KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park – USA, 1978 – reviews

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KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (also known as KISS in the Attack of the Phantoms) is a 1978 television film directed by Gordon Hessler (The Oblong BoxCry of the BansheeScream and Scream Again) from a screenplay by Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday.

The film’s plot revolves around American hard rock band KISS, who use their ‘superpowers’ to battle an evil inventor (Abner Devereaux, played by Anthony Zerbe) and to save a California amusement park from destruction.

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The film was aired by NBC at the height of the bands popularity in the United States. However, poor acting and a semi-comedic script caused it to be regarded poorly even by most KISS fans. Despite or perhaps because of this, it has attained cult status. The film is hated by the band members themselves for the buffoonish way it made them appear. For years after its airing, no-one who worked for the group was permitted to mention the film in their presence.

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Filming for KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park began in May 1978, and it was produced by Hanna-Barbera (better known as the animation studio behind Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Most of the movie was filmed at Magic Mountain in California, with additional filming taking place in the Hollywood Hills. Much of the production was rushed, and the script underwent numerous rewrites. All four members of KISS were given crash courses on acting.

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Prior to completing the script, screenwriters Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday spent time with each KISS member, in an effort to get a feel for how they each acted and spoke. Ace Frehley, known for his eccentric behaviour, said little to the pair but “Ack!” As a result, Frehley was not originally given any lines, except to interject “Ack!” at various points. In the first draft of the script, Frehley was described as “monosyllabic and super-friendly. Communicating largely through gestures and sounds, Ace might be best described as an other-galactic Harpo Marx. Upon learning of his lack of dialogue, Frehley threatened to leave the project — soon after, lines were written for him.

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In 1979, Avco-Embassy released KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park in cinemas outside the United States, with translations of the title Attack of the Phantoms. In some countries — Italy, in particular — the film was simply titled KISS Phantoms. The theatrical release featured a vastly different version of the film, with several scenes that did not appear in the original television airing added to the cut.

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In the years since its initial airing, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park has achieved a certain cult status, albeit mainly among KISS fans.

It is currently available on DVD as part of Kissology Volume Two: 1978–1991, a collection of concerts and television appearances (however, this is the re-edited European version, which contains hardly any of Ace Frehley’s lines).

Previously, availability was limited to two brief VHS releases in the 1980s and a laserdisc release in 1991. In 2005, distributor Cheezy Flicks attempted to release the original TV film version of the film on DVD, but due to legal issues, the disc was quickly pulled.

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Reviews:

“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.” Its a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

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“You’ll notice that when KISS eventually embark on their rescue mission, they do so very slowly because they’re still wearing their platform boots and can’t run in them, but no matter as they give way to their stuntmen at every possible opportunity (Ace Frehley’s stuntman is obviously black, bizarrely). Grame Clark, The Spinning Image

“Maybe good for a laugh just cause it’s campy as f*ck and Gene Simmons walks around the entire movie like he’s trying to clinch in a huge turd, but I can’t recommend this for any reason. Avoid at all costs.” Happyotter

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