Saturday, April 23, 2011

KISS meets the Phantom of the Park

My Rating: 3/10 or 8/10 (See review)

 An amusement park mad scientist develops a plan to get his old job back  using robot duplicates, and KISS must defeat him and his singing KISSbots with their special magic powers.  None of that is a joke.

Finally out on DVD, this is the legendary 1978 TV movie that KISS hated.  Apparently what they wanted for their big KISS movie was a mythical Star Wars-style epic with lasers and swords, directed by Stanley Kubrick.  What they got was a TV Movie-of-the-Week modeled on the sillier episodes of Six Million Dollar Man.   It was, in fact, totally AWESOME.... assuming you are not a KISS fan. I never cared much about KISS and I found this freaking hilarious, but I can definitely see why the loyal KISS followers (and the band themselves) absolutely loathed it. On the one hand, it would be an ideal MST3K movie, but OTOH, it doesn't need it.  That might almost be too much, because I was laughing all the way through this freaking thing. To get a feel for the "epicness" of this movie, watch the this clip as the band members first appear... from space!

I can't even begin to write a proper review of this because it's impossible to put into words how truly god-awful and how fantastically entertaining it is, all at once. The plot is simple - KISS are some sort of superhero rock stars with magical talisman powers, and they fight a crazy theme park inventor and his army of robots. The bad guy is played by Anthony Zerbe, better known as Mathias from the Omega Man. ( Really, I think the only 70's cultural archetype missing from this was a jumping bionic Bigfoot)   His mad plan is to build robot copies of KISS who will then sing bad songs, which will make the fanatically loyal KISS fans riot and cause chaos and negative press which KISS will take the blame for.  [image] I see two flaws with this world domination plan:
A)  How would anyone notice that the robot KISS was playing bad songs? 
B)  When I set out on my path to global domination, step one is not going to be a elaborate scheme to mess up the reputation of a rock band I don't like.  I'll secure my control over the rest of the planet and then turn my twisted attention to Justin Beiber.

I've got two lists from this movie.

First, this movie managed to encapsulate everything about the 1970's into one package. 90 minutes of concentrated 70's. You get:

Bionic jumps with sound effects
Star Trek door and FX noises
Kung fu fighting
Samurais with lightsabers
Universal classic monsters
A crazy Phantom guy
Fembots (Well, actually manbots, but close enough)
Lots of KISS music
Discosploitation music for the fight scenes (It's really weird going from KISS tunes to what sounds like the Shaft theme music for walking around, then BeeGees instrumentals for fights)
Bell bottom pants
A Triumph TR7 half-glimpsed ("The Shape of Things to Come" - Remember that?)
Tube tops
No bras (heh heh)
Rollercoaster fixation
Chariots of the Gods mystical gumbo
Crazy robot monkeys
Sumos in diapers
King Kong
Laser FX - A concert stage with spinning sparkler wheels and a drum set that rises up
Someone breaking through a concrete block wall made of those Hulk/Steve Austin blocks that bounce

Secondly, odd observations about KISS:

* They have a pool but don't swim. Instead, they perch on silly 8' tall chairs in a cluster at one end, wearing sparkly glitter robes with their hoods up, making lion noises and squeaks at each other.
* They have magical talismans that give them superpowers. Supposedly we all do. Huh?
* One KISS member was doubled by a black stuntman for his fight scenes.
* One KISS member was so drunk and drugged on set that all his lines were redubbed by a voice that sounds like a Scooby character.
* KISS' acting makes early Arnold look like Laurence Olivier.
* Watching "Demon" Gene Simmons try to walk and do fight scenes in foot-high boots never gets any less funny.
* Gene Simmons breathes fire that is so badly matted that you can see straight-edged mask cutout lines often.

In this movie you get to see KISS perform several concert songs, fight fembots, fight ninjas and lightsaber guys, fight white robot monkeys that climb like Spiderman, fight the classic Universal monsters (Dracula, mummy, wolfman, etc), and finally fight robot duplicates of themselves. I was much amused by the fact that I was unable to tell any difference between the supposedly "bad" song that the robot KISS band sings, and the real KISS songs... I mean, the real songs were recognizable, but the evil KISS song sounded like any B track to me, despite somehow being so offensive to the fans that they began to destroy the concert stadium.  Maybe they just wanted out of the movie really badly.

The first 20 minutes of this movie are as dull as any TV movie of the period, but once you finally hear KISS trying to speak and act, it redeems itself and it's a wild ride to the finish. It was unbelievably, eye-poppingly awful, and I loved every minute of it.  Ergo, my dual rating above - As a film, it's a disaster on training wheels, wobbling from one ridiculous scene to the next, all the while barely on the edge of falling over.  As an entertainment spectacle, it's hard to beat, especially if you have alcohol handy.  Spend 3 minutes watching the clip below and experience the wonder that the entire movie is - Then you'll know if you have the right stuff to sit through 90 minutes of this.

Sadly, the late 70's were the end of the KISS glory days, though they did make a brief resurgence in the early 80's, sans makeup, to create possibly the most amazingly homoerotic music video ever recorded.  Seriously, Liberace singing with the Village People would think this was too much, dahling...

Suggested Accompaniment: Well, there are different ways to go with this.  If you're age 40+, you can go Full Nostalgia and break out the cola, Jujubees, Junior Mints, and Crackerjack popcorn and be ten years old all over again.  Alternatively, you probably want something alcoholic to help ease your passage through this saga - Something sweet, like Frangelica, or even (Heaven forbid) some sort of alco-pops because this is the kind of movie that would perfectly fit a strawberry/banana wine cooler. As for smokes, something candy-flavored in an ecig is the only way to go, because you weren't old enough to smoke tobacco in 1978 and if you were, you were probably too old to enjoy the trash classic charm of this movie.  Like "Scott Pilgrim versus the World", it's a generation-seeking missile whose wonders will likely be lost on anyone outside the target age range, who are now all 38-48.  Rock on, dudes.