The Curator of Schlock #158 by Jeff Shuster
KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
(Your curator wants to rock n’ roll all night and party everyday!)
Oh boy! Does your Curator of Shock have a treat for you today! KISS has entered The Museum of Schlock, helping us to party down like it’s 1978. Tonight’s presentation is Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Kind of an odd title. Wouldn’t KISS Versus the Phantom of the Park have been a more accurate? Why am I asking you? Have you seen the movie? John King has. He recommended it to me. I’ll have to thank him for that one day.
So from the title you might be expecting this to be some hip retread of The Phantom of the Opera. It isn’t really. The park in question is Magic Mountain. I’ve never been there. I grew up in New Jersey where we had Action Park, the world’s most dangerous theme park, but that’s a topic for another time. We’re here to talk about KISS, who are nowhere to be seen for like the first 30 minutes of this made-for-TV movie.
This is a problem when they’re the main protagonists of the story. We see some gang member types causing trouble in the park, the kind that Jeff Goldblum hung out with in the first Death Wish movie. We’re introduced to a young woman named Melissa (Deborah Ryan) and her boyfriend, Terry (Sam Farell). They have a conversation about something, but the ADR is so bad that I can’t pay attention to anything they’re saying because their words don’t match up to their lips!
Terry works for Abner Devereaux, the genius behind all the park’s rides and audio animatronic creations. He’s upset with the park owner over the fact that his Wally the Walrus display was replaced with KISS band cutouts for the upcoming concert. Yes, KISS is doing some live shows at Magic Mountain. I guess the owner of the park decided that teens would be more interested in rock n’ roll than audio animatronic figures of walruses. He fires Abner later that day for making a dangerous teacup ride or something like that.
I have to say that Abner is a bit of a nerdlinger. In fact, I would argue he’s the king of the nerdlingers. When Melissa is visiting his workshop, Abner delights her with an audio animatronic barbershop quartet. Nerd alert! Melissa is trying to find her fiancé, Terry, who’s gone missing. Abner lies about not having seen him, but Abner has, in fact, turned Terry into a robot slave. Abner is plotting revenge on KISS and Magic Mountain!
KISS finally arrives to put on a concert for the ages, all the while showing off some of their super powers. We have Gene Simmons as the Demon, who can breathe fire and growl like a lion.
Peter Criss is Catman or the Catman. He has whiskers painted on his face and can jump real high. Paul Stanley is the Starchild and he can shoot laser beams from his eyes like Cyclops from the X-Men, but without the need to wear shades. Then, we have Ace Frehley as Space Ace. I think he can teleport. The band gets their super powers from these magical medallions they keep in their dressing room. It’s also guarded by a force field so you had better watch out if you have sticky fingers.
Uhhh…Where was I? Oh yeah, Abner creates an android Gene Simmons to terrorize the park. The robot beats up the park’s security guards. The park owner figures it was the real Gene, but doesn’t press him on the whole security guard beat down because he needs the band to play again for the next few nights. I think Melissa gets them to help her look for her missing boyfriend. They do battle with android monkey men, ninjas, kung fu masters, Dracula, Frankentstein, and the Mummy before finally getting captured and stuck in a laser beam cage. Abner got his hands on their medallions and KISS is powerless!
Abner’s big plan is to have his KISS robot doubles sing some naughty lyrics that will cause the kids in the audience to riot and destroy the park. The real KISS manages to retrieve their medallions through psychic levitation, getting to the concert in time to demolish their robot duplicates.
They free Melissa’s fiancé from the mind control Abner had him under. All is well, except for poor Abner. When KISS finally meets him, he’s dead. I guess he got electrocuted at some point during the final battle. In effect, they didn’t really meet The Phantom of the Park at all. Hanna-Barbera lied to us.
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park was an attempt by the band to reinvent themselves as superheroes. Think about it. You could have had KISS fighting the Legion of Doom alongside Superman and Wonder Woman, but sadly this would never come to pass. In fact, the band disavowed this movie for some reason.
Many of you are probably wondering how I feel about the band KISS. Are they rock n’ roll icons or an exercise in nimrodery? I don’t know.
I do like that “Calling Dr. Love” song.