Rhino // 1978 // 188 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 20th, 2003
You'll never look at a pizza the same way again.
1978. A banner year. Many important things happened that year. Some of them were political. Still others crushed our nation's spirits. If you look in a big important book of world facts, I'm sure you'll read about many of these historically significant events. As for me, there was only one milestone in '78: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public, and now it's back to eat your DVD player care of Rhino Home Entertainment.
You can run but you can't hide when the rivers run red with ketchup in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. When the red menace begins its killing spree, a crack team of specialists is sent in, led by the daring Mason Dixon (David Miller, That Was Then...This is Now), to eradicate the tomatoes from hell. But it won't be an easy task -- how do you kill something that's already red?!? With the help of parachute toting Wilbur Finnletter (Rock Peace) and a batch of other equally insane individuals, the tomatoes don't stand a chance as the US of A makes pasta dishes safe once more.
You won't find a more entertaining B-movie than Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Okay, so maybe that's not true -- but I dare you to find a more entertaining movie about killer vegetables on the loose! Oh wait, there was Howard Hawks' sci-fi hit The Thing From Another World. Hmmm, this doesn't seem to be going so well. All right, try this: I dare you to find a movie about mutant veggies that includes the song "Puberty Love" and a Jaws parody that features a tomato the size of a golf ball threatening civilization as we know it!
Yes, the cult classic that's got my vote for Best Movie Title is back on DVD in a big way. How can you not love a movie that's as cheap as the produce it exploits? There have been many who've claimed that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is just an exercise in stupidity; this may be true, but it's one of the best stupid workouts you'll get all year. Thrill to giant tomatoes being rolled down the street on carts! Scream in terror as men are eaten alive (or pasted, or pureed) by the giant red demons of the dirt! Dear Lord, this is my kind of movie.
Before I ever saw Attack of the Killer Tomatoes I bore witness to its sequel The Return of the Killer Tomatoes, a laugh riot that featured a fuzzy tomato, fantastic product placement, and George Clooney in one of his first film roles. I fell in love with that movie as a child, and in 2003, I've fallen in love all over again with the original classic. What could drive a movie critic to adore a cheapie like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes so fervently yet despise the Harry Potter series? This may be one of the biggest mysteries of our time.
At this point in the review, you may be asking yourself, "What the hell does Judge Naugle see in a movie as ineptly rendered as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?" To quote Chevy Chase, I'm glad I asked that. Here's a list of the reasons why I think everyone should own at least two copies (you know, one for backup) of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes:
1.) The song "Puberty Love!" Hands down the funniest, most annoying song in all of movie history! It should have won an Academy Award for Best Song!
B.) Long before The Naked Gun, there was this joke-packed laugh riot. The filmmakers may not be the Zucker brothers, but at least they know how to get a few laughs out of mondo tomatoes on the loose.
C.) Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes! After a while, these little buggers do get slightly creepy. Just imagine: you've got a date over for dinner. You're making a tossed salad. You throw in a few cucumbers, some bacon bits, a couple tomat-AAAHHHHHHHHHH!
9.) Stop motion animation! Watch as tomatoes run rampant all over grocery store patrons! Ray Harryhausen, eat your tomato...err, I mean heart out.
Yes, the actors are all amateurish and the effects chintzy. But are you really expecting anything else out of a movie with this type of title? In a world of disease, famine, and too many Adam Sandler movies, it's about time we all got back to our comedy roots: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is brainless fun, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer to this film is only so-so, but that's to be expected -- this is after all a low budget '70s comedy that's achieved a sort of weird cult status. There are some bleeding colors and grain, though black levels appeared appropriately dark and solid. And yet the shoddiness of the transfer only added to the heightened sense of dread; like Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has a very rough, documentary feel to it that -- dare I even say it?!? -- feels almost too real. Oh the horror...
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. Like any low budget movies from the decade of Eric Carmen that deals with mutated produce, the best that can be said about this track is that it's clear of any major distortion and hiss. It's obviously a front heavy track without any directional effects -- it's mono, after all -- but who cares? I can hear that dialogue, squishy tomato effects, and music clearly, and that's really all that matters. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks have been included on this disc.
Now isn't this a hoot! Out of all the movies ever made, I never would have suspected that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes would include some of the funniest and wackiest supplemental materials ever produced. And yet here they are in all their tomato glory! Starting off this disc is an entertaining commentary track by writer/director/producer John DeBello, creator Costa Dillon, and star Steve "Rock" Peace. This track includes everything you ever wanted to know about killer tomatoes, and maybe even more! None of these guys takes the film seriously, which makes this commentary all the more hysterical.
Next up are various featurettes on the film's production, including the dreaded helicopter crash ("Crash and Burn") that nearly killed one of its stars, Jack Riley (of Bob Newhart fame). "Famous Foul" deals with the Dan Diego Chicken and his part in the film, which is minimal at best. "Legacy of a Legend" is a great look at how the film came into being with interviews by DeBello, Dillon, Peace, Riley, actor John Astin (star of the next three Tomato flicks), comedian Bruce Vilanch, and more. Footage from The Tonight Show (Carson makes mention of the film) and interviews with a respected film critic (Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times) punctuates this very funny look at the film. DeBello and his crew all know that they've made a silly movie and reminisce about how it's considered one of the worst movies of all time. This is easily one of the best featurettes I've ever seen and worth the time of any tomato fan.
But wait, that's not all! There are even more featurettes ("Tomatomania," "Where Are They Now?," et cetera) that are just as goofy as the movie. Some of them tell the story of where various characters are now, others discuss how the government didn't want this movie made (and understandably so). The best is an entire featurette devoted to the slate person Beth Reno (yes, the girl who claps the black and white tool before rolling the camera). Two Super 8 prequels should give viewers a good idea of where this whole "Killer Tomato" thing started (with optional commentary, of course).
Finally there are theatrical trailers, some humorous deleted scenes, a few radio spots, production designs stills (they have to be seen to be believed), a replica of the poster, and a few other surprises awaiting you (I got two words for you: Lloyd Kaufman) on this very well packaged disc.
It's not as bad as you've heard, really! In fact, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a pretty entertaining homage to those old Chinese monster movies. If you know the name yet have never seen the movie, now is your chance: Rhino has put together the definitive edition of this veggie classic.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are here and there's nothing you can do about! Viva tomatoes!
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 188 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Commentary Track by Writer/Director/Producer John DeBello, Creator Costa Dillon, and Actor Steve "Rock" Peace
* Various Featurettes
* Theatrical Trailers
* Radio Spots
* Deleted Scenes
* Super 8 Prequel Movies
* Poster Replica
* Production Design Stills
* Easter Eggs