Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

Filtering by Tag: Rejected By Rod

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Sixteen - A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge


Jesse (Mark Patton) has been having terrible dreams since his family moved into their new house on Elm St.  Each night he is confronted by Freddy Krueger, the steel-clawed maniac who haunts the dreams of Elm Street’s children, but this time Freddy isn’t looking for a victim, he’s looking for a partner—someone who can set him loose into the real world.  Will Jesse succumb to the dream maniac’s desire to be a real boy or will he be saved by the love of a girl (Kim Myers) who looks a lot like a young Meryl Streep?

If you ever hear a genre fan refer to Freddy’s Revenge as the “gay” Nightmare, don’t immediately dismiss them as one of those tiresome assholes who ignorantly use the term as a synonym for lame.  Truthfully, the movie is pretty lame, but it’s also really, really gay.  That is to say the homosexual subtext of the film (intended or not) is about as subtle as a Tennessee Williams play. 

And that’s not a criticism, since that subtext really is the only thing that significantly sets the film apart from other 80s horror movies.  Directed without much tension or suspense by Jack Sholder (The Hidden), this first sequel to Wes Craven’s landmark original manages to completely forget that as a character Freddy only works as the master of his own dream domain (*cough*).  When you bring him out into everyday reality, as this film does (albeit rather incoherently) it just makes him seem like another run of the mill slasher with a fedora fetish.

Rejected By Rod(!): Part Fifteen - Pandemonium

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Exciting news! This latest Rejected By Rod post features the series' first actual honest-to-goodness rejection! This past weekend I got this message from Rod through the electronic mail:

"The Rapture" will be running this week on FA. However, I did run across one of your reviews from the pool I actually do hafta reject, and that's "Pandemonium." Not because it's badly written (it ain't, of course), but because it's more about referring to a previous review you wrote rather than the movie. I tried to work around it, but couldn't figure out how without it being maybe 1/4 of its length. Sorry!

Why does Rod hate meta-reviews? I don't know! Go to Flick Attack and ask him! It doesn't matter to me, since all it means is switching the usual (?) to a (!)!

Rejected By Rod(!)



As many perks as there are to being a big fat know-it-all, there is also at least one major drawback. Sometimes—albeit rarely—evidence is produced that at some point you said or wrote something that was actually *gulp* wrong. I say this because back in January of 2011 I wrote the following in my review of a terrible film called National Lampoon’s Class Reunion: “…there is nothing worse than a bad slasher movie parody and…no such thing as a good slasher movie parody.”

It’s a statement I made with some confidence, thinking at the time of such terrible films as Student Bodies, Slaughter High and Pandemonium, all of which I had seen before reviewing Class Reunion. Thing is, though, it had been a looooong time since I last saw Pandemonium and I was judging it on the basis of the retarded opinion of a pretentious 16 year-old asshole.

For that reason I decided to take another look at it 19 years later, as a much older, wiser and more relaxed 35 year-old asshole. Turns out I really liked it. Quite a lot, actually. Which means the statement I quoted up above simply isn’t true—there is at least one good slasher movie parody (two if you count Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which you probably should).

So, mea culpa.

The last film of Alice Sweet Alice helmer Alfred Sole (he went on to become a production designer), Pandemonium possesses the same anarchic sweetness as Rock and Roll High School, which isn’t a coincidence since both films share Richard Whitley in their screenwriting credits.

Set at a summer cheerleader camp (six years before Cheerleader Camp) held on a college campus where every cheerleader has been murdered for the past 20 years, the film largely eschews character and plot for a series of sometimes sophisticated, sometimes scatological, but mostly funny jokes.

The cast includes a blond Judge Reinhold, a Sissy Spacek-imitating Carol Kane, Jimmy Olson from Superman, Tom Smothers as a Mountie(!), Tab Hunter (once again mocking his 60s All-American image), pretty much everyone who appeared in the original stage version of The Pee Wee Herman Show (even Phil Hartman), and a genuinely adorable actress named Teri Landrum, whose appeal is much bigger than her six meager credits on IMDb would suggest.

So, yeah, I was wrong that one time. Don’t get used to it.

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Fourteen - Head of the Family

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Head of the Family


There are two kinds of low-budget movie fans: Those who are ambivalent about Charles Band’s Full Moon films and those who HATE them. Count me among the former, if only because in the same way a broken clock is able to tell the right time two minutes each day, Band—for all his many faults—did manage to deliver Head of the Family, a strange little film that somehow transcends the usual Full Moon limitations (see also Dark Angel, which Band didn’t direct).

