Following the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975, a series of rip-off cash grabs continued. And run to this day! Crap shark movie is a running B movie joke, in fact.
Just look at the amusing 47 Metres Down. Many tomatoes in that one, thusly rendering the pronunciation divide irrelevant. Let’s go killer!
Spoofing Things Up in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
To spoof the surge of Jaws blockbuster wannabes, such as 1976’s Grizzly and 1978’s The Swarm, in 1978 there was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
With a tiny budget, it did some interesting things. Hurray!
To point out, some of these spoofs in modern times have included the Scary Movie lot. Anne Faris turns up in all of them. To her credit, she does a fun job.
But this thing from 1978 is also an interesting effort. It genuinely has some funny moments and clever physical comedy. We were surprised to find an impressive level of inventive humour here. Although, yes, it’d work better as a series of skits on Saturday Night Live, or some such.
Remember, this was four years after Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
And Attack of the Killer Tomatoes doesn’t live up to that remotely. However, its cult status is certainly deserved.
The film begins with a woman being slaughtered by a mysterious monster. TV and radio then begin reporting, in The Birds (1963) style Alfred Hitchcock, about an onslaught of killer tomatoes.
And, yes, the film makes an intertextual reference to Hitchcock’s work.
The horrifying attacks lead to government officials having an important meeting, which leads to one of the more interesting moments of physical comedy.
An awkward scene in a tiny room full of too many people. Neat!
The tomatoes are unstoppable, which leads to many scenes of mass panicking.
And we have to say, despite the film’s tiny $100,000 budget, director John DeBello did an excellent job with everything he had available.
The film shoot was a bit unruly. Early on, there’s footage of a helicopter crash. That was unplanned and had been rented for the shoot.
Soon enough, the helicopter rolled over and blew up.
If you watch that scene, and amazingly, the actors all keep in together and don’t just run for their lives. That’s professionalism, right there.
Once it launched in 1978, the film wasn’t well received. Critics pointed out there were some funny moments, but the film is too inconsistent. Which we still agree with to this day, frankly.
It has its moments. But the script just isn’t strong enough.
Yet it is decent B-movie schlock, if that’s your type of thing. Kind of like the satirical 1980 romp Alligator. Just with tomatoes.
And then, grief, we were normally going to go off and cover more production notes (like with our other film reviews). But then we just kept coming across more and more Killer Tomatoes films. Well, let’s get on with it…
And Then There Was Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
In 1988, the sequel arrived with a sense of glee. John De Bello directed this one, too!
This one was set 10 years after the first and calls the antics of that film the Great Tomato War. With tomatoes outlawed, leading to the likes of tomato-free pizzas, trouble brews when a mad scientist unleashes a new wave of tomato terror on the world.
These days, the film is primarily notable as it has an early appearance from a young George Clooney. Before he was famous and all of that.
Clooney was still trying to find his big break. He’d also starred, ironically, in the abandoned Jaws rip-off Grizzly II (1983). Laura Dern was also in that one trying to get her big break.
Grizzly II was abandoned as a production and only released decades later.
Interesting to note his appearance there! As only six years later he was turning up in ER and other such stuff. Got to earn pay your dues, eh?
But Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, which had a surprising B-movie budget of some $1 million, was panned by critics. Although it made a healthy $5 million back at the box office.
Next Up We Have Killer Tomatoes Strike Back
This one, from 1991, was a direct-to-video release. Yes, John De Bello handled the direction for Killer Tomatoes Strike Back as well.
It differs from the others as the tomatoes are featured with faces for the first time.
The plot consists of copper Lance Boyle, who’s a bit inept at his job. That is until Killer Tomatoes begin striking his area and a Tomatologist turns up to solve murders.
And, yes, this movie was also panned by critics. But that didn’t stop it! Like a remorseless killing machine, there was another one a year later.
Plus, There Was Killer Tomatoes Eat France!
In 1992, there was then Killer Tomatoes Eat France! It was also directed by John De Bello.
As you might expect, it plays on (in quite painful fashion) French stereotypes.
Although, simultaneously, it seems to have a pro-monarchy stance and lambasts The French Revolution of 1789.
The film was a direct-to-video release. The plot with this one involves a Dr. Mortimer Gangreen escaping from a prison in Paris with goals of world domination. He uses Killer Tomatoes to commence a new French Revolution and all that jazz.
Once more, the film was panned by critics. Hurray!
There Was Also Attack of the Killer Tomatoes the TV Show
The film was popular enough to lead to an animated TV series, which began after the films Return of the Killer Tomatoes sequel.
The show began in September 1990 and ran until November 1991. There were two series and a total of 21 episodes.
The two series follow five years on from the original 1978 plot, with mad scientist Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen using Killer Tomatoes to wage battle on the world.
It seems to have been better received than the films, at any rate, but that didn’t stop it from getting cancelled after its second season.
The Future For Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Killer Tomatoes Eat France! was the very last tomato-based moment for the series. 30 years ago. 1992, that was.
In 2008, a remake was planned (but then cancelled). And a reboot was announced in 2018, confirmed again in 2019, but there’s not much other information
There’s the official Killer Tomatoes website, which calls for open auditions… whether that’s still a thing or not is totally unclear.
Filming apparently began in July 2019 for this thing with director Dustin Ferguson. However, there’s no other information about that available anywhere.
We presume the production was halted and COVID-19 may have played a part. That’s a guess, of course, because the most likely outcome is all involved were killed by Killer Tomatoes.