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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

[5.0 turkeys]

This is one of the rare bad movies that lived up to all the hype I'd heard about it. I'd read a few web pages discussing this movie and heard from a few fans about how insanely cruddy it was. However, I was wholly unprepared for the amazing, unrelenting horridness of this movie just the same. It is without a doubt one of the greatest bad movies I've ever seen. Some of the fight scenes drag a bit (ok, all of the fight scenes drag a bit), but they make up for it with sheer insanity and mindbending teribleness. I'd better get on with the review before I use up all of my synonyms for "bad" right here in the first paragraph.

Anybody who hasn't been hiding under a rock for the past 30 or so years knows who KISS is. Some of us even remember when KISS wore makeup (the first time, that is). But how many of you out there know KISS made a movie? I didn't know until a few years ago. And I'd be willing to bet most KISS fans have tried very hard to block the memory of this movie from their brains. Yes, before the comeback tour, before Ace and Peter left, before Eric Carr died, before the no-makeup period, before Ace and Peter rejoined, before Peter left again, there was a movie. And it was titanically bad.

The setting for the entire movie is a theme park. It's a pretty lame theme park, hence it's not doing very well. The business manager decides he's lost enough money, so he books KISS to play three nights of shows at his park. Of course, at this point in time, KISS is undeniably the biggest band in rock -- and yet they're willing to play in the parking lot of a theme park? I'd think that would be a step back for them, but no matter. The head technician and all-around mad scientist of the park, Abner Devereaux, decides he doesn't like KISS. He thinks his lame animatronic features ought to be enough to keep the park in business, but Mr. Business Manager thinks otherwise. Since these are the lamest animatronic attractions ever built, I think he's right. I hardly call a gorilla who sort of leans forward and backwards and a Frankenstein's monster who sits up slowly then reclines again scary or entertaining.

Devereaux super-charges some of the rides at the park, nearly killing a bunch of patrons, and Mr. Business Manager decides he has to let him go. Devereaux swears undying vengeance upon the park and its business manager and goes right back to his lab under one of the rides and keeps on working. I'm not entirely certain why Mr. Business Manager never has the guy thrown out, but, then again, there's not a whole lot that makes logical sense in this movie, so there's no point in worrying about it.

Devereaux has an assitant, Sam, who wanders around the park with his girlfriend, Melissa. Sam suddenly and out of the blue declares, "There's something I don't understand," and "I'm going to check it out." ??? Now, understand that we see Sam and Melissa for maybe two minutes before Sam makes his proclamation. And during that time, NOTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY HAS HAPPENED. Nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. Suddenly, however, Sam is not understanding things, so he goes off to investigate, leaving the lovely Melissa to wander the park wondering where she found this dork in the first place.

Sam goes down to the underground lab and promptly finds a secret door. ??? To completely confuse everyone watching, he enters the room beyond the door, and we do the Scooby-Doo disappearance where the door closes: there's some noise, and the door opens again on its own, revealing that nobody is there now. Ooooh, spooky. If it weren't for the fact that, (1) Sam has no reason to be "checking things out," (2) we have no emotional attachment to him or Melissa yet (nor will we ever, actually), and (3) the whole thing plays like one of those lame later-era Scooby Doo episodes that have just Scooby, Shaggy, and the infernal Scrappy Doo in them, this might be good. Nah, actually, it wouldn't be.

Anyway, Melissa must now wander around aimlessly looking for Sam. She finds the ultra-secret underground lab, and Devereaux lets her in. However, he just blows her off and shoos her out again, which makes you wonder why he bothered to let her in in the first place. We find out that he's turned Sam into some sort of zombie, and he strongly hints at the fact that he's making animatronic KISS look-alikes. Oh yay. Maybe they'll bob back and forth and not strum their guitars.

Anyway, the real KISS finally show up and play their first show. They fly down out of the sky shooting fake-looking crap from their eyes, hands, and mouths (I'm not kidding about this part, either) and play "Rock and Roll All Night." There are three songs played pretty much in their entirety during this movie, as can be expected from a movie starring a rock band. Anyway, KISS rocks the park, then go out back to meet their adoring fans. Melissa, after spending all day wandering around looking for Sam, tries to get back to where KISS is, because, hey, who better to ask about her boyfriend's whereabouts than the rock stars who just flew down out of the sky and played a gig? The cops aren't going to let her in because she's not on the list (Uh, this is KISS we're talking about. Aren't all women allowed backstage?), but then Gene Simmons says "Starchild!" with this weird, reverb and octave effect on his voice, which causes Paul Stanley to shoot red lasers out of his eye that make "pew pew pew" noises and read Melissa's mind. I only wish I were making this up. So KISS takes Melissa under its wing or something, and they go off somewhere to show her their magical talismans. See, they have four magic talismans that give them special powers. Gene/Demon's special power is to talk with a weird reverb/octave effect and shoot fire from his mouth. Paul/Starchild shoots lasers from his eye that alternately blow things up, read minds, and eavesdrop on conversations. Ace/Space Ace can teleport, squawk annoyingly, and do cartwheels. Peter/Catman can...well, I don't know. I don't think he really did much of anything. This is most likely because Peter was so wasted all the time that he had a hard time showing up for the shoots, and his lines were all so unintelligible that a real actor redubbed all of his lines. Anyway, these magic talismans are the source of KISS's powers -- without them, they're mere mortal rockers. So, naturally, they leave them out in plain sight in a big red box in an unlocked glass case sitting on what appears to be a bean-bag chair. They're trusting in the mystical forcefield to keep them safe or something.

