Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park

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Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park
Phantom of the Park.jpg
Cover of the film's 1988 VHS release
GenreFantasy
Horror
Music
Written by
  • Jan-Michael Sherman
  • Don Buday
Directed byGordon Hessler
Starring
Music byHoyt Curtin
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
Executive producerJoseph Barbera
ProducersTerry Morse, Jr.
Production locationsSanta Clarita, California
Six Flags Magic Mountain - 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, California
CinematographyRobert Caramico
EditorPeter E. Berger
Running time96 minutes
Production companies
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Budget$3 million (US)[1]
Release
Original networkNBC
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original releaseOctober 28, 1978 (1978-10-28)

Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (also known as Attack of the Phantoms in Europe and Kiss Phantoms in Italy) is a 1978 American television film starring American hard rock band Kiss and produced by the animation studio of Hanna-Barbera Productions.[2] The movie'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's 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.[citation needed] The members of Kiss 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.[3]

Plot[edit]

At Magic Mountain, Abner Devereaux, the park's engineer and the creator of a series of animatronic attractions, is not pleased that his works are being overshadowed by an upcoming concert by Kiss. Calvin Richards, the park's owner, explains that the concert will generate much-needed revenue to make up for the quality control problems that have plagued Deveraux's creations. Melissa, a park guest, becomes concerned when her boyfriend Sam Farrell, a park employee and assistant to Devereaux, has gone missing. Meanwhile, three punks sabotage one of the rides and Deveraux is blamed for the incident.

Melissa goes to Devereaux's underground laboratory, which was the last place Sam was seen. Devereaux dismisses her after explaining that he has not seen Sam, but after she leaves the lab, he reveals that Sam has been placed under mind-control through the use of an electronic device on the back of his neck. The three punks enter the Chamber of Thrills, where they fall into traps set by Devereaux. Richards fires Devereaux for his erratic behavior and disregard for the guests' safety; because of this, Devereaux swears revenge upon Richards, the park, and Kiss—all of whom he blames for his misfortune.

Shortly after Kiss' first concert at the park, Devereaux attempts to discredit them by unleashing a robotic copy of Gene Simmons to wreak havoc on the park and the security guards. The band is questioned the next day, but no action is taken. Melissa seeks help from the band to find Sam, unaware that the security pass she received from Devereaux is a tracking device. Devereaux has Sam break into the band's lair and steal their talismans, but the plan is foiled due to the force field on the talismans' case. Kiss sneak into the park to confront Devereaux, fighting off Devereaux's animatronic white monkeys in the process. Meanwhile, Sam manages to steal the talismans and delivers them to Devereaux, who then neutralizes Kiss with a ray gun. Kiss, having lost their powers, are imprisoned in the underground lab. Devereaux then sends his robotic Kiss copies in place of the real Kiss in order to ruin their concert and incite a riot. The real Kiss manage to retrieve their talismans, thereby regaining their powers. They escape and quickly head to the stage where they defeat the imposters and save the concert.

After the show, Kiss, Melissa and Richards confront Devereaux in the underground laboratory, only to discover that he has frozen in a catatonic state, seemingly revealing himself as the namesake "phantom" of the park. Paul Stanley removes the mind-control device from Sam's neck, returning him back to normal. Richards laments Devereaux's demise by saying, "He created Kiss to destroy Kiss...and he lost." An alternate take used the final dialogue "He created KISS...to defeat KISS...and in the end, it destroyed him."

Cast[edit]

Kiss
Others

Development[edit]

Kiss's commercial popularity was at its peak by 1978. The group's gross income in 1977 totaled $10.2 million.[3] 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.[3]

Production[edit]

Filming for Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park began in May 1978,[4] and it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, known primarily for animation. Most of the picture 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.[3]

Before 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."[5] Upon learning of his lack of dialogue, Frehley threatened to leave the project. Soon after, lines were written for him.[1]

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 filmmaking. They were both also dealing with increasing levels of substance abuse.

