KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, perhaps the strangest made-for-TV movie ever aired, dropped on this day 45 years ago. Broadcast on NBC on Oct. 28, 1978, at the height of the band’s popularity, it baffled fans. The synergy of a murky sci-fi horror plot stilted acting from the band, and cheesy special effects have given the film a sort of cult status.
To many film lovers, it falls under the “so bad, it’s good” category.
With their elaborate costumes, captivating face makeup, and explosive stage shows, KISS reached incredible heights from 1977 to 1979. Their record and merchandise sales during this period totaled $100 million. They even had action figures and a board game. Guided by their manager, Bill Aucoin, the band aimed to achieve even greater success.
KISS was shooting for ‘Star Wars’, but got Ed Wood
Aucoin, an experienced television director, recognized that it was only natural for KISS to kick down the gates of Hollywood and create their own film. Standing on the shoulders of the space opera Star Wars and music smashes like Tommy, he envisioned something special. However, what we got was KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.
Phantom was filmed at Magic Mountain near Los Angeles and revolves around a deranged scientist, played by Anthony Zerbe. In this bonkers film, animatronic members of KISS engage in a not-so-epic battle with the real band members, who for some reason possess superpowers like fire-breathing and laser eyes
Directed by Gordon Hessler, known for low-budget horror films, the band struggled with their acting roles. Reportedly, they needed their lines fed to them one by one. Adding to the bizarre production was that it was developed by Hanna/Barbera, the animation studio behind such cartoons as The Flintstones.
Members of the Band Finally Weigh In on Their Celluloid Sins
Decades after the debacle, members of KISS are finally weighing in on the film. The Spaceman, Ace Frehley even kind of likes the flick. “If you talk to Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] about the movie, they both hate it. As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s campy, funny — and if you’re a KISS fan, you’re going to enjoy the film,” Frehley told Yahoo Entertainment. “I never really had any negative feelings about the film. It was funny. I laughed at some of the scenes, I cringed at some of the scenes, but I was intelligent and smart enough to realize that it was what it was. It was just a silly rock ’n’ roll movie that was designed for KISS fans. I mean, it wasn’t Love Story!”
“I have very mixed memories about it. We were kind of talked into doing a film that we were told was going to be a cross between A Hard Day’s Night and Star Wars. [It] wound up being neither,” recalls lead singer Paul Stanley. “The best thing I can say about that film is that people think we were kidding. That it was campy. But we were serious!”
Despite being a disaster, the film serves as a terrific time capsule of peak 70s excess. When a rock band would have the bravado to believe they could star in a science fiction horror film as themselves (but with superpowers) and be taken seriously. It’s the sort of thing that rarely happens today (we’re looking at you Foo Fighters). Pop culture is worse for it.
- ‘Indiana Jones’ Most Iconic Stunt Was Inspired by a John Wayne Film
- Jack Hogan, ‘Combat!’ Star, Dead at 94
- Frank Wycheck, Former Tennessee Titans Star, Dead at 52
- John Wayne’s Failing Health Nearly Caused His Final Film to be Canceled
- WWE Legend Bill Goldberg Smashes Fan in Tom Brady Jersey With Spear at Falcons Game