The titular family in question is the Stackpools, a group of mutant misfits whose deficiencies are each offset by a significant attribute. Wheeler (James Jones) has heightened senses, Otis (Russ Meyer vet Bob Schott) is a mass of muscle, Ernestina (adult actress Alexandra Quinn, whose porn star body seems especially ridiculous in a non-porn context) is pure sexuality and Myron (J.W. Pera) is the brain of the group, so much so that his tiny body is unable to support the weight of his giant head. Up to no good, their evil schemes are uncovered by the no-account owner of the local diner (Blake Adams), who makes the mistake of trying to blackmail them.

Short, dark and often surreally funny (at one point Myron has a group of lobotomized prisoners perform an amateur production of Shaw’s Saint Joan), Head of the Family also benefits from being sleazy in all the right sorts of ways, especially thanks to a stand out performance by frequent (-ly naked) Full Moon actress Jacqueline Lovell as Adam’s white trash mistress.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Thirteen - Primal Rage

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Primal Rage


Primal Rage is a rare example of a horror movie that manages to create some degree of tension due entirely to a pre-production fuck up. When the filmmakers decided not to cast the highly appealing Sarah Buxton as their female lead, but instead as her doomed roommate, they made it impossible for viewers not to agonize over the likelihood of her eventual fate—if only because she’s the only remotely sympathetic person in the entire picture. That her painful descent into madness and violent death is suggested to be an indirect punishment for a previous abortion only makes the film that much more infuriating.

An Italian production shot in the States, Rage is about what happens when university professor Bo Svenson (sporting the most pathetic ponytail in the entire history of mad science) experiments on a monkey, which then goes on to bite a muck-racking student journalist who contracts a contagious disease that turns all of its victims (all five of them) into zombie-like homicidal maniacs. 

Written by the auteur responsible for the infamous Cannibal Ferrox and directed by the son of FX artist Carlos Rambaldi (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Primal Rage —with the exception of one decapitation near the end—is virtually gore-free and filled with cheap looking effects. Yet despite its being ineffective even as unintentional camp, horror completists might want to watch it as a double feature with Deborah Brock’s Slumber Party Massacre II make their way through star Patrick Lowe’s entire filmography in just one sitting.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Twelve - Stephen King's Cat's Eye

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Stephen King's Cat's Eye


At the risk of committing genre blasphemy, I have to say that when it comes to 80s Stephen King anthology movies, I’ve always preferred Lewis Teague’s Cat’s Eye to George Romero’s beloved Creepshow. That’s not to say I think Creepshow is a bad movie, just that I always felt its attempt at paying tribute to the old E.C. comic books resulted in a general lack of originality in its stories. The same can’t be said for Cat’s Eye, though, as the three tales it tells are all classic examples of King working at the height of his abilities.

Its stories linked together by a gifted feline’s search for an endangered young girl played by Drew Barrymore, the film begins with James Woods as a lifelong smoker who unwittingly gets involved with a company that takes its pledge to get him to quit the nasty habit far more seriously than anyone would ever imagine.

The second story features Airplane! star Robert Hays as a broke tennis pro who is forced to make his way around the five inch ledge of a skyscraper to satisfy the vengeful whim of a cuckolded gambler and in the third the heroic cat finally finds Barrymore and saves her from a tiny, evil troll determined to steal her breath while she sleeps at night.

The first two stories benefit greatly from the kind of dark humor so often found in King’s best work, while the third succeeds thanks to the amazing mechanical effects created by Italian FX whiz Carlo Rambaldi, whose tiny monster ranks right up there with E.T. as his greatest achievement (the less said about his King Kong the better).

Along with excellent cinematography by legendary British cameraman Jack Cardiff, the film is also well served by director Teague’s tongue in cheek approach, which includes multiple references to King’s previous work and clever use of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in both the first and final stories.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Eleven - Up the Academy

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Up the Academy


After the unprecedented success of National Lampoon’s Animal House it seemed only natural that the nation’s other most influential comedy magazine of the period would get into the movie game as well. Unfortunately for the usual gang of idiots at Mad, the result wasn’t nearly as financially rewarding.

In fact, the Mad men were so disappointed with the way Up the Academy turned out, they eventually took the Mad Magazine Presents out of the title and disavowed any association with the film—instantly turning Alfred E. Neuman’s cameo into a strange non sequitur.

