Return of the Killer Tomatoes
directed by John De Bello
starring John Astin, George Clooney, Karen Mistal
Four square Productions; Arrow
Back in 1978 you may have seen a cheesy comedy called Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. Part parody, part homage to the black and white alien invasion movies of the 1950s, it featured a pack of acidic fruits turning San Diego into a giant salad bowl of doom! For late 70’s comedy it wasn’t bad but was no Animal House. Flash forward to 1988 – director John Debello raises enough cash to do it once more. He eventually produced four of these silly films; this example is a surprisingly solid script shot with competent actors. Long time comic actor John Astin (Batman‘s original Joker) plays Dr. Gangrene, a man out to build a private army from the now outlawed tomato. Why are they illegal? You missed that in the first movie but essentially the fruits menace society. The ban put the pizza in tailspin; now the ingredient list include peanut butter, gummi bears and eel. Matt Stevens (Clooney) makes these awful pastries; he meets hot and unexpectedly polite Tara Boumdeay (Mistal). They get sucked into Dr. Gangrene’s plot, and that’s about all the plot you’ll need to know.
But you might care about the gags; they’re plentiful, arrive fast and furious and most of them are middle school dumb. Self-reference abounds; a SAG guy shows up and tricks everyone into speaking on camera and getting a $500 raise. Then DeBello appears on screen to ask “Do we have enough money to finish this turkey yet?” They do; and now tomatoes turn into Rambo, the team invades the Oliver North Prison, and we hear the new-hit “Puberty Love”. The jokes might be groaners but they are good groaners. Astin is brilliant as the mad doctor, Chad is good looking if dense, and lots of bikini-clad extras drop by for no real reason. You’ll recapture those hazy days the late 1970s in this picture, and just remember: “The only good tomato is a squashed tomato.”