KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park - Celebrating 40 Years of the Band's Cinematic Misstep!

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (also known as Attack of the Phantoms) is directed by Gordon Hessler. The film stars Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, with co-starring roles from Anthony Zerbe, Brion James, Deborah Ryan, and Carmine Caridi. The film was originally released on TV in 1978. There are multiple versions of the film; this review is based on the European edit included in the KISSology Vol. 2 DVD set.

KISS is set to play for three nights at the Magic Mountain theme park. Elsewhere in the park, inventor Abner Devereaux is frustrated by the direction the park is being taken in, and is eventually ousted from his position. Remaining in his workshop and wishing to exact revenge, he hatches a plot to steal the talismans which give the members of KISS their powers, and build robotic duplicates to incite a riot and destroy the park he’s no longer a part of following his firing. Will KISS save the day?

With KISS at the height of their popularity in the late 70s, longtime band manager Bill Aucoin felt it was time to put the band in a movie. The group’s image and brand was everywhere, including comic books, and with the mythology behind the band and the mysterious backstories/characters, this must have seemed like a no-brainer at the time.

 

 

Let’s just say not everything KISS-related has aged well, and this definitely falls under that category.

The members of KISS didn’t have acting experience. Everyone in the film turns in one-note, one-dimensional performances. Subplots/characters are abandoned and never revisited. The low-budget special effects weren’t even impressive at the time of release. It boils down to a hokey “mad scientist” story with generic scenes, and ironically enough, not enough emphasis on KISS themselves. Oh, and did I mention the fact the movie was produced by Hanna-Barbera, whose claim to fame is making cartoons?

People who watch a movie with the KISS name attached want to see, well, KISS. Instead we’ve got a fangirl who wanders around the park looking for her boyfriend who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. A mad scientist (Anthony Zerbe, The Omega Man and Licence to Kill) who has created laughable animatronic monsters. A group of punks making mischief at the park who disappear in the haunted house and are never seen or referenced again. A laughably bad plot about talismans which give the band members powers, and evil robotic duplicates made of the group. Be on the lookout for an early appearance from Brion James, who later played the replicant Leon in 1982's Blade Runner.

Yeah. You see where I’m going with this. It’s KISS, but it’s a pretty terrible movie and never rises above its low-budget origins. Aside from the use of KISS music, there’s not much redeeming value here. It would be a great candidate for Mystery Science Theater 3000, but there’s just nothing here to have any lasting impact. It’s aged terribly, and it’s no surprise the band regrets it. In an interview, the band once likened the film to A Hard Day’s Night meets Star Wars.

But unlike this film, those two movies are GOOD.

If you’re the most curious of die-hard KISS fans, it’s worth watching once for the experience, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to revisit it. It’s one of the black stains on the KISS legacy they surely regret, and rightfully so. Stay away unless you’re that KISS fan who wants to experience everything associated with the band, no matter how dismal or laughable.

 

DISCLAIMER: Images in this review are the property of their respective copyright holders, including Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. Television Distribution, and KISS/Aucoin Productions. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.

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