Sunday, January 26, 2014
KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park is a 1978 TV movie. The film starts a little slow while it gets the other characters in the movie, besides KISS, introduced to the audience. Once KISS starts appearing in the film, it's like a train wreck that has come off the rails, which in this case is a lot of fun.
The park referred to in the title is an amusement park (actually Magic Mountain) and the creator (Anthony Zerbe) of the park has gone loopy and became obsessed with turning people into cyborgs. While he's never actually referred to as The Phantom, he does have an underground lair where he performs all his devious misdeeds. Having KISS perform at the park is the last straw for The Phantom and he plans to discredit them. The first thing he does is make a robotic copy of Gene Simmons and have it wreck a Coke stand (one of many bad F/X in the movie, since it's obvious the stand is made out of Styrofoam). As a side note, Coke must have sponsored some of the movie, since their product shows up throughout the film. The Phantom's final plan is to make KISS duplicates and have these clones cause a riot at the final concert where they will sing "Rip and Destroy" and the fans, being mindless idiots in his opinion, will go wild and destroy the park.
KISS, according to this film (which borrows from the KISS comics), are not only a rock band, but they also have super powers. These special powers have been granted to them by secret talismans, which they carry around in a briefcase. Each member has a name to reflect his unique power. Gene Simmons is Demon and he growls instead of talks most of the time and can also shoot fire out of his mouth. Peter Criss is Cat Man and he can jump really high. Ace Frehley is Space Ace and can teleport the group. Paul Stanley is Star Child and can shoot lasers from his eyes. The craziest two scenes in the film (among many crazy scenes) are when KISS fight an army of white cat robots and when KISS fight their robotic selves near the end of the movie. In both these scenes, all the KISS members get to use their special powers.
KISS have distanced themselves from this movie and for good reason. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, the plot is ludicrous. If I said the members of KISS and their acting ability was abysmal, I would still be too kind. In recent years KISS has released the European version of this film on KISS: Kissology Volume Two, but to see the original US TV version, you'll need to either buy a used vhs (fairly inexpensive) or get a copy from the grey market. Over the years, I've watched a lot of movies that were billed as "so bad, they're good". Some actually turned out to be good and some just turned out to be god awful bad, but KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is truly "so bad. it's good".
Saturday, January 11, 2014
I like Weird Al Yankovic, having said that, UHF is not a very good film and I'm being generous when I say "not very good", it's really terrible with only one bright spot in the whole movie. How a comic genius like Yankovic could have made such a disaster of a film is beyond me.
Weird Al plays a dreamer who can't hold a job, until one day his Uncle wins a nearly bankrupt UHF channel in a poker game and turns it over to Weird Al to run. Weird Al's attempts at saving the station aren't going so well until he turns his kid show "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" over to his half-wit janitor Stanley, played as a stupider version of Kramer by Michael Richards. Stanley's child like demeanor is a hit with the audience and the program is renamed "Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse. With the renewed interest in the station and the revenue Stanley's show is bringing in, Al is able to create more shows and soon his UHF station is outranking the local network affiliate, which is owned by R.J. Fletcher, played by Kevin McCarthy. Fletcher makes plans to put Al's channel out of business, but by the end of the film Fletcher is the one out of business and Weird Al has the number one station in town.
Al's daydreams and his shows at the station allow the movie to parody TV, movies, and commercials. The problem was nothing was funny, or even mildly amusing, with the exception of the video for "Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies Theme", which was so superior to anything else in the movie it made me realize I would have been better off watching a Weird Al video collection, rather than wasting 97 minutes of my life viewing UHF.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
In Let's Rock, Julius LaRosa plays a balladeer whose career is in the dumps because everyone's listening to Rock n Roll. His manager tries to convince him to record a rock tune, but LaRosa resists jumping on the band wagon. One night he meets a songwriter, played by Phyllis Newman, who unbeknownst to LaRosa has written the song on the flip side of his latest record. This leads to what today would probably earn LaRosa a big laugh, when he asks Newman why she chose to be a songwriter instead of a traditional female career like nursing or secretarial work. Even though LaRosa states "Rock n Roll is something you can't fake", he does finally agree to always include a Rock n Roll song on the flip side of his ballad records which, of course, revives his career with the rocker "Crazy Crazy Party", which closes out the film.
Let's Rock is basically a romance movie between LaRosa and Newman, but since they are both in the music industry, this leads to many opportunities to naturally incorporate music acts into the storyline. Surprisingly, with all the talk about Rock n Roll, there's not a lot of it in the film. The movie opens with The Tyrones rocking out on "Blast-Off", Roy Hamilton has an upbeat number, "Here Comes Love", Wink Martindale (yes, that Wink Martindale, most notable today as a game show host) skirts the edges of rockabilly with "All Love Broke Loose", but the best rocker in the whole movie is provided by The Royal Teens with their hit song, "Short Shorts".
The other songs in Let's Rock fall into categories other than Rock n Roll. Paul Anka sings a ballad, "I'll Be Waiting For You", Danny and The Juniors in a great doo-wop appearance sing "At The Hop", Roy Hamilton has another song in the movie, a ballad, "The Secret Path of Love" and Della Reese also has a ballad with the tune, "Lonelyville". LaRosa has a few other ballads throughout the film, "Two Perfect Strangers, "There Are Times" and "Casual" a duet with Phyllis Newman.
Let's Rock is a pretty decent Rock n Roll exploitation film, a lot better than many I have seen, especially with its coherent, logical plot. The two main problems in the movie are any time LaRosa sings a ballad in the movie, it grinds the film to a halt (I guess if you are a fan of LaRosa, you may have a different outlook about this fact.) and having over half of the film taken up with music other than the type you are trying to make a point about just seemed absurd.