Film / Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

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You've never seen a film like it!

Attack of the killer tomatoes!
Attack of the killer tomatoes!
They'll beat you, bash you, squish you, mash you, chew you up for brunch!
And finish you off
For dinner and lunch!

Tomatoes. You pickle them for your ketchup. You squish them for your tomato juice. You cut them to pieces and feast on their raw corpses in your salads. You treat them like vegetables.

But tomatoes are fruits.

And they're not going to take it anymore.

In 1978, a film was made spoofing B monster movies, in which tomatoes mysteriously gain sentience and mobility, becoming killer tomatoes, which then attack. It was, sensibly, called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! No genre was safe as the self-billed "Musical-Comedy-Horror Show" ripped up everything from romantic comedies to spy films, pausing long enough to take pot shots at superheroes and politics. Despite being made for less than $100,000, it's generally regarded as a failure at the box office. It, nonetheless, earned a cult following and practically became the defining film for So Bad, It's Good. (If a parody can count as that, anyway.)

This would have been the end for the red menace (no, not that red menace), if it hadn't been for an episode of Muppet Babies using footage from the film to narrate a story called, "Attack of the Silly Tomatoes". It was a highly rated episode and New World Pictures inexplicably decided the world needed a sequel and offered the creators of the original 2 million dollars to film one.

Return of the killer tomatoes!
Return of the killer tomatoes!
The theme song still remains the same
The plot itself has hardly changed
A guaranteed bet for fortune and fame!

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! was released in 1988 and featured the same devotion to quality special effects, acting skills, and tightly scripted dialog as the first film: Still none detectable. Although it clearly does benefit from the increased budget, the film retains the original's tongue-in-cheek self-aware bad-movie quality, only now with more sex jokes. This film also introduces the villainous Mad Scientist Professor Gangreen, played by John Astin, who apparently enjoyed chewing on the scenery a lot as he returned for every subsequent sequel (and the Animated Adaptation, where his name was changed from "Mortimer" to "Putrid" and his title became Doctor).

The plot, such as it is, takes place ten years after the first film. Tomatoes have been outlawed! But, alas, the younger generation has forgotten the threat they pose, and tomato smuggling is at an all-time high. Chad Finletter, nephew of the hero of the Tomato Wars, has fallen for Tara, who serves the mysterious doctor Gangrene. Little does Chad know that Tara has a dark secret; she is secretly a tomato! Can true love bring peace to all, or will blood prove thicker than chlorophyll?

Any further description of the plot is probably unnecessary. You're either already overwhelmed with an uncontrollable urge to watch this turkey or pondering if its existence indicates western civilization is beyond hope. Possibly both. Would it help if we told you George Clooney was in it?

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! was a moderate success, and the executives behind it made the kind of decision only corporate executives can make without being deemed insane: What these two non-child-friendly films really need to follow them up is a Saturday morning cartoon.

Attack... of the Killer Tomatoes!
ATTACK... of the Killer TOMATOES!!!
From Gangrene's lab come forth each week
The ripe red monsters of which we speak
Except when he has... a security leak!
TOMATOES! TOMATOES!
(kazoo solo!)
Oh... isn't it a pity!
Tomatoes... are eating the city!
Can no one stop these mutant fruits?
Where will we find our brave recruits?
Can Wilbur get rid... of that dumb parachute?
TOMATOES! TOMATOES! TOMATOES!

Called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!, but based mostly on Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, it tones down the sex and violence, ups the kiddy antics, and adds in a huge dose of satire to make it tolerable to adults. The result is stunningly watchable, which, sadly, also meant it would be Screwed by the Network. One notable feature of the series was the large number of Fourth Wall jokes, including the regular appearance of Censor Lady, the woman charged with keeping the show suitable for children. In one memorable appearance in the episode Spatula, Prinze of Dorkness, she demanded the vampire tomato that Gangrene had created to cease talking about biting and blood, and do something more wholesome to turn victims into vampires, such as kissing them... and guess who wound up as the first victim!

The first season was a spoof on movies, while the second had a plot for world domination.

While the animated series didn't last long, two further movies were made: Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! and Killer Tomatoes Eat France!, as well as a few video games.