Criss's dialogue had to be dubbed by voice actor Michael Bell[6] (who had worked with producer Joseph Barbera on a number of past projects) because he refused to participate in post-production. The only time Criss's actual voice is heard is during an acoustic performance of "Beth". (Criss denies this story, stating that he "went to all the looping.")[1]

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.[7] 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 stunt doubleAfrican American Alan Oliney, who would later go on to stunt double for Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes, among otherscan clearly be seen instead.[1]

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, 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 Forum.[citation needed] The group performed a full concert, followed by lip-synched performances of some songs. "Rip and Destroy", an altered version of "Hotter than Hell" that was featured in the film, was not performed during the concert.[7]

Music[edit]

The music in the European release was performed by Kiss.

No.TitleWriter(s)Original releaseLength
1."Radioactive"SimmonsGene Simmons (1978)3:50
2."Almost Human"SimmonsLove Gun (1977)2:49
3."Mr. Make Believe"SimmonsGene Simmons (1978)4:00
4."Man of 1,000 Faces"SimmonsGene Simmons (1978)3:16
5."Rip and Destroy" ("Hotter Than Hell" with different lyrics)StanleyHotter Than Hell (1974)3:30
6."Rock 'N' Roll All Nite"Simmons, StanleyDressed to Kill (1975)2:49
7."Shout It Out Loud"Stanley, Simmons, EzrinDestroyer (1976)2:49
8."Easy Thing"Criss, Stan PenridgePeter Criss (1978)3:53
9."That's the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes"Criss, PenridgePeter Criss (1978)2:59
10."Beth"Criss, PenridgeDestroyer (1976)2:45
11."Love in Chains"StanleyPaul Stanley (1978)3:34
12."I Stole Your Love"StanleyLove Gun (1977)3:04
13."Hold Me, Touch Me"StanleyPaul Stanley (1978)3:40
14."Fractured Mirror"FrehleyAce Frehley (1978)5:25
15."New York Groove"BallardAce Frehley (1978)3:01
16."Hooked on Rock 'N' Roll"Criss, Penridge, PonciaPeter Criss (1978)3:37
17."Classical Guitar Segue"John Shane HowellGene Simmons (1978)-
18."It Must Be That Look in Her Eyes"The Golden StatersThe Golden Staters (1972)1:56

Release and reception[edit]

Before the film'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 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 Pictures 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 titled Kiss Phantoms. The theatrical release featured a vastly different version, 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 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 film have been a mixture of bemusement and disgust. On VH1's When Kiss Ruled the World, Simmons stated that "It's a classic movie [. . .] if you're on drugs," and Frehley said that "I couldn't stop laughing from the beginning of the movie to the end". In an early-1990s interview, Simmons compared the film to 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.[3] 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 version of the film on DVD, but due to legal issues, the disc was quickly pulled; copies purchased during the release are rare.

In Australia, the film, titled Kiss and the Attack of the Phantoms, was initially popular. The most noticeable difference in the Australian release was the inclusion of "New York Groove" as background music during the rampage through the park.

Frehley later stated that he had tons of fun while shooting the film.[8]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Leaf, David and Ken Sharp. Kiss: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography, Warner Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0-446-53073-6
  2. ^ Sennett, Ted (1989). The Art of Hanna-Barbera: Fifty Years of Creativity. New York: Studio. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-670-82978-1. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lendt, C.K. Kiss and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup, Billboard Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-8230-7551-5
  4. ^ "KISS Chronology/Timeline" Archived 2006-05-07 at archive.today. The KISSFAQ. Retrieved June 30, 2006.
  5. ^ Hicks, L. Wayne. "KISS meets the Phantom". TVparty. Retrieved July 27, 2006.
  6. ^ Hlavaty, Craig (August 26, 2011). "10 Things You May Not Know About KISS". Houston Press. Internet Archive: Houston Press, LP. Archived from the original on January 30, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Gooch, Curt and Jeff Suhs. KISS Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History. Billboard Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8230-8322-0
  8. ^ "ACE FREHLEY on KISS TV Movie 'Phantom of the Park': PAUL STANLEY And GENE SIMMONS Expected 'Gone With The Wind'". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. September 30, 2018. Retrieved October 2, 2018.

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