In retrospect, though, you do have to wonder how they ever thought hiring the iconoclastic filmmaker Robert Downey could have ever resulted in a successful mainstream comedy. Best known (aside from siring the future star of Iron Man) for his cult masterpiece, Putney Swope, Downey was an auteur whose gifts pretty obviously didn’t extend to the creation of a sophomoric teen comedy (or at least one that could actually be appreciated by its intended audience).

Sloppy, deliberately offensive (the film’s casual jokes about race and teen pregnancy seem especially shocking today) and almost angrily broad, the film plays less like an actual movie than a feature length version of one of Swope’s infamous commercial satires. But then at the same time it also feels strangely restrained for a film supposedly inspired by the anarchic spirit of Mad (a spirit much better exemplified onscreen that same year in Airplane!).

For this reason Up the Academy is one of those films I personally find interesting even though it clearly fails on all of the levels by which it should be judged. An experiment gone hopelessly awry, it’s one of those strange projects that should be viewed if only because it somehow manages to exist even though it probably shouldn’t.

And it has an awesome soundtrack.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Ten - Sorority House Massacre

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Sorority House Massacre


For eagle-eyed horror fans the cleverest moment in Sorority House Massacre comes when two of its characters are watching television. Showing on the set is a scene from an earlier Roger Corman produced classic, Slumber Party Massacre, in which a character is—you guessed it—watching a horror movie on television. It’s the cinematic equivalent of one those drawings of a cartoon character holding a drawing of them holding a drawing on into infinity.

Beyond this one moment, though, there’s not a lot to say about the film. While it does feature a memorably creepy dream sequence, the plot itself is lifted straight from the first two Halloweens, featuring as it does a killer who escapes from the loony bin in order to return to the house where he killed all but the youngest member of his family, who’s now an attractive brunette college student plagued by nightmares featuring him and the massacre she doesn’t remember surviving.

To writer/director  Carol Frank’s credit, she avoids the mistake of making her characters deliberately hateful, and merely settles for bland and uninteresting. To her discredit, she chose not to fire her apparently blind costume designer and allowed them to dress her cast in the most hideous clothes the 80s ever foisted upon the planet. That is if a movie this low budget even had a costume designer. If it didn’t, then her biggest crime was casting actors who couldn’t supply decent clothes out of their own closets.

Ultimately, Sorority House Massacre is an especially unexceptional movie and the only reason I’m reviewing it now is because I took the time to watch it before experiencing Sorority House Massacre II, which is an exceptional movie, but not for the reasons you might think.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Nine - The Convent

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

The Convent


The Convent is one of those horror movies that was made with such obvious affection by its filmmakers I’m able to forgive the fact that it literally plunges a knife into the heart of its least hateful character 30 minutes into its running time and then makes us wait another 20 before Adrienne Barbeau shows up to kick some serious demon nun ass.

The movie begins memorably with a hot young brunette in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform walking into a church and batting away at the assembled sisters (and father) with a Louisville slugger before setting them ablaze and blasting them with a shotgun, all to the sweet sound of Lesley Gore’s classic “You Don’t Know Me”.

It then cuts to 40 years later, where the location of this massacre is the destination of choice for a trio of truly obnoxious fraternity assholes, their virgin pledge, two girlfriends and the super cute, sarcastic goth girl who’s just like the woman I imagined I’d end up marrying back when I was 14 (which obviously didn’t happen).

The trouble starts when super cute goth girl is sacrificed by a quartet of pathetic Satanists, which causes the demons that necessitated the previous massacre to rise up from wherever they went the last time this all went down. In the end, the only person who can stop the demons from raising the antichrist is the hot 50-something version of the hot schoolgirl who took care of the problem the first time.

Needless to say, Adrienne Barbeau is truly awesome as the foul-mouthed, liquored up, tight jeans wearing demon slayer and is—along with the film’s sly sense of humor—the main reason to ignore the its obvious deficits and give it a chance.

Clearly inspired by Night of the Demons and Evil Dead II, The Convent is better than the former and nowhere close to the latter, which is exactly how it should be in a fair and just world such as our own.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Eight - Red Sonja

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

There are many thoughts that leap to mind while returning to Red Sonja decades after you’ve last seen it, but the one I kept focusing on was, “Where the heck did Brigitte Nielsen’s breasts go?”