Tropes in this series:

  • Adaptational Nationality: In the original film, Killer Tomato Task Force member Greta Attenbaum was German, but Mary Jo Nagamininashy, her equivalent in the animated series, is Russian.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The animated series has Professor Mortimer Gangreen referred to as Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen. In addition, underwater expert Greg Colburn is renamed Floyd Bridgework and German Olympic athlete Gretta Attenbaum becomes a Russian athlete referred to as Mary Jo Nagamininashy.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: All over the place in Killer Tomatoes Eat France, most notably with the French subtitle translating the film's title as "Le Tomatoes Francais Munch Munch" and a Frenchman yelling at Gangreen "Deja vu! Potpourri! Soup du jour!" as if those words were supposed to be insults.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Gangreen has green skin in the animated series.
  • Animated Adaptation: An animated series that shares its title with the first film but is apparently based more on the first sequel Return of the Killer Tomatoes aired from 1990 to 1991.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The premise revolves around sentient tomatoes attacking humans.
  • Art Evolution: The second season of the cartoon completely switched from having overseas animation by AKOM to being produced entirely domestically. It was also digitally colored, one of the first (if not the first) series to feature this. As such, it looked noticeably different than the first season.
  • Ascended Extra: The cartoon had a few, but Tomato Guy really stands out. The basis for his character only appeared in one scene of the first movie.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The titular tomatoes don't quite reach 50 feet, but they grow very large for tomatoes. Revolutionary giant killer carrots are also seen.
    • However, in the Season One episode Camp Casserole... So Vine, there was an ACTUAL one.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Tomatoes, naturally. Carrots are often promised for sequels, but the carrots are a lie!
    • In another Season One episode, the Franken-stem Monster was a carrot!
  • Avengers Assemble: The sequence is used when assembling the completely non-crack team of tomato fighters.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Several killer tomatoes are at one point seen hanging out in a bar in Killer Tomatoes Strike Back.
  • Bar Brawl: Found in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, completely with cowboys. And ninja.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Lance Boyle and Kennedy Johnson bicker towards one another throughout the third film and eventually hook up at the end.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: When Michael and Marie look for a place to snuggle in secret in Killer Tomatoes Eat France, they at one point run into a man making out with a sheep.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Since the franchise doesn't really take itself seriously, it is inevitable that the franchise would occasionally make fun of the cliches and such that occur.
  • Big Bad: Professor Gangreen is the main antagonist of the original film's three sequels as well as in the animated series.
  • Black Best Friend: Evan Flood is this to Lance Boyle in Killer Tomatoes Strike Back.
  • Book Ends/Chekhov's Gag: The Missing Tomato Link's fax number, noted in the first season's episode "The Tomato From the Black Lagoon", and used in the second season episode, "Stemming the Tide".
  • Brand X: Played straight in Return..., but only as a setup to lampshading and then averting it.
  • Brick Joke: Used in Return... when Professor Gangreen answers a phone call from the show watching the film and ends up inadvertently saying the secret word ("the"). The hero and his friend even point out the plot device
  • Brown Note: In the first film, the worst pop song of all time, "Puberty Love" is one for the tomatoes. It was so bad, one giant tomato, wore earmuffs to block it out... that is, until the hero showed the song to it... in sheet music! In the second film, the tomatoes are all music-controlled, with Tara being turned back into a helpless, non-killer tomato whenever Beethoven's Fifth is played, then reverts to a human after Tara from Gone With the Wind is played. Nobody thinks to use this on the villainous tomato men.
  • The Cameo: Gary Condit has an uncredited cameo in the "bar fight" scene in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, years before he was more famously involved in another sort of fracas.
    • Not exactly a cameo, but "Puberty Love" was sung by Matt Cameron, future drummer for Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (he is credited as "Foo" Cameron).
  • Canon Immigrant: Killer Tomatoes Eat France features Zoltan and Ketchuck, two of the killer tomato henchmen of Gangreen in the animated series.
  • Catchphrase: "I'm not Mad! I'm ANGRY! I'm an Angry Scientist!"
  • Celebrity Lie: Used by has-been television actor Michael in the fourth film when he lies to Marie that he is Michael J. Fox. Fortunately, she still loves him even after learning the truth.
  • Character as Himself: F.T. is credited as playing himself in the films, but this is averted in the animated series, where the credits explicitly reveal that his voice actor is S. Scott Bullock.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several throwaway moments in the second film's first reel are set up in this way.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Most of the humor in the fourth film relies on hamming up French stereotypes.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Spoofed in the second film when Chad watches a cheesy horror flick where the mad scientist in the film repeatedly stresses that he will turn his creation human and quips "About time" when Chad finally gets the hint that Gangreen is making tomatoes human.
