KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park (1978)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/31/15
Cast: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Deborah Ryan, Brion James

"He created KISS to destroy KISS, and he lost."

Magic Mountain theme park is the setting for this bizarre fantasy film, which features the members of KISS fighting a mad scientist and his army of androids. Naturally, KISS has the upper hand due to special powers that have been granted to them by a set a mystical talismans. The plot is as cliché as they come. The owner of the park books KISS to do a number of concerts in order to boost attendance and sales, and fires his partner and chief engineer because he's old fashioned and behind the times. With his life's work ruined and nothing to live for, the jilted scientist decides to get revenge by creating android replicas of KISS and having them destroy the park. Fortunately, the real KISS shows up just in time to save the day.

Yes, it's unfathomably awful, but it's also a fascinating piece of pop culture history. The acting is terrible and the dialog is appallingly bad. Only Star Child (Paul Stanley) and Demon (Gene Simmons) attempt to take it seriously, while Space Ace (Ace Frehley) and Cat Man (Peter Criss) crack stupid jokes and act silly. KISS was reportedly very unhappy with the film, as it turned out to be considerably different than their original concept and drastically dumbed down so that it could reach a family-friendly juvenile audience. Tensions were already running high within the band, as Ace and Peter were erratic and unreliable. Ace would often disappear from the set and was doubled by an African-American stuntman, causing laughable continuity errors. And for some reason, he likes to say "ack", which is a recurring theme. Peter refused to participate in ADR sessions, so he was dubbed with one of Hanna-Barbera's voice actors. The visual effects are embarrassingly bad, but on par with similar television productions of the time. Deborah Ryan is quite pretty and provides some welcome eye candy, but the real highlights of the film are seeing vintage footage of Magic Mountain and watching KISS in concert. It's also funny to see Brion James in a early role as a security guard. If you go into it with low expectations, it can be quite a charming piece of campy cinema with a healthy dose of 1970's nostalgia.