Title: The Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1991)
Director: John De Bello
Cast: John Astin, J. Stephen Peace, Rick Rockwell, Crystal Carson
I recently reviewed Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) and gave it a favorable review because it was an extremely silly film, extremely slap stick, extremely low budget, but also extremely entertaining. It’s not a masterpiece or anything, but hey, it made me laugh on more than one occasion and that’s saying a lot when it comes to comedies these days. So after watching the second film, I wondered if there were anymore Killer Tomatoe movies. To my surprise, as it turns out there are two more sequels! The Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (which I will be reviewing today) and The Killer Tomatoes Eat France (1992). All the killer tomato movies were directed by the same guy responsible for all the other Killer Tomatoe movies, so I thought I’d give ‘em a chance, see what they were all about.
Prof. Gangrene is back with another diabolical plan!
On this second film, people have stopped fearing killer tomatoes. In fact, most people don’t even believe that such a thing as a killer tomato can exist! While in the first film the mere mention of the word ‘tomatoes’ could drive a crowd into a chaotic frenzy (my choice for funniest moment in the second film) on this one people have chosen not to believe that tomatoes are deadly anymore. Meanwhile, Prof. Gangrene (the mad scientist behind the creation of the killer tomatoes) has turned into a talk show host and is planning on once again setting the tomatoes loose, so he can take over the world! Enter detective Lance Boyle to investigate a series of ‘tomato murders’ that have been occurring through out the city. He enlists on the help of local tomatologist (that’s right a person who studies tomatoes!) Kennedi Johnson to try and uncover the mystery behind all these tomatoe murders. Are the tomatoes looking for a way to strike back after their defeat on the last film?
Nothing worse than a vengeful tomato army!
What happened with this sequel, was the same thing that happened to Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case films. The first one was really gritty, dark and dirty. You get the impression he wiped the floor of 42nd street with that film. But when that first film reached cult success, the sequels were done with a bit more money, the result was Basket Case 2 (1990) a film that looks ultra shinny and colorful, the complete opposite of the grimy filth of the original. I feel like this is the same thing that happened with this third Killer Tomatoes film. They obviously got a slightly bigger budget then the first two films, even the killer tomatoes are cooler looking now. But along the way, the film lost a bit of its edge. While the second film was an avalanche of jokes and gags, some of them of the sexual nature, the edgy/sexy comedy from the first film was toned down for this third outing, so that the film could be seen by the kiddies that were watching the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes animated series that was running back then. So it’s a slightly more kiddy friendly version of the Killer Tomatoes.
The Killer Tomatoes have spawned cartoon shows, video games and even a comic book series!
I was a bit disappointed with this movie because it didn’t really pick up where the last one left off. On the last one, the last scene involved two giant carrots with bandanas and machine guns, giving us the impression that there was going to be some sort of war between tomatoes and carrots. Unfortunately on this one, we never see any carrots with machine guns. What ever happened to those? Who the hell knows, maybe they’ll make an appearance on the fourth film in the series, which I will be watching and reviewing sometime soon. Instead of killer carrots, this sequel centers once again on Prof. Gangrenes third attempt at world domination; through the use of bad television no less! That’s right, in order to hide his true identity from the rest of the world, Prof. Gangrene is masquerading himself as a talk show host called Jeronahew. This time, Gangrene is hell bent on hypnotizing the whole world. You see, on this movie, Prof. Gangrene’s hatred for human kind is more powerful than ever; so his plan is to fix humanity so that they will be have to his liking. Once again, the best thing about the film is John Astin playing the role of Prof. Gangrene. It’s interesting that the film managed to get a lot of the franchise’s regular actors to come back for this film. We get to see Capt. Wilbur Finletter again, he was the hero in the first two films, and on this one he works as the chief of police. We see Even Fuzzy Tomato (aka ‘F.T.’) returns for this movie!
The Killer Tomatoes have actual faces on this movie!
The biggest difference with this movie is how they decided to portray the killer tomatoes. In the first film, we saw giant faceless tomatoes rolling through the streets killing every human they came upon. On the second one, the tomatoes were transformed by Prof. Gangrene into tough dudes who looked like Rambo. And on this third one, well, we actually get these little tomatoes with faces on them. I think that finally, after three films they did what they had always wanted to do with these killer tomato movies. I mean, the killer tomatoes are like little Gremlins. They talk through a series of peeps, squeaks and high pitched sounds that reminded me of Gizmo from Gremlins (1984). Though I had fun with the second films choice of transforming the tomatoes into an army of tough oiled up dudes, I gotta admit that I enjoyed actually seeing little tomatoes with angry faces on them. It’s what you expect to see when you hear a title like ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’. I liked how there are many variations on the tomatoes. On this film we get gangster/godfather tomato, we get pool playing tomatoes, we get bar fly tomatoes, and we even get a ninja tomato in this movie!
Prof. Gangrene tortures someone by making him watch bad television!
These movies all have that Zucker brothers type of slapstick humor to them. The kind of humor and gags we see in films like Airplane (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988), where we get a laugh a minute, gag a second type of deal. These kinds of films do not respect any kind of cinematic rules. For example, characters are constantly breaking the fourth wall and talk to us. In one scene, Prof. Gangrene is sending a couple of killer tomatoes to attack the good guys and suddenly he stops and starts talking about how much he loves being a villain. Unfortunately, a lot of the jokes fall flat. Believe it or not, the movie actually turns a bit boring, going from one lame situation to the next. I remember thinking that the film is composed of the most unimportant series of events ever. That’s low budget for ya! There wasn’t a lot of money to throw around, so the situations in the film are never to complex, the director keeps it simple and silly. But what kept me watching was John Astin and his zany mad scientist, F.T. the fuzzy little mutant tomato from the second film and the little killer tomatoes, which I thought were quite funny looking.
Dr. Gangrene loves being the villain!
But even though the comedy is not as funny on this one, there are a few moments that stand out as amusing and entertaining. For example, when the film opens, they decided to do a Friday the 13th parody, with a hockey player following a girl around the forest, trying to kill her when suddenly, a bunch of killer tomatoes appear with little hockey masks and little chainsaws and kill the masked murderer in the woods as if saying “killer tomatoes are more bad ass then Jason Voorhees”. There is a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) in which a killer tomato attacks a girl in the shower. There is one awesome scene in which the good guys walk into a bar and it’s this clandestine underground watering hole for killer tomatoes. So there’s killer tomatoes playing pool, there’s a killer tomato drinking at the bar, and there is even this hilarious homage to The Godfather in which the good guys have to negotiate with the Don Corleone of killer tomatoes for some information. Hee-la-rious! Also, the film ends with this whole sequence which runs through the credits, in which cast and crew are in a locker room, as if they were a basketball team, but instead they are a filmmaking team. And they all talk as if they were sports guys who just came out of a game, all excited and exhausted and being interviewed by a sports reporter. It’s funny how these whole sequence plays out, they just came out of making the film and they are all like “it wasn’t easy, but we made it!” Even John De Bello, the films director shows up.
In conclusion, this film is pretty bad. Same as all the Tomato movies. I don’t think you will find one reviewer who will say that these films are good. But what they are is silly lighthearted fun. The ideas behind these films are so crazy that you keep watching. I mean come on, lets face it, ninja tomatoes?? A guy even uses a tomato as a weapon to rob a bank! The characters in this film all act like 12 year olds in adult bodies. Watching any of these tomato movies is the cinematic equivalent of reading an issue of MAD magazine. Some jokes are awful, some will make you giggle, and some are hilarious! Just don’t expect a masterpiece and you should be fine.
Rating: 2 out of 5