Monday, November 29, 2010

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

Title: Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

Director: John de Bello

Cast: George Clooney, John Astin


Some of you might not know it, but George Clooney took his first shots at acting by appearing in extremely low budget horror films. Yup, like many A-list actors in Hollywood (Meg Ryan and Renee Zellwegger for example) George Clooney started dabbling with the acting thing in low budget horror features like Return to Horror High (1987) and the film I will be reviewing today, Return of the Killer Tomatoes. As the title suggests, this is a sequel to an obscure low budget horror flick from the 70’s titled Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978). I saw the original one many, many years ago when I was but a kid. All I remember about that one is that the hero in the film runs around dragging an opened parachute through the floor everywhere he went. After having so much fun with this one, I think I want to revisit the original. But seriously folks, this is the kind of movie that entertains simply because it's so zany and full ideas. Its as if everyday the whole cast and crew was looking for new ways to make the movie that much crazier! Gotta hand it to them, I think it worked!

A Motley Crew if there ever was any!

Story goes something like this: a mad scientist is hell bent on world domination. His way of achieving this goal is by taking ordinary tomatoes and transforming them into muscle bound Rambo-like tough hombres with machine guns and bandanas! Sounds crazy right? Well, trust me, it gets crazier. One of the good guys falls for a girl who is half human, half tomato! She’s kind of like a were-tomato-girl? She transforms into a tomato whenever she hears a specific song. So the good guy is confused, should he love her or squash her? It’s up to the good guys to stop the mad scientist from achieving his goal and finding a way to get were-tomato-girl to stay human forever. That’s about as far as we go in terms of story.

A girl and her baby tomatoe

But essentially, what we have here is a super funny movie. I never thought I’d end up enjoying a movie about killer tomatoes. Though, to be honest, there aren’t any actual killer tomatoes perse on this movie. At least not like in the first film. What we get on this sequel are tomatoes that are transformed into these hulking tough dudes with machine guns with a striking resemblance to Rambo. So any desires you might have for seeing actual giant tomatoes trying to kill people you can squash immediately, cause that’s not what this movie was going for. The filmmakers thought it would be way cooler to have a bunch of Rambo wannabe’s doing all the damage this time. And honestly, it was funny seeing these tough oiled up dudes walking around with machine guns. And hers the punch line: the filmmakers make the Rambo clones look all red because they used to be tomatoes! As a bonus, when this movie isn’t turning tomatoes into Rambo replicas it’s turning them into hot bikini clad beach babes! So the film evens things out that way.

Clooney sarrounded by tomatoes left and right

I loved how they do a recap of the events that occurred in the first film, where we see the giant tomatoes rolling around the streets following people trying to kill them. It’s actually a pretty straight forward sequel, totally alluding and referencing the previous film. In fact, many characters from the first film actually return. I especially enjoyed seeing John Astin who played Gomez on The Addams Family TV Show playing the role of the mad scientist, Prof. Gangreen. Actually, its Asting who steals the show in this movie. He is the one responsible for the tomatoes mutating and he was perfectly cast in this role. This actor has such a zany looking face, the kind of face that  a mad scientist would have! He has that smirk on his face through out the whole movie, makes him look all nutty. As an inside joke, at one point Astin is actually wearing the suit he wore in The Addams Family! His plan is to use the mutant tomatoes to build an army to take over the world. The funniest thing is that the machine that transforms the tomatoes is activated by putting a quarter in it! And when it’s turned on, it plays this rock and roll synth tune! It was hilarious! You could tell that he was having fun with the role. Same as George Clooney, who looks half like he wants to make the movie, and half like he just doesn’t give a damn. It’s hard to think that such a respected actor like Clooney started out in such a sleazy b-movie like this one! I guess it’s true what they say, everyone has to start somewhere!

John Astin cant believe he is in an even weirder gig than The Addams Family

This movie comes to us from the Zucker/Abrahams school of filmmaking. Yes my friends the comedy in this film is a lot like the comedy we see in films like Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988) where we simply get an avalanche of slapstick with no respect or desire to respect any conventional film rules. On this movie we see characters breaking the fourth wall; we get to see the filmmaking crew behind the cameras, hell, we even get to see the films actual director show up at one point to tell everyone that they ran out of money for making the movie. Seriously, this is that kind of movie! The cast and crew of the film actually stop the film halfway through to see what idea they can come up with to raise money for finishing the film; their solution? Product placement! So from their on in, we see a whole lot of product placement on the film. To the films credit I will say that they managed to turn the whole product placement gimmick into a pretty funny joke. Every time we see some sort of product placement in the movie, it is hilarious! In this way, the film reminded me of Wayne’s World (1992) where they have this whole sequence where they do the exact same thing. Only Return of the Killer Tomatoes did it first! Actually, there are a lot of jokes on this film that are similar to the jokes we see in Waynes World, where they play around with things they can pull off in a movie.

 Product placement is no joke. It can happen to all of us!

