Hello again retro horror fiends! This time around, I’m going to explore a little different subject matter than my past articles. Join me as I dive deep into the rock n’ roll nightmare known as Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park!
No one had ever seen anything like Kiss when they exploded onto the 70’s rock scene. Building on the glam rock mixed with Grand Guignol aesthetic established by Alice Cooper, Kiss appeared to be living, breathing superheroes. With their faces obscured by kabuki like make-up, and their concerts that showcased dripping blood and fire, Kiss drove parents into a frenzy of disapproval, and captured the imagination of kids worldwide, and I was no different! I had the Kiss Colorforms, the Megos, shirts, posters, and whatever other merchandise I could get my parents to cough up the dough for. Then in time for Halloween of 1978, I received the best treat I could imagine (though older fans, and in retrospect the band themselves, considered it more of a trick). Kiss was starring in a movie…and they appeared to have actual superpowers!
The movie itself concerns a disgruntled amusement park engineer named Abner Devereaux, who plots an intricate scheme of Machiavellian revenge after park owner Calvin Richards siphons funding away from his animatronic attractions to fund Kiss’s upcoming performances at the park. What does his plan consist of, you may ask? Well, naturally Devereaux decides to kidnap Kiss and replace them with robot duplicates that are programmed to perform all of the band’s hits with the wrong lyrics, thus turning the world against them. Yeah, it ain’t Shakespeare, but what is contained in the film’s runtime is 96 minutes of sheer lunacy. Kiss proceed to: shoot lasers out of various body parts, fight albino werewolf robots (read it again and just let it sink in…), be replaced randomly by African-American stunt doubles (yup, you read that right), and hang out in the most amazingly 1970’s room ever committed to film. Oh, and for some inexplicable reason, Peter Criss is dubbed, while the rest of the band is not (although Gene has some weird reverb going on, and Ace’s dialogue consists mostly of the sound “ack”!)
The movie was produced by Hanna-Barbera, and it definitely plays out like a live-action cartoon, right down to the band’s hand animated superpowers (lasers, fire, etc.)and over the top sound effects (Gene’s roar is particularly choice) Additionally, the score, besides the obligatory Kiss music, consists of a schizophrenic blend of jazz and funk that would be right at home as incidental music in an episode of Scooby-Doo of the period.
As a child, I adored the film, and as an adult, I still find Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park to be a highly enjoyable bit of off kilter surrealism. The film, in its original format is not currently available on DVD (the theatrical European cut is available in the Kissology Volume 2 DVD set which can be obtained from Amazon, but some dialogue and music have been changed, including the swanky funk), but hopefully this will change in the future! If you care to see how I handle a rock star like character with supernatural powers in my own storytelling please check out my debut novella, The House of Thirteen Doors available at Amazon for .99 cents! ‘Til next time, stay creepy Horrorkids!