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