  • Conspicuous CG: The second season of the animated series.
  • Cool Big Sis: Tara becomes this in the cartoon, to the younger version of Chad (who was her love interest in Return).
  • Credits Gag: Dozens and dozens.
    • THIS SPACE FOR RENT.
  • Da Editor: Lois' boss.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second season of the animated series turned the Tomatoes into ugly giant creatures and had Gangrene take over the world.
    • It should be noted that this helped get the series canceled as the new toys were rather frightening to small children.
  • Death Trap: In the second film, it, what else, turns people into tomatoes.
  • Demoted to Extra: The main villain of the first movie only makes a cameo towards the end of the second. Naturally, he bemoans this lack of screentime and dialogue during said cameo only to get beat down for it.
  • Disney Death: F.T. and Tara survive their apparent deaths at the end of Return of the Killer Tomatoes. The former survived an explosion after literally Jumping on a Grenade, while the latter survives the gas chamber when Chad's friend Matt finds a button that allows the gas to be harmlessly removed.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: In Return of the Killer Tomatoes Tara wants to have sex with Chad when she meets him in the resturant, while he's clearly protesting. Good luck changing the gender roles.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Tara in the second film does not beat around the bush when she expresses her attraction towards Chad Finletter.
  • The '80s: Return of the Killer Tomatoes has this in spades with mullets and '80s Hair, garish clothes and synth music.
  • Enemy Mine: After he succeeds in taking over the world in the animated series' second season premiere, Dr. Gangreen 's tomatoes turn on the angry scientist and he is forced to join forces with the Killer Tomato Task Force to try and defeat them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One episode of the animated series sees Dracula himself provide Doctor Gangrene with a vampire formula. Almost the entire town becomes vampires as a result, but Dracula ultimately provides the cure. Why? Because he feels the townspeople don't have the class to be vampires.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: During a dating montage between Tara and Chad in the second film, a very annoying mime keeps popping up ruining the moment. Eventually while Tara is busy testing out domme equipment at an adult store, Chad thankfully beats up the mime, and there was much rejoicing.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Dr. Gangrene... 100%!
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Every movie and the animated series are all about tomatoes that attack people.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Expository Theme Tune: Loosely so in the case of the first film, the second is clearly an example of this trope, explaining that, yes, you are watching a sequel.
  • Expy: Viper from Killer Tomatoes Eat France is based off Fang from the animated series, mainly in that both are snake-like tomatoes.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Lampshaded in the animated series episode "Invasion of the Tomato Snatchers".
    Gangrene: Blast! If this were primetime, I could use real bullets.
  • The Film of the Book: "Based on the novel The Tomatoes of Wrath"
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Jarringly averted in the second film. The flashbacks use recycled footage from the first film featuring the old actors.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The Opening to the Second Season cartoon.
  • Framing Device: Used in the second film, of a late night movie night.
    • At the end of the film, Gangreen apparently has them assassinated during the credits roll for distracting him with their phone-in challenge...
  • From My Own Personal Garden: Richardson delivers this line in the first film after tossing a tomato to Mason Dixon, who he has captured.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In the first season, Zoltan and the gang of five were Gangreen's comic relief sidekicks who were incompetent and mostly delivered pop culture references due to Igor accidentally used tapes of Gangreen's Midnight Movies to program them. In the second season Gangreen mutated the six and sure enough not only did Zoltan, Fang, Mummato, Beefsteak, Ketchuck, and Tomacho become bigger threats but they actually got Gangreen to succeed in taking over the world, until they overthrew him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Differently played than usual, but fun nevertheless - I just say Operation P.P.P.P.P. (and I say it without spitting).
  • Giant Mooks: There are several gigantic tomatoes alongside the smaller ones.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The first film has the President of the United States decide to quell the tomato menace by nuking New York City in spite of his aide's protest that the killer tomatoes aren't anywhere near NYC.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Near the end of the second film, Tara kicks Igor in the crotch.
    • While spying on Kennedy Johnson at the zoo in the third film, Lance Boyle at one point gets bitten down there by a dog.
  • Hellish Copter: Unexpectedly, a real helicopter crash. note 
  • Hot Scoop: Lois, according to Wilbur.
  • The Igor: Subverted with the handsome, blond, ever-smiling Igor Smith in the films from Return onwards and the animated series. Dr. Gangrene is suitably horrified he can't get proper mad-science help.
