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  Return of the Killer Tomatoes Red In The Face
Year: 1988
Director: John De Bello
Stars: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin, Charlie Jones, J. Stephen Peace, Michael Villani, Frank Davis, Harvey Weber, John De Bello, Ian Hutton, Gordon Howard, Rick Rockwell, Costa Dillon, Mark Wenzel
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is an important announcement: during the broadcast of this movie there will be a chance to win a big cash prize from the "Pot o' Gold", all you have to do is stand by your telephone and answer when the TV station calls and asks you what the special word is. And today's word? "The"! Just reply "the" and the money is yours! Now, on with the movie, where a bunch of nubile lovelies hit the beach and start playing around under the blazing sunshine in Big Breasted Girls Go To the Beach and Take Their Tops Off - no, wait a minute, wrong movie, the projectionist showed this three times last week, what we really want to see is the sequel to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. So that film runs instead, the harrowing tale of what happens when tomatoes are banned across the world...

That was because, and if you had seen the first movie you'd know this, those foodstuffs had staged a violent uprising and had to be wiped out, although if you had seen the first instalment then that may well have put you off ever watching anything killer tomato related again, so poor was that effort where all the imagination had gone into the title and none on the actual script. However, that was quite a title, and come the eighties home video boom it was racking up some impressive rentals and sales from the curious (and some of them genuinely enjoyed it, oddly enough), so the people behind it were persuaded to craft a follow-up, and this was the eventual result, as were other projects in the same vein.

That said, there remained some who were put off by that original and would not have touched this with a bargepole, but had they taken a chance they would have found a spoof that greatly improved on what had been one of the lamest comedies of the seventies, down there with Beware! The Blob or Can You Keep It Up For a Week? For a start, it seemed in the interim all concerned had finally got the hang of this humour lark, and the gags may have been relentlessly silly but crucially they were funny; there may have been quiet patches where the film had to set up the next premise, but the pay-offs were often laugh out loud material thanks to the goodnatured stylings of a project that continually called back to its cheapness and stupidity.

So stupid it was clever, then? Sort of, but more self-aware of its limitations, yet also the potential for jokes that low budget end of the movie business could give rise to. Nowadays, if it was recalled much it would have been down to the co-star George Clooney who claimed it was one of the worst films he had ever been in, a judgement that was surely up for heated debate, though it was patently made in the decade where he was establishing his career hence the chequered filmography from that time. But he was pretty funny in it, displaying comic chops that would serve him well in Coen Brothers movies, for instance, here as the opposite sex-obsessed hunk who comes up with one of the best running gags where they run out of money and totally sell out to product placement, something Wayne's World ripped off for their much bigger movie.

It was a game cast all round, like a tomato is all round one supposes, as mad scientist John Astin is dedicated to turning the red salad fruit (not vegetables, as they are constantly referred to here) into people using toxic waste and a special machine, all the better to take over the world with for unspecified motives. Anthony Starke was the hero, a pizza delivery boy who falls for Astin's lovely assistant Tara (Karen Mistal), unaware of her plant provenance, and it was a mark of how committed they were to this idea that it came up with many angles of how a world surviving without tomatoes would function; basically pizza toppings are a lot worse, but there is a black market for the real thing. With an anything goes atmosphere that made it close to the straight to video Hellzapoppin' (though it did see the inside of a few cinemas before landing in its more accustomed domain), the humour that chucked a lot at the wall to see what stuck, including breaking down the wall, was surprisingly successful, creating an unsung gem from unpromising sources. One thing, though: the UK video cover featured a Rambo clone with a tomato for a head, what a pity that wasn't in the movie. Music by Neal Fox and Rick Patterson (listen to the songs!).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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