Tag Archives: Gene Simmons

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978, Gordon Hessler), the theatrical version

What’s there to say about KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park? It moves pretty fast. Wait, I didn’t specify nice things to say about the movie. Oops.

There’s a lot of bad things to talk about. The easiest targets are KISS, who frequently seem lost–supposedly they got fed their lines immediately before shooting–but also vaguely uncomfortable. Especially Gene Simmons, who has a very painful-looking gait. Paul Stanley probably gives the best performance of the band members; he’s still awful, but doesn’t swagger as much as the others.

Once it’s clear the band doesn’t show up immediately, which is too bad because it never feels like “Scooby Doo” and KISS as Scooby Doo would be a lot better, the story plays out rather predictably. Deborah Ryan loses track of boyfriend Terry Lester, who works for mentally unstable amusement park designer Anthony Zerbe. Zerbe’s awful as the Phantom of the Amusement Park, but he’s still leagues ahead of the rest of the cast. Ryan’s risible. Lester might be much better, actually–he spends half the movie as a zombie, which doesn’t require a lot. Carmine Caridi is real bad as the amusement park boss.

But, like I said, Phantom of the Park does move fairly well. There are a few somewhat effective montages with the music (it’s all KISS, obviously) and they usually last the entire song.

Phantom of the Park never manages to be distinctively bad, however. It’s just a crappy TV movie with KISS. It doesn’t have a single surprise.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gordon Hessler; written by Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday; director of photography, Robert Caramico; edited by Peter E. Berger; music by Hoyt Curtin; production designer, James Hulsey; produced by Terry Morse Jr.; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Peter Criss (Cat Man), Ace Frehley (Space Ace), Gene Simmons (The Demon), Paul Stanley (Star Child), Anthony Zerbe (Abner Devereaux), Carmine Caridi (Calvin Richards), Deborah Ryan (Melissa), John Dennis Johnston (Chopper), John Lisbon Wood (Slime), Lisa Jane Persky (Dirty Dee) and Terry Lester (Sam).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978) / DETROIT ROCK CITY (1999).

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Detroit Rock City (1999, Adam Rifkin)

Detroit Rock City is going to be difficult to talk about. It’s painfully unfunny, yet fully embraces the idea it’s the complete opposite. Maybe director Rifkin really thinks his weak seventies pop culture references, his sight gags, and his terrible cast are funny. Or maybe he’s just good at hiding any awareness of the film’s stupidity and obviousness.

Carl V. Dupré’s script seems to be for an audience who only knows about the seventies through television reruns and movies, but also for diehard KISS fans. There’s no establishing of the KISS theme; if you aren’t a fanatic, you’re probably missing something. It’s too bad, because the thorough (if bad) opening titles utilizes seventies news and pop culture and it sure seems like KISS could be a zeitgeist worth exploring.

Maybe if the actors were better. Of Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Edward Furlong and Sam Huntington, it’s a constant race to see who’s worse. Andrews is real bad and obviously trying. DeBello’s real bad and not trying–he gets all the “funny stoner” lines and butchers each one. Furlong looks stoned and bored; it should have been part of his character. Huntington’s awful but somewhat less annoying than Andrews, who’s desperately trying to play a bad boy.

And Lin Shaye’s evil Christian mom? So bad. So’s Natasha Lyonne.

Maybe the only distinct thing in Rock City is how much it likes rampant bigotry and misogyny. Rifkin identifies them in seventies pop culture artifacts… and then the film embraces them.

Icky bad stuff.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adam Rifkin; written by Carl V. Dupré; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Peter Schink; music by J. Peter Robinson; production designer, Steve Hardie; produced by Kathleen Haase, Barry Levine and Gene Simmons; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Edward Furlong (Hawk), Giuseppe Andrews (Lex), James DeBello (Trip), Sam Huntington (Jam), Melanie Lynskey (Beth), Nick Scotti (Kenny), Shannon Tweed (Amanda Finch), Miles Dougal (Elvis), Natasha Lyonne (Christine) and Lin Shaye (Mrs. Bruce).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978) / DETROIT ROCK CITY (1999).

Runaway (1984, Michael Crichton)

Given the star and the director, it shouldn’t be surprising Runaway is rather conservative. And, given the endless kissing montage over the end credits, it also appears to have been geared toward female viewers (but with Selleck, that one isn’t a surprise either). As science fiction, Runaway is very, very safe. It’s an unexciting safe. It’s even a little sturdy. While Crichton’s choice to cast Gene Simmons is ludicrous, his brand of 1980s futurism is–though obviously budget-conscious–excellent. The robots in the movie have not changed the world, they’re simply new additions to a familiar landscape. Crichton’s always been good with that aspect of science fiction filmmaking, the problems come when he’s got to come up with a plot.

Runaway, for example, does not have much of a plot. It takes place over two or three days, has countless filler sequences of Selleck in peril (in the first twenty minutes, so it seems unlikely he’s in any danger), and is kind of an extended chase story. There are some big plot holes (cops who go missing, spectacular murders unreported), but it gets, predictably, from A to B to C. Along the way, there’s some good acting from Selleck, who both manages not to look embarrassed in the silly future outfit and to maintain some decorum during his scenes with son Joey Cramer. Cramer’s performance is hilariously awful and suggests Simmons might have turned in a better one with some direction, which Crichton was apparently not providing to anyone. Cynthia Rhodes is fine, though her character is absurd. Stan Shaw and G.W. Bailey are both good in smaller roles.

What Crichton manages to do, after a while, is get some good action sequences going. There’s an excellent chase scene and, at the end, he manages to get some solid effect from a wholly predictable (and forecast in the first five minutes) sequence. Crichton’s not a dynamic director–almost every shot is a walking-and-talking shot–but he works really well with rear screen projection. Oddly, those sequences are also the only ones with really impressive work from cinematographer John A. Alonzo. The rest of the time, Alonzo shoots the movie like all they’ve got are fluorescents. Crichton’s composing his shots pre-pan and scan Panavision here, so it’s hard for there not to be a good shot every few minutes.

Most of Runaway hinges on Selleck’s likability, just because there’s very little momentum to the movie. The journey to the near future, which lasts well into the second act, is only so interesting as people are still driving pickup trucks. But for such a colorless narrative, Runaway works all right. It’s dumb, but competent in some interesting ways (though less so in some other–not interesting–ways).

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michael Crichton; director of photography, John A. Alonzo; edited by James Coblentz and Glenn Farr; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Douglas Higgins; produced by Michael I. Rachmil; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Tom Selleck (Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay), Cynthia Rhodes (Officer Karen Thompson), Gene Simmons (Dr. Charles Luther), Kirstie Alley (Jackie Rogers), Stan Shaw (Sgt. Marvin James), G.W. Bailey (Chief of Police), Joey Cramer (Bobby Ramsay) and Chris Mulkey (David Johnson).


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