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  KISS meets the Phantom of the Park KISSed Off
Year: 1978
Director: Gordon Hessler
Stars: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Anthony Zerbe, Carmine Caridi, Deborah Ryan, John Dennis Johnston, John Lisbon Wood, Lisa Jane Persky, John Chappell, Terry Lester, Don Steele, Richard Hein, Brion James
Genre: Musical, Science Fiction, Adventure, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The rock band KISS are to play three nights at an amusement park, and the concerts are already sold out. However, the head of the park isn't happy with the work being done by his chief technician, Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe), a scientific genius who hasn't learned not to try out his latest devices on the paying public. Meanwhile, Devereaux's assistant Sam (Terry Lester) tells his girlfriend Melissa (Deborah Ryan) that he will be back in an hour as he has to check something with his boss - he's suspicious about the work going on. When Sam disappears, Melissa can't find anyone who will believe her when she tells them something is wrong... nobody but KISS, that is!

KISS meets the Phantom of the Park is one of those relics from the seventies that you can imagine the band concerned, and perhaps some of the others involved too, would rather forget. It has the appearance of being thrown together at short notice for the purposes of pure publicity, never mind how shoddy the final product looks; it played as a TV movie in North America, but was a theatrical release elsewhere in the world. Taking the form of pulp science fiction that was popular at the time thanks to Star Wars, the script, by Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday, dresses up KISS (as if they needed any more dressing up), as superhumans with out-of-this-world powers.

As the title would have it, this is a variation on The Phantom of the Opera with Zerbe as the villain, although nobody refers to him as such, but it's really that old standby of sci-fi television, the evil double plot. Devereaux, you see, is a master at creating androids which look uncannily like actors moving jerkily, and his handiwork is displayed around the park. But he has big plans for these robots, which include a Chamber of Horrors (any excuse to bring in the Frankenstein Monster, eh?) and, even scarier, a barber shop quartet, and the luckless Sam has been rendered under Deveraux's command by a small device on his shoulder.

Presumably Devereaux has dreams of taking over the world - he does mention "Armageddon" at one point - but the bigger picture remains unclear. After half an hour of this, you may be getting restless for the appearance of KISS, but they do eventually show up. Now you'd have thought that it would be difficult to make the band look more ridiculous than they already have done themselves, but hold on there, because the massed forces of Hanna-Barbera set to work, ensuring that our heroes are never seen out of costume, have a talisman each to allow them magic powers such as laser beams from their eyes, and occasionaly play a song or two.

Tongue-waggling Gene Simmons is the most curious here as his voice has been electronically treated to go all echoey, he breathes fire and frequently growls and roars like a lion. You'll notice that when KISS eventually embark on their rescue mission, they do so very slowly because they're still wearing their platform boots and can't run in them, but no matter as they give way to their stuntmen at every possible opportunity (Ace Frehley's stuntman is obviously black, bizarrely). The whole plot culminates in a concert by the KISS androids, who it should be pointed out sound exactly the same and are impossible to tell apart from the real thing; naturally, nobody notices. As a promotional tool, it probably set the band's cause back to the prehistoric era, but with time has grown into a camp favourite, even if the KISS Army have mixed feelings.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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