• Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes



    Released by: MVD Rewind
    Released on: January 23rd, 2018.
    Director: John De Bello
    Cast: David Miller, George Wilson, Sharon Taylor, J. Stephen Peace, Ernie Meyers, Eric Christmas
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    It’s odd how memories work. Now in my early forties I have trouble remembering what I ate for dinner last night, yet some part of my brain retains very vivid memories of renting Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes with my grandfather when I was nine years old. Typically, we’d go to the video store with my sister, two years younger, in tow and each of us would get to pick a movie. My grandfather and I liked horror films, my sister did not so that generally meant that they were off limits because we’d watch everything as a group. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, however, managed to do a few things – it appealed to my grandfather and I’s collective appreciation for quirky and strange films and seemed like it would be harmless enough so as not to upset my sister. So, we rented it and we had a blast with it. The theme song and the song Puberty Love, used throughout the movie, were permanently etched in my brain to the point where, even without having seen the movie since, I could still sing along to them by heart. Why I can remember nonsense like this and consistently forget important work details related to my day job is anyone’s guess, but all of this is to say this this review simply has to be tinted with my own rosy sense of nostalgia for the title in question.

    When the film begins, a tomato flies out of a garbage disposal and corners a terrified woman. Cue the opening credits, after which we catch up with the cops who investigate her murder, puzzled by the fact that she’s covered not in blood, but tomato sauce. From here, a series of tomato-related deaths occur around the country, including one where some kids on a boat are attacked by tomatoes in the water (one of these kids is Bobby Briggs himself – a very young and uncredited Dana Ashbrook).

    While it’s clear that something horrible is afoot, Press Secretary Jim Richardson (George Wilson) does what he can to keep things calm. Meanwhile, the President (Ernie Myers) puts together a crack team led by Mason Dixon (David Miller) to get to the root of the problem. Dixon brings together a black disguise expert named Sam Smith (Gary Smith), a diver/underwater expert named Greg Colburn (Steve Cates), an Olympic swimmer named Gretta Attenbaum (Benita Barton) and a paratrooper named Wilbur Finletter (J. Stephen Peace). Smith disguises himself as a tomato to infiltrate their ranks but his cover is blown when, during dinner, he asks someone to pass the ketchup. Colburn and Attenbaum are sent off on their own to investigate while Dixon and Finletter, who won’t take off his parachute, kinda-sorta team up only to run into trouble with a reporter named Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor).

    Elsewhere, a Senate Subcommittee wastes loads of time, a group of generals and scientists bicker amongst themselves and Richardson is treated to an impromptu musical number from an advertising man named Ted Swan (Al Sklar) all while the body count continues to rise. The only thing that might be able to stop these killer tomatoes? A terrible pop song called Puberty Love (which oddly enough is sung in the movie by future Pearl Jam/Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron!)…

    Made fast and cheap, the movie nevertheless shows reasonably production values. The killer tomatoes themselves are clearly made of foam but the cinematography is generally pretty solid and we get some effective camera angles throughout the picture that manage to both heighten tension and enhance the picture’s comedic elements (usually at the same time).

    Watching the movie again for the first time in almost three and a half decades, it makes complete sense that the film would appeal to a nine-year-old kid with a still burgeoning love for monster pictures and B-movies. As goofy as it all is – and it’s VERY goofy – the movie remains a lot of fun, making gentle pokes at old fifties horror and sci-fi movie clichés pretty much constantly. Obviously never meant to be taken the least bit seriously, the gags are corny, the characters dumb, the acting atrocious and the effects completely dire, but the movie never wants for charm. It’s quick in the pacing department, it offers up some ridiculously memorable set pieces and most importantly, it’s funny.

    Surprisingly enough, the film would do well enough to go on and spawn three sequels (the first of which was Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, starring a young George Clooney!).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Attack of The Killer Tomatoes arrives on Blu-ray for the first time on a 25GB disc in an AVC encoded transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Press materials for this release note that it was remastered in 4k. The picture quality here is surprisingly strong. There’s some minor print damage – white specks and the occasional small scratch – but generally speaking the image is very clean. It also shows nice fine detail and strong texture. Color reproduction looks nice and accurate, skin tones seem just fine and contrast looks good.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language LPCM 2.0 Mono track. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. The track is limited by the source so it’s a little flat in spots and occasionally a bit muffled but for the most part it’s fine. Dialogue is typically easy enough to follow, the levels are well balanced and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion to note.

    Extras – which appear to be ported over from the special edition DVD release that come out in 2003 via Rhino (they’re all presented in standard definition) - start off with an audio commentary from writer/director John DeBello, writer/co-star Steve Peace, and 'creator' Costa Dillon that is generally pretty interesting. They point out when and where various relatives show up in supporting roles, they talk about how the helicopter crash scene that took place in the film was actually a real helicopter crash that happened while the cameras were rolling (thankfully the pilot was fine), the locations that were used for the various scenes in the film, the effects work, the music in the film and plenty more.

    From there, dig into the first of quite a few featurettes with the fourteen-minute Legacy Of A Legend, which is a collection of interviews with the likes of John DeBello, Costa Dillon, film critic and fan Kevin Thomas, actors John Astin, Steve Peace, Jack Riley, and D.J. Sullivan and quite a few others. It’s a fun look back at the making of the movie and its surprisingly enduring popularity. The four-minute Crash And Burn is a quick look at the aforementioned helicopter crash that is featured in the film while Famous Foul spends two minutes discussing how and why the San Diego Chicken has an appearance during the film’s infamous tomato stomping scene that takes place in the stadium towards the end of the picture. Killer Tomatomania is an interesting collection of interviews that runs just under five-minutes and features completely random people pulled off the street to talk about the film, while Where Are They Now? Is a three-minute segment that explores what various cast and crew members have gone on to do since Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes was made. We Told You So! is an amusing three-minute piece that examines the conspiracy theories that exist surrounding real life tomato attacks while Slated For Success is a quick two-minute piece in which we spend some quality time with the slate girl.

    Also included on the disc is the original eighteen-minute 8mm version of Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes that comes with optional commentary from the filmmakers and another 8mm short in the form of the thirty-two minute Gone With The Babusuland that also inspired the film and that comes with its own separate optional commentary track. These are a bit rough around the edges in terms of the presentation quality but still quite fun to see. The 8mm Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes follows the same idea as the feature length version, while Gone With The Babusuland isn’t related at all in terms of story or execution but does feature quite a few of the same cast members as Tomatoes.

    Additionally the disc includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, three deleted scenes (approximately six-minutes of material), a production design photo gallery, a sing-along section where you can watch the musical numbers from the movie with a ‘bouncing ball’ style subtitle track that shows off the lyrics to each song, a handful of radio spots, menus and chapter selection. There’s also a bonus trailer for D.O.A.: A Right Of Passage included here too.

    As far as the packaging goes, we get a ‘collectible poster’ tucked away inside the case which in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie is also included.

    While I don’t own the aforementioned DVD release, it looks like there were some extras on that disc (Tomato Mode, Popcorn Icon with Steve Pearce and a few others) that didn’t get ported over to this release for whatever reason. Completists and hardcore fans may want to hold onto that disc (which also presented the film fullframe – possibly open matte?) for that reason.

    The Final Word:

    Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes still makes the nine-year-old in me very happy. It’d probably also make my grandfather really happy. It’s dumb, to be sure, but it still manages to hold up well as a low budget cornball comedy with some memorable set pieces and colorful characters. MVD’s Blu-ray looks and sounds very good and carries over a load of extras from the previous special edition DVD release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!