations of the title Attack of the Phantoms. In some countries — Italy, in particular — the film was simply titled Kiss Phantoms. The theatrical release featured a vastly different version of the film, with several scenes that did not appear in the original television airing added to the cut.
The overseas film's overall soundtrack also differed from the original — much of the Hanna-Barbera fight music was replaced by music from the band's own catalog, primarily from their four solo albums. In some edits, the promotional videos for "I Was Made For Lovin' You" and "Sure Know Something" were also edited into the film.
In recent years, Kiss's public statements concerning the movie have been a mixture of bemusement and disgust. On VH1's When Kiss Ruled the World program, Gene Simmons stated that, "It's a classic movie...classic movie if you're on drugs," while Ace Frehley pejoratively said that "It's the funniest shit I've ever seen." In an early-1990s Sterling-McFadden magazine interview, Simmons compared the film to the infamous B-movie classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, joking that the two movies would make a perfect drive-in double feature.
In the years since its initial airing, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park has achieved cult status, mainly among Kiss fans. It is currently available on DVD as part of Kissology Volume Two: 1978-1991, a collection of concerts and television appearances. (However, this is the re-edited European version, which contains hardly any of Ace Frehley's lines.) Previously, availability was limited to two brief VHS releases in the 1980s and a laserdisc release in 1991. In 2005, distributor Cheezy Flicks attempted to release the original TV movie version of the film on DVD, but due to legal issues, the disc was quickly pulled.
The movie was parodied in the episode of Family Guy named A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas, which featured guest voices from the band. In the episode, clips of a movie called "KISS Saves Santa", which has a similar, semi-comedic script and features Gene Simmons breathing fire, as well as the band neutralizing a group of pterodactyls with the power of their guitars.
The movie was also parodied in the 1991 comedy sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, in which characters Bill and Ted battle with rock and roll doppelgangers who have stolen their identities through a death/time travel incident. They then pay tongue-in-cheek tribute KISS by playing the KISS' "God Gave Rock & Roll to You II" at the end of the film.
In the promo commercial for his 2009 album Anomaly, Frehley referenced his movie character by doing the hitchhiking gesture (which magically teleported CD copies of his album to the hands of his fans) and saying, "Ack!" before riding off.