Anchor Bay // 1988 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 3rd, 2002
The vegetables of doom return!
In 1978 something evil happened...something so dastardly and vile that to speak its name means calling upon the forces of all that is unholy...it was the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Yes, it's already been well over 20 years since the release of the movie with the greatest title in cinema history. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was cheap, goofy entertainment that has since gone on to become something of a semi-phenomenon. Spawning three sequels, an animated TV show, and a video game, the little movie that couldn't certainly has grown some legs. In 1988, director John DeBello returned with his grocery items from hell and gave us the deliriously strange Return of the Killer Tomatoes. The man also gets bonus points for featuring George Clooney (Ocean's 11) in one of his first starring film roles. Anchor Bay, the only company in my mind qualified to release this film, grows a garden full of death with their DVD release of Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
It's been years since the great tomato war...a time when produce turned bad and humans were their prey! Since then a lot has changed, the most notable being the ban on tomatoes in any form! Now pizza makers are forced to use alternative ingredients when making their delicious pies -- and that's just what Matt (Clooney) and Chad (Anthony Starke, Repossessed) are doing at Finletter's Pizza! But things are about to get down right rotten when the evil Professor Gangreen (John Astin, The Addams' Family, The Frighteners) and his news reporter wannabe sidekick Igor (Steve Lundquist) decide that the time of the tomatoes has come again! Working in their secret laboratory, the devious duo create a machine that turns tomatoes into living, breathing people! One of the creations, Tara (Karen Mistal), falls for Chad, and thus begins an adventure of epic proportions that will pit man against man and tomato against tomato as the fate of humanity hangs in the balance!!!!
I'm going to come right out and say it: I absolutely love this movie. Love it, love it, love it. Every time I watch it, I laugh like a drunken hyena. Yes, I realize it's silly, low brow entertainment. I also realize that the acting is amateurish, the effects nonexistent, and the story ludicrous. But come on people...this movie is really, really funny. Where else can you see giant, fuzzy mutant tomato talk like cousin It while bouncing around the room like a can of flubber?
For those of you who don't know anything about this film, let me preface this review by saying that this is not a horror movie (as evidenced by the cover of the DVD case). Return of the Killer Tomatoes is actually a Naked Gun-like slapstick farce that throws almost every joke imaginable at the screen. And you know what? A lot of them actually work! The reason for this is that the filmmakers never, ever take the material seriously. They know exactly what kind of movie they're making, and who they're making it for. Everyone in the movie seems to be having a grand old time just acting like fools. For those who think George Clooney's best work is when he's acting serious, you've never seen him in an out-and-out comedy. Sporting fluffily long hair and droopy eyes, Clooney is pitch perfect in his role as the womanizing best friend. Anthony Starke, the poor man's Michael J. Fox, is so sweaty and nervous that he looks like he's suffering from a bout of TB. And then there's the great character actor John Astin as the devious Professor Gangreen. Cackling like Colin Clive in Frankenstein, yet simultaneously winking at the audience, his role is easily the funniest and most enjoyable in the film.
So just how goofy is this movie? Return of the Killer Tomatoes is the only film that includes a fight in a pizza parlor with ninjas, cowboys, children, and restaurant patrons. Return of the Killer Tomatoes is the only movie that has the gall to stop the film and pretend as if the budget has been depleted. Return of the Killer Tomatoes is the only movie ever made that features blatantly obvious product placement by everyone from Pepsi to Goobers to Corn Flakes to insurance companies. Needless to say, this is a fantastic flick.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes is not going to be to everyone's taste (pun intended). Some of you will find it utterly stupid. Others will just think it's a string of cheap laughs with some pretty shoddy effects. But for those of you who are connoisseurs of B-movies, Return of the Killer Tomatoes is a special treat that's tastier than a fresh ripe...well, you-know-what.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame version. I'm not sure what the exact aspect ratio was for Return of the Killer Tomatoes, though Anchor Bay is usually very good at putting out the right version. So, I'll go with a guess that Return of the Killer Tomatoes was filmed to fit a regular TV screen. As for the transfer, it's passable if not wholly exciting. The colors and black levels all appear solid and well saturated, though there is an excessive amount of grain during many sequences. However, I don't think this is Anchor Bay's fault -- the minute budget of the film probably didn't help matters.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono and is works well in the confines of the film. While there aren't any directional effects located on this mix, the fact is that this movie didn't require a new 5.1 remix. The dialogue, effects, and music are all free and clear of any distortion or hiss. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this disc.
Now comes the disappointing news: the only extra feature located on this disc is a very funny theatrical trailer for the film. Was director John DeBello too busy filming Assault of the Living Cumquats to record a commentary track?
You should be able to find Return of the Killer Tomatoes for around $10-15 bucks. Much like the near-perfect Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Return of the Killer Tomatoes gets a high rating just because it exists. It may not be great art, but it is great comedy.
This is the only review where I can use the phrase "pasta sauce of the damned" and have it actually mean something! Return of the Killer Tomatoes is free to go! Viva Tomatoes!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer