Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

Connoisseur’s ripe with excitement

Tomato lovers across North America were in despair this past summer when their beloved vegetable was taken away from them temporarily after a salmonella outbreak. “Tomatoes never hurt anyone” was a common refrain. Well, those people clearly did not see the film I will be taking a look at this week, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

The film wastes no time in getting to the point. Before the opening credits have even rolled, a woman has been brutally murdered by a vicious tomato. A police officer investigating the scene determines that the red substance on the deceased’s body is not blood – but tomato juice!

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes posterWe then head to the beach, where a group of buxom bikini-clad beauties meet their demise in a moment that is quite reminiscent of Jaws. Except that it is far more terrifying – we see tomatoes swimming, accompanied by ominous music.

The United States government is as always quick to take action to end this senseless killing. They assemble a special task force to put an end to the red menace. When assembling any sort of team, it is imperative to include a master of disguise. Even if you are on a baseball team, get yourself a master of disguise, as they could be the difference between last place and a pennant. Are you listening Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Riccardi?

Luckily the special task force assembled in this film does include a master of disguise, Sam Smith. We see Smith dressed up at various stages of the film as Abraham Lincoln and Adolph Hitler. If he were not truly a master of disguise, the fact that he is African-American would dramatically take away from the effectiveness of his costumes. However, not even Smith is able to outsmart the crafty tomatoes for very long. After infiltrating their gang by dressing up as a tomato, he meets his demise by asking one of the murderous produce to “pass the ketchup.”

The tomatoes are always one step ahead in this one, and some of the top government officials are portrayed as buffoons. I began watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes expecting to see a lighthearted film about bloodthirsty vegetables. I certainly didn’t expect it to develop into a brilliant satire on the inner workings of the government. But that’s exactly what happened. Kudos to the writers for making a film that not only makes you scream and laugh, but also makes you think.

Though made on a budget of only $90,000 (roughly the price of two seconds worth of footage from this past summer’s Speed Racer), Attack of the Killer Tomatoes went on to become a cult hit. Three sequels were released, including 1988’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes, starring George Clooney. Clooney himself would tell you it’s his finest work. Then he would sleep with your girlfriend and never call her again. An animated series based on the films aired on Fox in the early ‘90s, and there was even an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes game available for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is the finest homicidal vegetable film I have had the good fortune to view. Or perhaps I should say homicidal fruit movie. There seems to be a great deal of debate whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables. But I’m not the Produce Connoisseur (although I certainly could be for the right price), so I’ll leave you to decide which camp you fall into.

In the race for movie making excellence, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is in the lead, and all other films are simply trying to play ketchup catch up.

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