Monday, March 10, 2014

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)



          If you’ve heard of this cult-favorite comedy, chances are you’ve also heard that it’s considered one of the worst movies ever made. And while Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is indeed quite bad, featuring everything from lifeless acting to ridiculously cheap production values, it’s hard to criticize a picture that was designed to accentuate its own awfulness. After all, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is a spoof of grade-B creature features, and in lieu of a plot, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! features wall-to-wall infantile jokes. As the title explains, this goofy picture imagines a nationwide rampage by vengeful tomatoes (some of which are gigantic), and the special effects used to illustrate this phenomenon are crude in the extreme. During several scenes, actors stand still while tomatoes are lobbed at them by offscreen crew members, and during one bit, a giant mock-up tomato is rolled toward a victim on a wheeled palette that’s visible in the frame. Most of the film depicts the efforts of government officials to prevent the public from panicking, so the picture follows White House Press Secretary Jim Richardson (George Wilson) as he hires an ad man to make PSAs; civilian authority Mason Dixon (David Miller) as he supervises the response of private and public organizations; and idiotic soldier Lt. Wilbur Finletter (J. Stephen Pace) as he plans a military assault.
          The film’s combination of fourth-wall-breaking jokes and musical numbers owes a lot to Mel Brooks, though Brooks on his worst day could easily top this film’s best gags. (How lame are the jokes? When Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! cuts to a shot of the San Francisco skyline, text reading “New York?” appears onscreen.) Plus, suffice to say that none of the musical sequences in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!—even the robustly sung title number—approach the sublime silliness of, say, the “I’m Tired” number in Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974). That said, a fast pace and an upbeat vibe ensure that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! provides a glimmer of amusement every few minutes. So, even though this tomato is closer to rotten than ripe, it’s still basically edible. (To belabor the analogy, however, expect indigestion afterwards.) Unlikely as it may seem, this humble little movie planted the seed for a mini-franchise, because director/co-writer John De Bello returned to the material for three sequels, beginning with Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988), which features a young George Clooney in the cast; additionally, a cartoon series, comic books, a novel, and videogames bearing the Killer Tomatoes brand have been released.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!: FUNKY

1 comment:

Gerald Martin said...

I don't respect a deliberate cult movie.