There was a time before Spaceballs, before Airplane, before Top Secret. In this time, there was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: A cult classic spoof movie to thoroughly entertain moviegoers. After all of these films, there was a Return of the Killer Tomatoes, the sequel to the classic Attack. 10 years after the original, does it still entertain moviegoers? We’ll take a look.
Giant menace movies were once a big part of the cinema scene. There was also a time when spoof movies weren’t just churned out every year or two with the least thought put into them as possible. I’m looking at you, Vampires Suck and Starving Games. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was born in the second era while spoofing the first. While being made a decade later, Return of the Killer Tomatoes attempts to recapture the magic of the first.
Starting the movie off with a three-minute sidetrack into an entirely different (fake) film, we know that the movie isn’t going to take itself too seriously. This is a good thing given the subject matter. Once we move on into the title feature in earnest, we see newspaper headlines that details the story of how our hero from the first film, Wilbur Finletter, led the country to victory over the red, squishy menace.
In the ten years since The Great Tomato War, Wilbur has opened up his own pizza shop. His shop specializes in creations without tomato sauce now that tomatoes are outlawed. In this pizza shop, Wilbur employs his nephew, Chad, and his nephew’s roommate, Matt. Matt, played by a very young George Clooney, is the cool and relaxed character, while Chad is the tense and excitable one. These two are our main heroes throughout the film, but we’ll get to see the classic heroes of the first return as part of the gang.
In the meantime, dastardly Dr. Gangreen has been furiously working to overcome the setbacks from his defeat in the war. He has now developed a process to turn tomatoes into replicas of people. He uses this to create soldiers, a beautiful assistant named Tara, and a malformed fuzzy tomato. He plans to use this technology to amass a hidden army of mutated tomatoes and take over the United States.
Everything starts to go awry when his assistant runs away in disgust with how he treats the poor fuzzy tomato (F.T. for short). When Tara enters the lives of Chad and Matt, things start to get weird for them. They start to notice some odd behavior, but try to ignore it. As things get clearer, the truth of who she is is revealed. Eventually, the truth puts them on a collision course with Dr. Gangreen. They must enlist the heroes of the first battle to save Tara, FT and the future on the United States.
Sure the plot is borderline nonsensical, but it is also a sequel to a cult-classic spoof of giant menace movies. The plot was always going to be ridiculous, so the movie willingly pokes fun at this itself. The lyrics to the theme song even brings it up: “The theme song still remains the same, the plot has hardly changed, a guaranteed bet for fortune and fame.” The intro card humorously crosses out the word “Attack” and replaces it with “Return”.
The way the movie takes itself so lightly without going overboard is the real charm of it all. There is a scene where the movie runs out of money and the fourth wall is broken, exposing how little they spent on some of the special effects. The way the scene is resolved is fantastic and leads into another scene that brings fun and levity without taking you out of the movie. I won’t spoil the resolution and the following bit for those who will be viewing it for the first time. There is another instance of the movie breaking the fourth wall late in the movie, where we see a number of things planted early in the film come back. It really is the little things that bring out the extra charm and re-watch-ability to the movie.
The other thing that really brings the flick home is the characters and performances. John Astin, AKA Gomez from the Addams Family is great as the over the top villain of the movie, and cements his future in the franchise with this performance. The other standout is George Clooney. Even this early in his career, you can see the start of great acting talent. His humor is played relaxed and at ease. He is the perfect compliment and balance to Anthony Stark as Chad Finletter. Between the performances and the tongue in cheek attitude the movie takes with itself, anyone who is a fan of cheese and b-movies should find themselves right at home with Return of the Killer Tomatoes.
Movie Itself: 3/5
The video is honestly a bit of a mixed bag. Return of the Killer Tomatoes was made on a low budget; because of that, the film crew were not dealing with the best elements. As a result, it features a fairly grainy picture that is often pretty soft. There are certainly moments where the picture does have good detail, but that is not the case for the entirety of the film. Colors look decent, but not as great as could be imagined. All in all, it isn’t a disappointing presentation, but it doesn’t wow either. It just gets the job done admirably given the source elements.
Picture Quality: 3/5
The LCPM 2.0 mono track will not knock you off your feet by any stretch. It is, however, sufficient to get the job done. The music is generally clear, dialog is pretty crisp, and the effects are fine. This isn’t a movie with a powerful, mood setting soundtrack to begin with, so I consider this a fine track for what it is.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Hanging with Chad: One on One interview with Anthony Starke about his time on Return of the Killer Tomatoes and his appreciation for the experience.
Audio Commentary: Director John De Bello and Michael Felsher discuss the making of the movie. Included are interesting tidbits like choosing which studio to use and what it was like working with George Clooney early in his career.
At least with Arrow you pretty much always get a few good supplements. I enjoyed the documentary even if it wasn’t the most lively I’ve ever listened to. The interview with Anthony Starke was pretty solid. The rest was just pretty standard. A little disappointing for Arrow, but still a decent package.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes comes to us in the standard Arrow packaging with the nice illustrated booklet featuring an essay by James Oliver. The booklet is always a nice touch.
In the end, this is a solid-but-not-great release for a fantastic 80s B-movie. If Arrow wanted to step it up a notch, it would have been great to toss in an episode of the animated series. An interview with George Clooney would have been great, but I don’t know that he’s itching to revisit this part of his resume. Anyone who fondly remembers the giant menace movies or enjoys a spoof in the tone of Airplane should consider picking this up. The extras give it a slight boost and the technical details are satisfactory. Return of the Killer Tomatoes is good silly fun.
Final Score: 3.5/5
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.