Greetings from the Edge!
This week we have the homegrown sequel to the infamous 70’s horror spoof Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, the ever so originally titled Return of the Killer Tomatoes ( although they make fun of their own title at the beginning of the film so who am I to judge… oh yeah, I’m the critic! ). Starring John Astin of Addams Family fame as Professor Gangreen, the malefic master of vegetable based vengeance, the lovely Karen M. Waldron as Tara Boumdeay, who’s a real tomato (No, seriously, she’s a tomato), Anthony Starke as Chad Finletter, master of experimental non-tomato based pizza ( Mmmm, creamy peanut butter, anchovy and gummy bears! ), and George Clooney as Matt Stevens, smarmy hustler. Yes, that Clooney, and despite my usual opinion, he’s actually pretty funny here. Who’d have thunk!
We open with Bob Downs hosting the One Dollar Movie and the Channel 73 Pot O’ Gold giveaway ( currently at $9.22… probably less if they send out for coffee ). Unfortunately, we get off to a bit of a false start when the projectionist attempts to substitute Big Breasted Girls Go to The Beach And Take Their Tops Off for Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and he’d have gotten away with it, too, if he hadn’t already shown it the week before… three times.
Finally we get started after a reel change with a look into the lab of the infamous Professor Gangreen, who is performing blasphemous fruit based experiments involving ear protection, toxic waste, a Jukebox, and… a TOMATO! Leading to what can only be described as a “Beefcake” not “Beefsteak” tomato.
After a brief recap of, let’s be honest, the best of the first movie ( hey, we still have footage of that helicopter crash and we’re going to use it! ), we meet our pizza delivering heroes and dive straight into the insanity. Will the Prof and his hyperthyroid tomato men succeed where mere giant, man-eating fruit failed, or will his obscene plans once again be foiled by the voice cracking tones of “Puberty Love,” the worst love song ever screeched by a tween!
Hmmm, I think the special effects in Return of the Killer Tomatoes can be best summed up by the opening shot of Professor Gangreen’s mansion that is literally a painting with a hole cut in a window with a light shining through it, smoke coming out of the painting’s chimney, and water being poured in front of the frame. Either it’s going to make you laugh out loud or be utterly horrified… or both; both is a definite possibility.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes doesn’t have much to work with in the special effects or set design areas, but it takes its own inherent cheesiness and makes it an asset. My personal favorite being a shot of “New York,” with a streetcar in the center of the shot and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. If you’re going to fake, it you might as well just put it all out front for everyone to see. This makes me wish that every time Vancouver gets subbed in for a U.S. city, a Mountie riding a moose and eating pooten had to be hidden somewhere in the shot, or a least an angry Quebecois separatist waving a “French First” placard would walk across the screen.
If anything, Return of the Killer Tomatoes is even more self aware than its predecessor. This includes call-ins during the film complaining about the overuse of clips from the first film and a break in the middle of the film when the production runs out of money and Clooney has to convince the director to start doing some truly obnoxious product placement.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes really does have the most in your face product placement since… well, to be honest, since the last time Adam Sandler made a movie. That man is shameless. Return of the Killer Tomatoes at least turns it into a running gag with a great payoff.
Also, while he’s not a star, I loved every scene with Steve Lundquist playing Igor, the non-deformed assistant to Professor Gangreen with a burning desire to break into local news. Some men reach for the stars, some are just happy with a condo in the mesosphere.
I have to say, I really enjoyed Return of the Killer Tomatoes and laughed way more than I ever expected. In fact, I’d say that if you haven’t seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, I’d skip it and start with Return instead. With the recap at the start, you’re really not missing much, and if you do like Return of the Killer Tomatoes, you can go back and give Attack a try.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes is smarter, wackier, and suffers far less from the overuse of topical humor than its predecessor. Now if you don’t like screwball movies and 80’s style comedy, Return might not be for you, but if you’re looking for a lazy Sunday movie or something fun to watch with your friends, I’d give Return of the Killer Tomatoes a try. Regardless, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
Okay, so different kinds of music change the tomatoes into different kinds of people, so I have to wonder what some sci-fi themes or maybe some prog rock would do? Could you go full on van art with this? We see both Carmen Miranda and the Pope are options, and Prof. Gangreen fills his tomato man army with ersatz Rambos. Hmmm, I’d at least have to try Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme and see what happens. It’s probably better that I’m reviewing movies instead of tampering in God’s domain, all things considered.
Oh, and I love how the credits for Return of the Killer Tomatoes are reversed compared to your standard Hollywood fare with the least recognized positions getting top billing and the stars stuck at the tail end of the credits for a change. Good on you, Return, especially a labor of love film like this where you know the little guys working on the flick are doing the jobs of five different people in a big budget production. They deserve some recognition for a change.
And I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include the title card for the projectionists first choice for the movie.
Join us next week for more monsters, mystery, maniacs, mayhem, and general malfeasance here on the Edge!