Now, I do have an admitted tendency to over-focus on this sort of thing and I should probably get some help and talk to someone about it, but I’m not wrong in noticing that the international 80s Amazon’s dimensions here in her cinematic debut are somewhat less Amazonian than those found in her later films, which to my mind suggests a direct correlation between getting enormous implants and subsequently starring in a series of shittier and shittier movies.

I may be alone in expressing this, but I think Nielsen actually showed some (unmet) promise here in her film debut. Sure, she’s often flatly unintelligible, but then so is her co-star and that didn’t stop him from starring in Batman & Robin (and becoming the governor of California). As an action heroine, though, she’s entirely credible and was probably the only actress/model of the period with a build both substantial and sexy enough to take on the role of Robert E. Howard’s most famous female character. She was just missing the breasts, which she must have noticed and decided to correct for her future work (which sadly never included that proposed big screen adaptation of She-Hulk she was born for).

The rest of the film manages to serve as a solid example of 80s sword and sorcery silliness. Not as memorable as Cozzi’s Hercules films, but still better than Conan the Destroyer and its many low-budget clones (none of which were foolish enough to copy Milius’ superior original), Red Sonja is a serviceable timewaster lessened only by its distinct lack of a D-Cup.

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Seven - The Redeemer

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

The Redeemer: Son of Satan!


It seems appropriate that what ultimately saves this obscure late 70s proto-slasher is a memorably theatrical performance by T.G. Finkbinder as the title character. That’s right, The Redeemer redeems The Redeemer, but it’s a close call, because the filmmakers commit more than their fair share of cinematic sin before the end credits roll.

In a plot that predates the similar Slaughter High by 8 years, a group of six assholes are tricked into attending their 10-year high school reunion, only to discover that they have actually been gathered together to be fatally punished for their supposed sins against humanity—specifically their avarice, vanity, gluttony, haughtiness, licentiousness and perversion.

Unfortunately, as written the victims are all so clearly guilty of their “sins” it’s hard not to assume that the filmmakers are on the killer’s side, which is especially disturbing when you consider that the “pervert” The Redeemer punishes is simply a woman in a normal (albeit clandestine) lesbian relationship.

But what confuses the film’s potentially ugly moral stance is the revelation that the killer is actually a priest working as the personal hand of the sub-titular Son of Satan. What are we supposed to make of this? Is organized religion really a front for the Devil? Is the idea that the victims’ supposed “sins” are so minor and commonplace any one of us could find ourselves at the mercy of The Redeemer? And why is the adolescent antichrist busy punishing earthly sinners, instead of encouraging them like a more typical antichrist would?

Thinking about it all makes my head hurt, but—as I mentioned in the first paragraph—the film’s confused themes are made bearable by the presence of its antagonist, who manages to walk that fine line between campy fun and genuine creepiness. Both ahead of its time and unfortunately retrograde, The Redeemer is a highly flawed, but interesting film that deserves a place in the slasher canon its obscurity has previously denied it.

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Six - Frogs

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)



You can’t really blame Frogs’ producers for their blatant deception. I mean, there are frogs in Frogs, but they alone aren’t the only animals who turn against the various unlikable characters who inhabit the story. In reality, the film should have more accurately been called Traditionally Harmless Animals Who Have Suddenly Decided To Attack People Because Of Pollution, which I will concede would have been a lot harder to market.

The people in question are a bunch of rich assholes who live under the thumb of patriarch Ray Milland and who have gathered together on his private island to celebrate his latest birthday. You know Ray is a bad guy because: a) he’s rich and b) is in a wheelchair, so its only natural that he has no problem keeping the bugs away from his estate with a very eco-unfriendly pesticide. It’s only a matter of time before the local animal population (which admittedly includes a lot of frogs) calls “Bullshit!” on this and starts attacking everyone, including the studly tree-hugging photographer played by Sam Elliot, whose lack of a mustache is eerily discomfiting.

Frogs manages to avoid being as ridiculous as that same year’s Night of the Lepus, but that’s not a good thing.  While watching giant bunny rabbits stalking Janet Leigh is just stupid enough to hold your attention, the same can’t be said for people being hunted by normal sized fauna.  Despite the goofy promise inherent in its concept and infamous poster, Frogs is just plain dull.