That night, Devereaux lets loose his Gene Simmons/Demon robot to smash up some balsawood sets and be all harsh with some rent-a-cops. I don't get how this guy can make a robot that looks and acts exactly like Gene Simmons when he can't manage to make one that correctly imitates a gorilla. Are they really that different?

The next day, KISS is out sunning themselves by the pool in full makeup and long, hooded, mystical silver robes. Mr. Business Manager and the rental pigs show up to question Gene and the boys about their whereabouts last night. Well, of course Demon was with the boys all night, so it couldn't have been him. Of course, how many other fire-breathing, platform boot wearing, make-up disguised rockers are running around this park? Rather than make waves and risk KISS bailing out on the remaining shows, Mr. Business Manager strikes a bargain with the rental pigs. If they'll let KISS finish out the rest of the shows, he'll let them arrest Gene afterwards. It's always nice to see justice being served. During this whole scene, Demon growls and Space Ace squawks randomly.

Later that night, KISS entertains Melissa by playing an acoustic version of "Beth" by the pool. Of course, we have to do the whole entire song, because, hey, this is a KISS movie. The best part about this is that "Beth" is about a guy who tells his girlfriend he can't come home because he's busy jamming with the boys. I wonder if they're trying to tell Melissa something?

During the song, Zombie Sam breaks into KISS's house and very...slowly...trashes it. He's looking for the talismans, but of course even a zombie knows they're probably hidden somewhere, right? Wrong. They're sitting in the case on their beanbag chair right in plain sight. When Sam finally finds them, however, he is foiled by the mystical forcefield and can't steal them. Uh, he could pick the box up, though, so why doesn't he just take them, box and all, back to Devereaux?

KISS senses something is wrong, but they finish playing "Beth" anyway, because, hey, it's a KISS movie, and the people would riot if they didn't finish the song. KISS goes inside once they're done and discovers their place trashed. Melissa sees Zombie Sam wandering away, but he doesn't acknowledge her.

KISS finally decides it's time to do something. They break into the park by jumping...very...slowly...over the fence. They wander around for what seems like hours, having random kung-fu fights with Devereaux's robot henchmen (the battle near the roller coaster with the werewolf/monkey things is a classic!).

While the good guys are occupied, Devereaux sends Zombie Sam back to their house to steal the talismans again. However, this time, he arms Sam with a ray gun that shoots out a blue sine wave which apparently can neutralize the forcefield, preventing him from stealing the talismans. Sam gets back to KISS's house and shoots the talismans with the blue sine wave gun. Lo and behold, this does neutralize the forcefield, thus allowing Sam to...uh, no. He doesn't take the talismans out of their red box. Instead, he takes THE WHOLE BOX back to Devereaux. Why didn't he do this the FIRST FREAKING TIME??

Without the Talismans, KISS has no special powers. Well, that's actually not entirely true. As it turns out, it doesn't really matter too much about the talismans. I mean, they don't ever actually have them ON them anyway. I'm not sure how the talismans know they're not in KISS's possession. It turns out that without their talismans, KISS is only mostly powerless. Their powers still work. They just aren't that effective anymore. Well, except for Gene's voice effects. So KISS finally gets captured by the bad evil robot things and put inside a magic light cage in Devereaux's lab.

Devereaux plays Bond Villain and tells the captive KISS all about his plan, such as it is. Basically, he's going to get evil robot KISS to play the last show at the park, but he's changed some of KISS's lyrics and added some whacky hypnosis or something which will cause the crowd to riot and destroy the park. Because, hey, he's evil, this is what he does. He then sets the box with the talismans (which Sam has finally showed up with) on his console about 50 feet from where KISS is and disappears. Classic stuff.

Evil KISS goes and starts playing the show, and the crowd boos them incessantly because they're mucking with the lyrics. But after a bit the evil plan starts to work, as the crowd gets riled up and threatens to riot.

Good KISS, meanwhile, remembers that they still have some powers even without the talismans that are only 50 feet from them, and they manage to use some psychokinesis or something to get the talisman box to fly over to their cage. Once the magic talismans are safely back in their possession, IT'S WALLOPING TIME!

Good KISS flies back to the concert just in time to avoid the riot. The final, climactic battle pits the Good KISS stunt doubles against the Evil Robotic KISS stunt doubles in a fight to the finish, which explains why nobody in this scene actually looks like KISS.

The crowd thinks it's all part of the show, so when Good KISS beats Evil KISS, they cheer uncontrollably. Good KISS takes the stage to play "Rock and Roll All Night" again.

The last scene shows the fate of Devereaux. After the defeat of his evil KISS robots, he turned into some 100 year old catatonic shriveled up raisin or something. Hey, this makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie, so why not?

Probably the best part about this movie is that although the songs KISS plays are from their heavy metal period, the rest of the soundtrack consists entirely of period disco wah-wah stuff (you know, the stuff that goes "wak-a-ticky wak-a-ticky" incessantly). Also, since it was a made-for-TV movie, there are convenient points to pause the movie to make a snack run.

Scene to watch for: KISS by the pool in long mystical robes.

Best lines: "What do you compute, Space Ace?" / "Insufficient data at the moment, Starchild!"

Things that make you go "Huh?": Tell me again what Peter Criss was doing in this movie?

View this movie's entry at the Internet Movie Database.

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