KISS Meets the Neo-Futurists

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It’s 1978 and the Gods of Thunder — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss (that’s KISS to you) — are slotted to perform three nights at the Magic Mountain amusement park in Southern California. A meddling villain is bent on foiling the plan. Abner Devereaux, the mad scientist whose secret lab lies beneath the park’s roller coasters and carousels, has poured his whole life into Magic Mountain, creating all of the robotic characters — the space monkeys, Marie Antoinette, Dracula, Frankenstein, the barbershop quartet — who adorn the park’s “House of Thrills” attraction. But when Calvin Richards, the park’s owner, wants to bring in KISS to boost attendance at the ailing park, Devereaux is repulsed by their fans, and the disagreement leads to the scientist’s firing. Devereaux, plotting his revenge, retreats to his underground lair and begins working on KISS robots. He has his henchmen robot, Sam, steal the talismans that give KISS their superpowers, i.e. flying, laserbeam walking, super-great hearing powers. Then he captures KISS and keeps them in a laserbeam jail. What happens next?

If, like me, you saw the Neo-Futurists Theater re-creation of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978) then you know KISS prevails. Not surprisingly, the movie didn’t. Plagued with accidents, unread scripts, shoddy acting, last minute rewrites, and Ace Frehley walk-offs, the film ended up so terrible that KISS demanded its title never be mentioned in their presence. A film as bad as this would surely be fated to die in shamed obscurity. Fortunately for us, the good folks over at the Neo-Futurists won’t allow that to happen. With their weekly series, “It Came from the Neo-Futurarium X,” running every Thursday through August 18, the talented troupe of actors resurrect bad movie scripts. Staying faithfully married to the original dialogue and plot, they deliver a loving homage to cheapness.

The performers embrace the clunky script, the ridiculous dialogue, and the cookie-cutter characters, and the result is a freewheeling, rollicking good time. With a live band in full makeup performing the entire soundtrack to the movie, from the opening credits to the final montage, the audience loved every fist-thumping minute of the show. You know those times when the replica is way better than the original? (Except in the case of the KISS robots being booed off the stage.) This outstanding show was engaging, entertaining and funny in a way the original movie could never hope to be.

Upcoming shows include: the biblical disco musical The Flaming Urge, August 4; Red Dawn, August 11; and the grand finale, Prince’s Purple Rain, August 18. It’s a homey theater with a casual, comfortable vibe — bags of popcorn sell for dollar apiece, and on the night I was there, one of the hottest of the summer, each member of the audience was given a free bottle of water. Cheapness prevails Thursday nights at the The Neo-Futurarium>/a>.

John Paris

About John Paris

Born in Cincinnati, raised in California, John has lived in a lot of great cities -- Montréal, San Francisco, Boston -- but now calls Chicago home sweet home, and has done so longer than anywhere else. Leaving the hills behind, he has found comfort in the flatness of one of the largest grids in the world. Neighborhoods divided into quadrants, divided into city blocks, divided into equal rectangular plots would seem to be a recipe for a grim, constricted civic culture. Not so, says John -- we Chicagoans are blessed by our situation. As inhabitants within the template of boulevards, and streets, and avenues, we dance on a perfect dance floor. The swirling, tumbling activity of circular pegs amused by square slots is the real creative genius of this fair city. Onward circular pegs!

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