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Five - Repossessed

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)



How much should a group of men be blamed if their works of genius are inexpertly imitated by morons and result in creating far more pain than the amount of pleasure originally wrought? As great as The Naked Gun, Kentucky Fried Movie and Top Secret remain today were they worth the terrible scattershot “parody” films they inspired? Does one Airplane justify the existence of one Disaster Movie?

It’s a tough question and it’s not made any easier by Repossessed, a early 90s rip-off of the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker formula that proves if you try hard enough it is possible to attempt a joke in every single shot of your movie and still fail to earn a single laugh.

It’s really rather simple. All you have to do is fail to understand what a joke actually is.

What it isn’t is the repetition, replication or mere invocation of a pop cultural artifact. Having a character repeat someone else’s famous catchphrase is not a joke, unless they do it in a way that comments on the significance of the phrase and its place in the zeitgeist. Without that commentary you’re no different than that asshole at work who expects you to laugh every time he repeats something from an old Mike Myers or Jim Carrey movie. And you don’t want to be that asshole, because we all hate that asshole. 

Seriously, asshole, we all want you to suffer and die.

That said, I can’t knock Repossessed too much, because it stars Linda Blair and I love Linda Blair, except when she’s in the original The Exorcist, which I hate and which Repossessed is a parody of and which therefore requires me to admire it, if only just a little.  I’m complicated like that.

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Four - Ruby

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)



According to my trusty Leonard Maltin iPhone app director Curtis Harrington was so disappointed with one version of his 1977 film, Ruby, he insisted on it being given the infamous Alan Smithee credit once used by filmmakers who felt their artistic vision had been so catastrophically usurped they could not allow to have their name attached to a project, lest it negatively affect their career and reputation.

But having just sat through the unmolested director’s cut for which he took full credit, I’m having difficulty imagining how much worse that other version could have been for Harrington to not want to be associated with it. I say this because the film I watched is so relentlessly mediocre, it’s hard to figure out how it could ever be edited into an outright Smithee-worthy disaster.  As is, Ruby simply doesn’t take enough risks to ever be that bad.           

Pointlessly set in 1951 (a fact easily forgotten given how little effort is made to convincingly convey the period), Ruby is a supernatural gangster revenge thriller with a mute teenage girl thrown into the mix just so the producers could throw Exorcist and Omen references into the trailer. A post-Carrie Piper Laurie looks fabulous as the title character—a washed up singer/moll who runs a drive-in 16 years after the father of her daughter was gunned down by the other members of his gang—but overplays the part to the precipice of campy embarrassment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of Laurie’s performance to turn the film into a so-bad-it’s-good classic a la Mommie Dearest. Instead, Ruby is the least satisfying kind of bad film there is—a dull, unimaginative one.

Which is something even Alan Smithee would be ashamed of.

Rejected By Rod(?): Part Three - The Adventures of Hercules

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

The Adventures of Hercules


There are two reasons to love The Adventure of Hercules, the second of two films made about the famous demi-god by director Luigi Cozzi and star Lou Ferrigno.  The first is its refreshing dependence on a largely female cast (and that’s before a bunch of Amazons show up), which seems to have less to do with the narrative demands of the plot as much as the director’s desire to make a movie with a lot of really hot Italian chicks in it. As a reviewer who enjoys movies with a lot of really hot Italian chicks in them, this is a definite plus.

The second reason to love the movie is that it’s as insane as we’ve come to expect from the man who gave us Starcrash (in which Caroline Munro, in just one instance, is endangered by a giant lesbian robot) and the first Hercules (in which the hero is shown creating the constellations by throwing stuff into the sky). In this case, the insanity comes from Hercules search for Zeus’ seven stolen thunderbolts, which the god requires to quell the rebellion started by his (really hot) wife Hera. Said bolts are hidden inside a variety of foes, including a hairy monster, a busty Gorgon, Hades, a busty spider lady and a fire monster.

You just have to watch the final fight in which the battle between science and religion (Cozzi’s for the latter) is waged between an animated T-Rex and gorilla to understand the peculiar genius of this neglected auteur’s demented imagination.

B-TV: Part Three - Same Shit, Different Results

Even though I already posted this week’s edition of Rejected By Rod(?), I’m dipping back into my well of unposted Flick Attack reviews to start off this look at a B-TV classic. The FA part of this review was actually included in the first batch I ever sent to Rod, when I very briefly held myself to a very strict 250-word limit, which explains why it’s so much more pithy and succinct than my typical FA output.

