Friday, August 28, 2009

Keep It Simple Scooby

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

Remember the New Scooby Doo Movies, kids? The cartoon series featured not only the ORIGINAL Scooby Gang, but paired them up with folks both real and imaginary like Don Knotts, the Harlem Globetrotters, Sonny and Cher, and Batman and Robin. KISS Meets... comes off like a live-action version of one of those Scooby Movies. And that comes as no surprise as it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, the studio behind the ghost-busting Great Dane.

Starring the entire original KISS line up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Kriss and Ace Frehley, mostly going by their stage personas of Demon, Star Child, Catman and Space Ace. They come to the aid of some hot chick whose boyfriend has been taken over by Mad Amusement Park Animatronics Inventor Abner Devereux, played with conviction by Anthony Zerbe (this ain't no Dr. Shrinker, goddammit). Looky here, Abner designed all the lame animatronics in the park which made the schlumpy park owner BILLIONS, but the schlumpy park owner doesn't really give a tinker's darn and thinks Abner has been spending too much time with his latex chums, if you know what I mean, so he cans him. In revenge, Abner plans to replace KISS, who are simply rockin' it at Magic Mountain, with animatronic doubles who will play so badly as to cause the clean, wholesome-looking crowd to "destroy the amusement park!"

See, just like a Scooby Doo Movie, just without the ghosts. But we got a mad scientist, so no bitching, got it.

They MUST have been smoking something herbal when they proposed this movie. And when they wrote and shot it too. There's some funny stuff, like every time Paul Stanly opens his mouth to "act" and when Ace Frehley squaws like a bird for no apparent reason. Also there's the Demon crashing through a concrete wall that really looks like the foam it is, and then he smashes up a Coke stand (apparently not the coke he was looking for. And yes, I know Gene Simmons says he's a complete teetotaler and has never touched that stuff. It's. A. Joke.).

There's a near-hilarious sequence set by a really nice looking outdoor pool (this IS California, after all). The park owner and the security guards come to question KISS about an incident (see the Coke stand above), and the band members are in full make up and costume and are even wearing these bitchin' sparkly druid-like robes (in L.A.!). The funny part is KISS is sitting in these chairs that would not be out of place at a lifeguard tower. There they are, looming over the hapless mortals that come to question them.

There's a trippy "fight scene" - actually a couple, and they're more like KISS teetering around in their higher-than-high heels and the stunt people overdoing it trying to sell the gags. Two stick with you: the first, when they fight a bunch of ninja and karate types (it was '78 and the spirit of Bruce Lee was still flying high) and the second when they tussle with a whole mess of albino cat-wolfmen in matching jumpsuits. Read those last six words again, because I didn't make any of it up.

The special effects are more hilarious than awe inspiring, with Paul Stanley's Star Child shooting laser beams out of his eyes that look more like hot dogs and the Demon breathing fire that is obviously matted in there. There's also some rudimentary wire work that recalled the Nicholas Hammond Amazing Spider-Man TV show (also of the same era), and even a nod to Star Wars' lightsabers in one brief chop socky encounter involving swords (or, "suhwards" as Paul Stanley might say).

Two guesses as to whether or not KISS saves the day, vanquishes their evil robot dopplegangers, stops the Mad Amusement Park Animatronics Inventor, gets the hot chick and her bf back together again, and descends from the heavens to rock the crowd one mo' time!

Do I hear an encore?

3 comments:

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  2. In other, non-blog related news, I vividly remember watching this thing thirty-odd years ago!! The Laser-beams! The Boots!! The exclamation marks!!! It's all flooding back like a dam-burst of post-hypnotic suggestion!!!!

    I am amazed I remember watching the show because in that distant age of pet rocks, disco and whatever other insipid garbage we had that we thought was cool, when KISS ruled the world (even after partying all night and rocking every day) I COULDN'T STAND THEM. All the boys in school or on my block had KISS Posters, KISS t-shirts (a few of them even had the records) and would have worn befanged platform shoes if they could.

    The only thing I can account for this show lodging itself into my brain is the inclusion of the aforementioned wiener-lasers. In 1978 I was still deep in a Star Wars induced space-coma such that ANYTHING which had spaceships zipping around and laser blasts in it burned itself into my consciousness (hence my ability to appreciate Battlestar Galactica, Starship Invasions, Jet Jaguar).

    I've been undergoing unsuccessful treatment for a flare-up of the space coma the past few years. Quinine doesn't help althought the Star Wars prequals almost cured me--then I watched the original and had a relapse.

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  3. And don't forget the seemingly 24-hour-long version of Beth that just keeps going... and going... and going... :-)

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