Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

The seventies were a weird time to be alive. Trust me I was there. One of the strangest things that happened was Kiss. They started out as a great band with a weird hook of never being seen without their makeup on and when they had conquered the music world branched out to keep expanding their brand. Of course, this was long before celebrities had concepts of branding and whatnot. Trust me it was all quite innovative.

This all leads me to Kiss and their Marvel Comic book. It created a weird backstory for them where each of the bandmembers had some sort of talisman that gave them superpowers, including making rock and roll music. That is important because this made for television movie is basically a live action version of that comic book. Here the band is playing a series of shows at an amusement park. Also at the park is an engineer named Abner who complains about his budget getting cut to fund the shows which is impacting his life’s work. The guy is in charge of the robotics and exhibits. If you have ever been to Disney and seen the Hall of Presidents, you know what they were going for.

As much as Abner’s work has helped establish the park Kiss brings in a much larger crowd and therefore gets more money/attention. This eventually leads to him being fired and for his full on mad scientist mode to engage. The only solution is to replace the band with robots who will sing the classic songs with new lyrics. These new words will whip up the fans and cause them to destroy the park completing Abner’s revenge. The only way he can capture the band is to steal their talismans, which he does. Lucky for the world the boys manage to escape, defeat the doppelgangers, and sing the proper lyrics so everyone can “Rock’n’roll all Nite”.

You know I truly get the fact that a lot of fans hate Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley for how they have marketed and, in many ways, exploited their fanbase. Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park and the comic book that preceded it is the demarcation where many think things went wrong. I’m not going to argue that because I’m at best a casual fan of the band and don’t feel qualified to debate that. Also as far as this movie goes what happened afterwards doesn’t impact my enjoyment of it in any way. And I really do like this movie as it hits me in a couple different ways.

First up is my love for made for television movies. This was made for NBC and has that sort of charm that you can only get from a project made under the watchful eye of the censors. In other words, they had to be more creative and couldn’t just lean into violence and sleaze like many drive-in releases (that I also dearly love) were apt to do. Here the writers do their best to make this as cartoonish as possible with dialogue that feels like it belonged on the pages of the Marvel Comic book. And the fights are gloriously goofy with them doing battle at different times with robot monkey monsters, the classics of Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Frankenstein’s monster, as well as robot Kiss. We get much Kiss Fu as well as laser beam eyes from Star Child and fire breathing from the Demon.

Trust me kids this was cool back in my day!
Second, I miss the seventies and this one checks a lot of boxes for me. First the soundtrack is filled with classic songs from the masked up era of Kiss. A few highlights are Rock’n’roll All Nite, Beth, and Shout it out Loud. I remember these songs blaring from my radio when I was a kid and it put a smile on my face hearing them again. If that isn’t enough seventies ‘member berries for you how about I tell you who made this movie. This was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, which explains the cartoonish look and story. And despite being made for television there are also some crazy fun legendary things that slipped by the censors, which was also the sort of debates that could only happen on playgrounds before the internet. Now all these kids have cell phones and can get stills right away to end arguments. I miss the old days. The seventies were a magical time of good music, weird movies, and ladies not wearing bras. Hey, I was just a kid but even I noticed that and yes despite this being a television movie that apparently was allowed to slide.

On a side note I remember how controversial certain toy lines and cartoons were in the eighties when adult properties like Rambo where repackaged for children. Lots of folks think that was a new thing but here we have an entire movie coming from a production company best known for cartoons like Scooby Doo making a hard drinking and hard loving band (read the different band members books… Holy Crap!) accessible for the younger fans.

Is Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park a good movie? Probably not. But it is an amazing snapshot of pop culture in the mid to late seventies. I do wonder if folks without my fond memories of that decade will be quite as enamored with it, but in the end I have to go with my gut. I think that this is a silly good time and worth a watch. It can be a bit of a challenge to find as for many years the band tried to bury it but if you look hard enough it is out there.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment