Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park
|Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park|
Cover of the film's 1988 VHS release
|Written by||Jan-Michael Sherman
|Directed by||Gordon Hessler|
|Music by||Hoyt Curtin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Joseph Barbera|
|Producer(s)||Terry Morse, Jr.|
|Editor(s)||Peter E. Berger|
|Running time||96 minutes|
|Budget||$3 million (US)|
|Original release||October 28, 1978|
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (also known as Attack of the Phantoms in Europe and Kiss Phantoms in Italy) is a 1978 made-for-television musical-fantasy film starring American hard rock band Kiss and produced by the animation studio of Hanna-Barbera Productions. The film's plot revolves around Kiss, who use their superpowers to battle an evil inventor (Abner Devereaux, played by Anthony Zerbe) and to save a California amusement park from destruction.
NBC aired the film at the height of Kiss' popularity in the United States. Due to the film's poor acting and semi-comedic script, most Kiss fans disliked the film. Despite the film's poor quality, it has attained cult film status. The members of Kiss themselves despised the film for making them appear buffoonish. For years after its airing, no one who worked for the group was permitted to mention the film in their presence.
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' 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, with no memory of what had happened. Richards laments about Devereaux by saying, "He created Kiss to destroy Kiss...and he lost." The movie ends with Richards beneath the stands.
- Ace Frehley as himself. Also known as the Space Ace, Frehley has the ability to shoot lasers and to teleport by making a 'hitchhiking' gesture with his thumb.
- Gene Simmons as himself. Also known as the Demon, Simmons has immense strength and can breathe fire. His voice has a large amount of reverberation, unlike the other three members.
- Paul Stanley as himself. Also known as the Starchild, Stanley can shoot a laser from the star on his right eye. A similar beam emitted from his eye can control minds and allow him to hear distant conversations.
- Peter Criss as himself. Also known as the Catman, Criss has superhuman agility and leaping powers.
- Anthony Zerbe as Abner Devereaux. Devereaux is a genius inventor, and has created all of Magic Mountain's lifelike cybernetic creatures. He is prone to fits of anger, and reacts poorly to criticism.
- Carmine Caridi as Calvin Richards. Richards is the owner of Magic Mountain.
- Deborah Ryan as Melissa. Melissa (her last name is never revealed) frantically searches for her missing boyfriend Sam.
- John Dennis Johnston as Chopper. Chopper is one-third of an unnamed gang who sabotages a ride at the amusement park.
- John Lisbon Wood as Slime. Slime is a member of the same gang, and confronts Devereaux after tampering with one of the park's cyborgs.
- Lisa Jane Persky as Dirty Dee. Dee is in the same gang as Chopper and Slime.
- John Chappell as Sneed. Sneed is the head of security at Magic Mountain. He voices a disdain for Kiss (and rock and roll groups in general).
- Terry Lester as Sam Farell. Sam is an employee at Magic Mountain, and Melissa's boyfriend. Sam vanishes when he starts to investigate some strange occurrences at the park.
- Don Steele as himself. Steele emcees a Kiss lookalike contest at Magic Mountain.
KISS's commercial popularity was at its peak by 1978. The group's gross income in 1977 totaled $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 film.
Filming for Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park began in May 1978, and it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, known primarily for cartoons (in the late 1960s, 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' 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' 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' injuries were minor. On a few occasions, Frehley left the set during filming due to arguments with the film's director. In one scene that Frehley abandoned, his African American stunt double can be clearly seen instead.
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 AM radio station KTNQ which was where "The Real" Don Steele was a disc jockey. This is also the same radio station where Kiss made an appearance as DJs on Steele's radio program the previous year while in town to record Alive II at the LA Forum. 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.
The film's music in the European release was purely performed by Kiss.
|1.||"Radioactive"||Simmons||Gene Simmons (1978)||3:50|
|2.||"Almost Human"||Simmons||Love Gun (1977)||2:49|
|3.||"Mr. Make Believe"||Simmons||Gene Simmons (1978)||4:00|
|4.||"Man of 1,000 Faces"||Simmons||Gene Simmons (1978)||3:16|
|5.||"Rip and Destroy" ("Hotter Than Hell" with different lyrics)||Stanley||Hotter Than Hell (1974)||3:30|
|6.||"Rock 'N' Roll All Nite"||Simmons, Stanley||Dressed to Kill (1975)||2:49|
|7.||"Shout It Out Loud"||Stanley, Simmons, Ezrin||Destroyer (1976)||2:49|
|8.||"Easy Thing"||Criss, Stan Penridge||Peter Criss (1978)||3:53|
|9.||"That's the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes"||Criss, Penridge||Peter Criss (1978)||2:59|
|10.||"Beth"||Criss, Penridge||Destroyer (1976)||2:45|
|11.||"Love in Chains"||Stanley||Paul Stanley (1978)||3:34|
|12.||"I Stole Your Love"||Stanley||Love Gun (1977)||3:04|
|13.||"Hold Me, Touch Me"||Stanley||Paul Stanley (1978)||3:40|
|14.||"Fractured Mirror"||Frehley||Ace Frehley (1978)||5:25|
|15.||"New York Groove"||Ballard||Ace Frehley (1978)||3:01|
|16.||"Hooked on Rock 'N' Roll"||Criss, Penridge, Poncia||Peter Criss (1978)||3:37|
|17.||"Classical Guitar Segue"||John Shane Howell||Gene Simmons (1978)||-|
|18.||"It Must Be That Look In Her Eyes"||The Golden Staters||The Golden Staters (1972)||1:56|
Release and reception
Prior to the films' 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 film 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 film in their presence.
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' public statements concerning the film 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 said that "I couldn't stop laughing from the beginning of the moment to the end" 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 films 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. The European edit of the film (which removes most of Ace Frehley's dialogue) is available on DVD as part of Kissology Volume Two: 1978–1991, a collection of concerts and television appearances. 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 film version of the film on DVD, but due to legal issues, the disc was quickly pulled.
In Australia, the film, titled Kiss and the Attack of the Phantoms, was initially popular. Free tickets to the movie could be obtained by cutting 20 diamond shaped coupons from an Ice confectionary cup called an "Icee" and pasting them onto a printed sheet. Today the film remains at cult status. The most noticeable difference in the Australian release was the inclusion of "New York Groove" as background music during the Gene Simmons night rampage through the park.
- Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery - The 2015 animated cartoon has similar plot points
Notes and references
- Leaf, David and Ken Sharp. Kiss: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography, Warner Books, 2003. ISBN 0-446-53073-5
- Lendt, C.K. Kiss and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup, Billboard Books, 1997. ISBN 0-8230-7551-6
- "KISS Chronology/Timeline". The KISSFAQ. Retrieved June 30, 2006.
- Hicks, L. Wayne. "KISS meets the Phantom". TVparty. Retrieved July 27, 2006.
- Biography of Michael Bell,  tv.com.
- Gooch, Curt and Jeff Suhs. KISS Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History. Billboard Books, 2002. ISBN 0-8230-8322-5