To paraphrase Goodfellas: “As far back as I can remember I’ve always watched cult movies”. Nothing particularly gangster-like has ever come of it, I’ve never locked someone in the boot of a car or shot anyone in the foot because they didn’t like Samurai Cop, but they’ve always been a steady part of my movie going life.
Looking back, one of my earliest forays into this weird and wonderful world had to be Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I think it was a rental (on VHS of course) from the local video store in my town (the Ritz, if any UK readers remember this BlockBuster pre-cursor!) and I honestly don’t remember much of it other than there were tomatoes and they were indeed killer!
My child mind didn’t process any of the intricacies of the movie, so had no idea that tongue was firmly in cheek throughout, the makers knew exactly what sort of film they were making.
I revisited the film on DVD once too, but it went out of print and the price of buying it has remained high ever since, but around the same time as I watched the original again I thought I’d give the sequel a bash and it quickly became one of my favourites, and dare I say it started to lay the groundwork for the type of film I’d really start to dig as time went on.
So there was much rejoicing when Arrow Video announced they would be releasing that excellent sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes on Blu-ray. If there were ever a company truly on the same wavelength of a cult film fan of any sort, it’s Arrow!
It’s been a decade after the event of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and the events of the Great Tomato War are still fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s a hard time to be living in 80’s America. There’s been an outright ban on the tomato (although shady bootleg deals are still going down…there’s probably even some tomato speakeasies around!) and the hero of the War, Wilbur Finletter (Steve Peace) now runs a pizza restaurant. The pizzas have every topping you can think of bar tomato sauce, if you wondered!
Wilbur’s nephew Chad (Anthony Starke) works for his uncle as a delivery boy, and his best friend Matt (George Clooney) also works there. Chad is infatuated with a mysterious woman who lives with the villainous Professor Gangrene.
Gangrene is trying to instigate another tomato war and has devised a machine that turns tomatoes dipped into toxic waste into humans! And the type of human the tomato is turned into is dependent on the type of music being played at the time! Is anyone still with me?
Of course, the mystery lady Tara (Karen Mistal) is a tomato, but Chad doesn’t know! Will he find out? Will tomato based hostilities resume?
The first thing you have to say about this film is that it’s a brilliant spoof. Well actually that’s the second thing. The actual first thing is…yes I really did type George Clooney. He’s here, pre-mega stardom and sporting a fantastic mullet. Even in the late 80’s he already possesses the wit and charm that would eventually make him one of the biggest stars in the world. He should have kept the mullet though.
The brilliant spoof though. This film starts with an introduction from a “Movie of the Week” style announcer, the wrong film being put on, complaints about footage from the original being used and an absolutely superb joke about product placement which is honestly worth the price of admission alone.
The rest of the film is intensely silly fun. Sure the jokes are as dated as the haircuts (Rob Lowe and Miami Vice references!) but it just doesn’t matter when you have Rambo like tomato men parading about and John Astin (best known as Gomez Addams from the Addams Family) hamming it up with his wannabe TV anchorman henchman Igor (Steve Lundquist)
In places, it’s very reminiscent of the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker movies. The romantic montage with an interfering mime and visit to an “Adult Store” could have come straight from the files of Police Squad!
Arrow have done the usual bang up job with this, ensuring it is the essential release of the film. Extras include an audio commentary with writer/director John De Bello (the man behind all the Killer Tomato films), an interview with Anthony Starke where he looks back at working with George Clooney, John Astin and more and the usual beautiful reversible covers and booklets you have come to expect from Arrow.
For cult movie fans, Return of the Killer Tomatoes is essential. It might have aged in some areas but the wit and silliness are a joy and will live on forever.
Review by Thom (80’s Picturehouse Co-host) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Video.