Example: the film starts off with another film. Actually, the film starts off with the producers talking to us telling us how shitty this sequel is going to be which lets us know that these guys knew they were making a bad film from the get go. They knew they were making a b-movie and they had fun with it. They exploited that angle as much as they could, and I have to say it worked because I couldn’t stop watching this movie. Actually, I was laughing out loud so many times, it surprised me! One scene that had me rolling was when they explained that the mere mention of the word ‘tomatoes’ caused chaos, and they show this guy in a library, with a bunch of people sitting around him calmly reading their books and suddenly with a grin on his face the guy says the word “tomatoes” and everyone in the library goes bats shit insane screaming and hollering! I was laughing so hard I had to pause the film. Honestly, this movie needs more recognition. If you are in the mood for some laugh out loud, silly, slapstick fun, of the kind that doesn’t give a damn, then Return of the Killer Tomatoes is the movie for you! During the film credits, the film promises us that the killer tomatoes will return in The Killer Tomatoes Eat France!. Now, here I thought this was just another one of those movies that promises a sequel but never delivers (like Masters of the Universe!) but to my surprise, while researching this movie I discovered that it has not one but two more sequels! Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! (1991) and Killer Tomatoes Eat France! (1992) And they were both made by the same director who made the first two. You can bet your collective asses I will be seeing and reviewing them soon! Especially when this film ends with the uprising of The Mutant Carrots Army!

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - 25th Anniversary EditionReturn of the Killer Tomatoes!Killer Tomatoes Strike BackKiller Tomatoes Eat FranceReturn of the Killer Tomatoes / Return to Horror High


Giuseppe Balestra (MaximaFobia) said...

ahahaha, that's a really good movie!!

Manuel Marrero said...

Always laugh when I hear the BIG BREASTED GIRLS GO TO THE BEACH song in the end credits.

Franco Macabro said...

@Maxima: Yeah, I laughed non stop even through the credit sequence!

Franco Macabro said...

@ManuelMarrero: Agreed, the movie is filled with funny songs!

The complete title to that song you mentioned is "Big Breasted Girls go to the Beach and Take their Tops Off!"

I've been trying to find the lyrics to two of the songs that appear (the other one is called 'Puberty Love') over the internet, but it hasnt been that easy so far.

venoms5 said...

Nice write up, Fran! The first film has that same AIRPLANE! style humor as well. It's really not an obscure movie, though, the first one I mean. You can ask just about anybody on the street here and they've either seen or heard of the movie. Some people get the film, but a lot of people don't. There was also a Saturday morning cartoon show as well with Astin reprising his role in animated form.

The last two sequels are pretty ridiculous and the humor is far more strained than in the first two. The tomatoes look the way they do in the cartoon. They have mouths and eyes. I did a review for the first movie a few weeks ago, but haven't posted it yet. I have the soundtrack as well with that song you're asking about. It came in the box set.

Franco Macabro said...

There's a Killer Tomatoes boxed set!?? I'd love to get my hands on that one.

I think the film is obscure because most people have not seen it.

But as you say, most people have probably heard about it, and might even hum that "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!" theme song from the cartoon, which I used to watch by the way!

I'm looking forward to seeing the other two sequels, they come from the same director, so hopefully It'll have that same crazy vibe I got from the second one.

Also: I hear there is a remake in the works? That should be interesting to see! It will probably be called ATTACK OF THE CGI KILLER TOMATOES!

G Morrow said...

Hi there.

A little late to the game, but here're the lyrics, transcribed to the best of my ability:

Big Breasted Girls Go to the Beach
(And take their tops off)
By Rick Patterson & Neal Fox

It's a bitchin' life, when you're outta school
You don't have to dress up, and it's okay for you to drool
Gonna jump in my woody, gonna play my guitar
And take my socks off

Like poetry in motion, like a perfect wave
Gonna ride with the wind, spend the money I saved
'Cause the summer's here, and I got nothing to do
But get my rocks off

When those big breasted girls, go to the beach...
And take their tops off

When those big breasted girls, go to the beach...
And take their tops off

Those California girls, I just love the best
They got an even tan, all over their chest
I'll be California dreamin' 'til the sun goes down
I get around
'Round, get around, I get around

Those southern girls, how they hypnotize
They got a cutest way of talking, and I like their eyes
But those New York girls, you gotta see them drivin' with their tops down

And those big breasted girls, go to the beach...
And take their tops off
Those big breasted girls, go to the beach...

And I love to see her swayinnnn'
Ooh, ahh, ooh
She got a rhythm all her own
Ooh, ahh, ooh
Someday soon, if I keep prayin'
Prayin', ooh
She might see how big I've grown
And won't it be fiiiiine

Now the summer's gone, but she's on my mind
After one last kiss, I had to leave her behind
So it's back to school, if only I could get me through it

When those big breasted girls, go to the beach...
And take their tops off

When those big breasted girls, go to the beach...
And take their tops off

Ooh, ahh, ooh, ahhhhh
Big breasted women
Ooh, ahh, ooh, ahhhhh
Big breasted womennnn
(fades out)

Franco Macabro said...

Wow! Thanks! Thats what I call a dedicated reader! My hats down to you my friend!


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