Kiss Meets The Phantom of The Park



The defining moment of the 1978 TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park comes when drummer Peter Criss (aka Cat Man) first speaks aloud and the familiar Saturday morning cartoon voice of male Wonder Twin Zan (Michael Bell) comes out of his mouth.  It’s then that you realize this film was: A) produced by Hanna-Barbara, B) stars a bunch of people who REALLY didn’t want to be involved in its production and C) is far more wonderful than mere mortals like us probably deserve.

Starring the world’s greatest all-time terrible rock band, the original members of Kiss play themselves—with the fictional license that along with being unapologetic cash whores, they also each possess super powers, which they’ll need in order to stop the titular villain (a slumming Anthony Zerbe) who is turning amusement park customers into robotic slaves.  The band is alerted to his evil doings by a pretty young fan named Melissa, (Deborah Ryan) who—in the film’s most fantastic and unrealistic contrivance—Gene Simmons doesn’t try to fuck.

Normally talented genre director Gordon Hessler (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad), couldn’t overcome the film’s non-existent budget and as a result the film has an almost Ed Woodian level of unintentionally amusing shoddiness (ie. Ace Frehley’s stunt double is clearly an overweight black man).  Definitely not for the serious minded, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park is one of those nostalgia pieces whose glaring imperfections actually makes it far more loveable than a well-made film.


I based the above review on multiple viewings of a really shitty bootleg copy I downloaded from Napster back when that was totally a thing you could do. As crappy as the quality was, the film itself was the same version I had seen several times play on weekday television when I was kid. So, you can imagine my surprise when I recently downloaded what I thought was merely a superior quality version of the exact same film, only to be stunned by the strange new movie that played before my eyes. Not only did it look 1000x better than my previous version, but right from the start I could tell that the editing was different, the soundtrack was better, and much of the overall suckiness had been removed.

Being the asshole film geek that I am, I didn’t even have to turn to the Internet to figure out what was happening. All I had to do was look through my personal poster collection and find my copy of the one sheet for Kiss en ataque de los fantamas­—the Spanish language version of the film, which had actually been released theatrically in Europe. I knew that when the original TV version aired, Kiss had refused to license their songs to play during non-concert/performance scenes in the films, but had changed their mind for the European release. This clued me into what I was watching. I had just been unprepared for how radically different the two films were.

That’s not to say that this version (which is credited as Kiss in Attack of the Phantoms) isn’t as hilariously and rapturously cheesy as the version I had seen dozens of times before—it just manages to leave out all of the parts that made the original look like the Ed Wood spectacle I described in the (thus-far unpublished) FA review I originally wrote over a year ago.

I’ve always said that the best way to teach people how much impact editing can have on a project is to show them the studio and director cuts of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which are as radically different as two films based on the same raw material can be. The differences between Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park and Kiss in Attack of the Phantoms aren’t that extreme, but they are significant enough to radically change the viewing experience.

The European theatrical version is close to 10 minutes shorter than the original, but by reordering and re-cutting important scenes, the plot actually feels much more organic and less haphazard—especially regarding Melissa’s search for her roboticized boyfriend. Gone are the shots featuring the overweight black stunt man dressed as Space Ace, and—most importantly—the Kiss tracks on the soundtrack bring a sense of fun and energy to the film that makes it many faults so much easier to digest. Just take a look at the difference between the classic scene where the evil robot version of Gene attacks a bunch of security guards. In the original the sequence is scored by what sounds like archival stock porn music:


While in the European theatrical cut, the same scene is scored to “Radioactive” from Simmons 1978 solo album:


In fact, the group’s (in)famous solo albums are the only sources the new soundtrack draws from—with Simmons getting the most attention. Beyond “Radioactive”, the film also uses his “Man of 1000 Faces” and “Mr. Make Believe”. Paul gets his “Love in Chains” in there, and Criss provides “Hooked on Rock ‘N’ Roll”. But the best moment belongs to Frehley, whose solo album produced the project's only lasting hit—the classic “New York Groove”, which turns the once-awful roller coaster fight sequence (see the clip embedded after the original FA review) into something pretty darn awesome:


Okay, maybe “awesome” is a bit much, but there’s no doubt that this alternative version completely changed my appreciation of this oft-mocked film. I already loved it when its imperfections couldn’t be ignored, but now that I’ve seen them successful hidden and disguised that love isn’t hipster-asshole-ironic, it’s hipster-asshole-genuine. And therein lies a whole heaping world of difference.