Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park Directed by Gordon Hessler (Cheezy Flicks DVD)
The marriage of rock 'n' roll and cinema has always been a troubled one. From Elvis to Eminem, countless campaigns have been waged to turn musicians into movie stars, often (if not usually) with flaccid results. For every laudable success there have been some tragic catastrophes. Even the Beatles themselves laid their share of cinematic rotten eggs. Some critics have suggested that the Fab Four's scriptless 1967 made-for-television movie, Magical Mystery Tour is the worst rock 'n' roll movie of all time. Clearly, these critics haven't seen Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.
Though released at the arguable height of the band's powers, Kiss' own 1978 made-for-television movie would prove to be the first in a series of haplessly bloated and indulgent missteps that would eventually trip the masked foursome's six inch stacked heels. Initially conceived as a hybrid of A Hard Day's Night and Star Wars," Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park plays more like a painfully lengthy and undercooked Saturday morning cartoon. Casting the grease-painted rockers as erstwhile superheroes with otherworldly powers, the film spins a convoluted yarn about a rock-hating mad scientist at an amusement park who strives to seize power via an army of androids. Unwittingly part of the evil doctor's sinister plot, Kiss is scheduled to perform at the park, but are summarily kidnapped and replaced by four of the scientist's doppelgangers. Evil robotic Kiss assumes the stage, inciting the audience to riot. Courtesy of some exceptionally unconvincing telekinesis, Kiss manage to -- surprise -- escape, and engage in a ridiculously disjointed onstage melee with their evil twins.
Though long available on grainy, home-burned, bootleg CD-Rs, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park has never been officially released on DVD until now (courtesy of the brave folks at aptly-named Cheezy Flicks Entertainment). The reasons for this aren't exactly a mystery. Rife with threadbare special effects, a half-baked plot and acting so deplorably stilted that it's palpably painful to endure, even die-hard supporters of the band are hard-pressed to defend it, much less the band themselves. Even when viewed as a kitschy cult artifact, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park makes for an arduous ninety-six minutes.
Hardcore Kiss fans might find sporadic solace in the concert segments (especially Evil Kiss' re-rendering of "Hotter than Hell" as "Rip and Destroy"), but the band's bloodless screen presence and deplorably wooden line delivery do incalculable damage to their otherwise carefully cultivated mystique. Possibly because no one involved with the film cared to exhume their particular chapter in the fiasco, the DVD comes devoid of any commentary, bonus features or even an apology. - Alex Smith
Mr. Smith is a native New Yorker who lives in downtown Manhattan with his wife and daughter, works for Time Magazine, and writes for The New Yorker and other periodicals.