Why Kiss’ ‘Music From ‘The Elder” Never Made the Big Screen
In retrospect, it's clear to the members of Kiss that 1981's Music From "The Elder" was an outlandish idea.
"We were lost. We were delusional," Paul Stanley told Yahoo! Entertainment in 2021. By then, Kiss had settled comfortably into stardom with several massively successful albums under their belt. But while those records took them to the top of the charts, they also made them somewhat complacent. "We couldn't make a rock album. We had no teeth. We were gumming at that point."
But at the time, despite a significant lineup change that involved drummer Peter Criss playing his final show with the band in December 1979 and replaced by Eric Carr, Kiss thought they were onto something with their new material. “We were convinced that we were making our Sgt. Pepper,” Gene Simmons told Classic Rock.
The basis for that art-rock concept album, the band's ninth, was inspired by the likes of the Who's Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall. The record's narrative came from a story Simmons cooked up while dabbling in the back ends of film production in Hollywood: "The first thing I wrote was on the Beverly Hills Hotel stationery: 'The Elder, when the Earth was young, they were already old.' It started with a story treatment that I wanted to turn into a movie — a Tolkienesque ... thing, with inspiration from The Watcher from Marvel and so on."
Watch a Commercial for Kiss' 'Music From 'The Elder'' Album
It turned out that even producer Bob Ezrin couldn't save the sinking ship that was Music From "The Elder." The album performed miserably among fans and critics alike.
Simmons, however, hadn't entirely given up on his story. Kiss had ventured into filmmaking with 1978's Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, and the idea of taking their music to the big screen still appealed to him. The basic plot of The Elder album involved the recruitment of a young hero, "The Boy," who embarked on a journey while battling forces of evil along the way. Along the way he was guided by an elderly caretaker named Morpheus. According to Simmons, the movie did enter the beginning of stages of casting with Chris Makepeace, who had recently starred in My Bodyguard, in the lead role. "I don't remember if Patrick Stewart was involved as Morpheus, he might've been," Simmons remembered. "But it started to get some legs. And we were going to do a motion picture, but, like most movies now, over 95 percent never get made, even though there are scripts and everything. So, we had a treatment based on — I mean, my treatment — but it stopped there, and we kind of gave up on it."
The Elder did, however, almost make it onto screens more than three decades later in the form of a 2012 independent interpretation by director Seb Hunter. ”I’ve decided to reset it as a kinda post-apocalyptic road movie but with all the signifies in place, and the characters are the same and the general narrative is the same or at least what we know of it," Hunter said in 2012. "It basically tells the same story, and, of course, it’s an old story with a boy on a quest and the story of good and evil.” And a comic-book version of the story was released by the band in 2016.
But ultimately, like the album itself, it seemed an official Kiss version of the movie was a much better idea on paper. "That's how delusional we were," Stanley said. "We could just as easily talk about launching a rocket to Mars, you know. I mean, you can talk about it, but actually there's so much that goes into it. And quite honestly, if you were going to send a rocket to Mars, you need a rocket and fuel. And as far as The Elder, I don't think we had either."