March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Mac's Bar sends you back to the 1970s with a showing of the wonderfully cheesy 'KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park'

Wednesday, Jan. 11 — Let’s be honest: Some movies are easier to watch if you have a few drinks close at hand. And one excellent case-in-point would be “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” the 1978 camp classic that screens tonight at Mac’s Bar.
Originally produced as a made-for-TV flick, the musical fantasy became a major embarrassment for KISS members Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Paul Stanley, who hated the final film. But for those who relish the stranger side of the 1970s, it’s a treasure trove of garish fashions, cut-rate special effects, staggeringly awkward acting and cheesy sci-fi.
“Phantom” unfolds at the Magic Mountain amusement park, where a KISS concert takes a near-tragic turn when demented engineer Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe) creates evil robot clones of the heavily made-up rockers. Although Criss, Frehley, Stanley and Simmons are endowed with otherworldly powers, Devereaux manages to imprison them in his underground laboratory so that he can send the doppelgangers out on the stage in their place. “Rip! Rip! Rip and destroy!” the mechanical musicians bark, and the fans wave their fists and snarl and make angry sounds, apparently because concert audiences in the 1970s were extraordinarily suggestible.
If the plot leaves something to be desired, the movie does provide a considerable amount of prime KISS concert footage, capturing the band at the peak of its popularity. Let’s just say that the quartet is far more at ease performing “Rock and Roll All Night,” “Beth” and other hits than they are when asked to deliver dialogue — but much of the fun of watching “Phantom” comes from seeing rock ‘n roll royalty making flamboyant fools of themselves.
“Phantom” is on a double bill with director Allan Arkush’s terrific “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” which features the Ramones helping rebellious teens in their revolt against tyrannical principal Miss Togar (played by the priceless Mary Woronov). You can tell it apart from the KISS film because this one is intentionally hilarious.

‘KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’
9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11
Mac’s Bar
2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
18 and over