March 11, 2012
Holy Crap! Remember… KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park?

by Lee Rodriguez

Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim ”Holy Crap! Remember…?”

Guilty pleasure alert: I love KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Sure, I’m younger than the average KISS fan by about 25 years, but I can’t help it. My first vinyl albums (Google it, kids) were KISS hand-me-downs. To put it mildly, KISS kicks ass. They’ve endured for decades thanks to their spectacular stage shows and the awesome power of their rock. That’s just science. Most people, especially in the comic community, are aware that in the height of their popularity, KISS was featured in a Marvel comic book and they mixed some of their blood into the ink. It’s one of those “that has to be fake” stories that is 100% true.

Since then, they’ve starred in numerous comics, including the recent KISS Meets Archie and the long running McFarlane jam KISS: Psycho Circus. These guys (or at least Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) are comic enthusiasts. What many people don’t know, however, is that comics aren’t the only medium in which the band was featured as a superhero team. Oh, no. In 1978, KISS starred in a made for TV movie on NBC produced by Hanna-Barbera. Yes, the same Hanna-Barbera known for cartoons like Scooby-Doo. It’s obvious while watching it. Aside from the stock Hanna-Barbera music, this thing might as well have been one of the New Scooby-Doo Movies. If Scooby can meet Abbott and Costello and Batman and Robin, why not KISS?

Remember Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker? That movie is insane because it’s all over the place. It’s really cool in places, but it’s a collection of “short films” more than a full-length feature (or so they’d have you believe). KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is insane, too, of course, but in a completely different way. This movie knows exactly the kind of story it’s telling. That story just so happens to be completely ridiculous in the most wonderful way imaginable.

The movie begins with Sam and Melissa. Sam works at Magic Mountain under the genius robotics engineer Abner Devereaux. Devereaux has apparently perfected not only humanoid android technology, but also mind control. Still, he can find no better use of his amazing skills beyond designing attractions for a theme park. This will be the least ridiculous plot point of the movie, so strap in. Sam goes snooping in Devereaux’s lab, sees something he shouldn’t and gets himself disappeared.

The park’s owner tells Devereau that his budget is going to be cut (and one would have to think it’s a temporary cut) so that he can help pay for this huge KISS concert they’re putting on at the park (they really did put on a free concert at Magic Mountain when they filmed the movie, believe it or not). Abner does not approve. Shortly thereafter, he gets blamed for an accident on one of the rides and gets fired. This officially turns Devereaux into a mad scientist. He vows revenge on the park, its owner… and KISS.

Oh, hey, that’s right. KISS is in this movie. It’s easy to forget that in the early scenes since there’s a lot of theme park politicking and evil geniusing going on. But KISS finally shows up and they’re… superheroes. Or at least, they have super powers. What they typically do with those powers is never specified beyond this particular adventure, so maybe “superhero” is a stretch. I mean, just because Paul Stanley can fly, and shoot a laser out of his eye that blows stuff up, lets him control people’s minds and hear conversations from great distances (ALL of these things happen in this movie) doesn’t mean he’s a superhero. Maybe he’s a rock star with a penchant for eavesdropping and pyromania (but Gene Simmons can breathe fire, so I guess he’s the group’s resident pyromaniac).