    • Especially one from Malibu U.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Sam Smith learns to enjoy his meal with the tomatoes in the first film, to the point that he's running a bar for them in the third.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The villain of the first movie decides to assassinate Mason Dixon, so he gets a gun, carefully aims it, and fires an Instant Death Bullet that hits... some random person that Dixon just walked past. This repeats until the villain runs out of ammo, without Dixon ever noticing that he was under attack.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Doctor Gangrene is one in the cartoon series' first season. He then conquers the world and effectively Lampshades that they were stupid to keep letting him go.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. A very young child gets eaten in the first film (off-screen). His grandparents doen't seem very concerned.
    Grandfather (to Mason Dixon): Say, would you like to buy a used crib?
  • Insistent Terminology: Dr. Gangrene is an angry scientist, not a mad one.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lois Fairchild, she'll do anything to the truth of the tomato matter!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tomato Guy in the animated series. While not above scaring people by shouting "Tomato!", he only does it because he thinks it is funny and even helps Chad save the day in "Invasion of the Tomato Snatchers".
  • Joker Immunity: Doctor Gangrene has this, mostly because no-one takes him seriously.
  • Karmic Death: Subverted in the third film. Professor Gangreen appears to get eaten by the killer tomatoes, but he appears alive and well during the credits, none the worse for wear aside from a bandage on his nose and promising to return once more.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Complete with really bad love song at the end of the first film.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
  • Lighter and Softer: The animated series notably lacked the tomatoes actually killing people.
  • Mad Scientist: Don't call Dr. Gangrene mad. He isn't mad! A little angry sometimes...
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: It's where Gangreen creates his tomato monsters.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Tara mostly fits, but given she was made as a sex-slave in Return..., but in the cartoon, she's an escaped experiment.
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Putrid T. Gangrene. You just can't get a normal job with a name like that.
    • However in the movies as proven in "Killer Tomatoes Eat France" his name is Professor Mortimer Gangrene.
  • Medium Awareness: Especially prominent in the second film and the animated series, where the characters openly point out that they are in a work of fiction for the sake of Rule of Funny.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Gangreen makes it clear in the climax of the third film that he doesn't like other people.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: At the climax, Wilbur gathers a mob, made up of the only people too crazy to evacuate when the tomatoes attacked, to fight the tomatoes. The credits actually list them as "Every screwball in San Diego County."
  • Mythology Gag: In "Give a Little Whistle", the first episode of the animated series, Dr. Gangreen mentions he can cause a tomato frenzy with six milk bottles and a tuning fork. In the movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes, those same items were said to be involved in one of the sexual positions Tara knew.
  • No Fourth Wall:
    • The cartoon broke the fourth wall at least Once per Episode.
    • Let's face it. The fourth wall doesn't even exist in this franchise. You might as well stick your hand in the TV-screen and shake hands with the cast.
  • Noodle Implements: Don't ask what Tara can do with "a lawn-chair, six milk bottles and a tuning fork." Or do.
  • Object Ceiling Cling: There is a pizza stuck to the ceiling... which later becomes Book Ends.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in Killer Tomatoes Eat France, where Marie is the name of the hero's love interest, her sister, and a waitress.
  • One-Winged Angel: Dr. Gangrene induces this in his Quirky Miniboss Squad of tomatoes at the start of the second season, causing them to undergo Divergent Character Evolution at the same time.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Sam Smith infiltrates the tomatoes with a pretty bad disguise in the first film. It works, however - until he asks for some ketchup.
  • Parody Names: Every First Season episode. Spatula, Prinze of Dorkness, War of the Weirds, Invasion of the Tomato Snatchers...
  • Plant Aliens: The animated series episode "Tomato Invasion from Mars" featured some tomatoes planted on Mars that waged war upon the Earth.
  • Plant Mooks: The Tomato Transformation device from the second movie turns tomatoes into people.
  • The Power of Rock: Spoofed in the first film, where the tomatoes are defeated by making them listen to the pop song "Puberty Love".
  • Power Perversion Potential: In "Return of the Killer Tomatoes", once Matt discovers the Tomato Transformation device is capable of transforming tomatoes into people, the movie ends with him using the device to transform a bunch of tomatoes into "the big breasted tomatoes go to the beach and take their tops off".
  • Produce Pelting: Well, of course. (To be specific, tomatoes are tossed at the camera during the opening credits.)
  • Product Placement: Satirized brutally in Return of the Killer Tomatoes.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Justified because they are gathered by a man who wants them to fail so that the tomatoes can run wild longer. They are more misfit-ish than normal, even considering this.
    • Wilbur Finletter: Parachute expert. (Yes, parachute expert. He actually becomes the Ensemble Darkhorse of the original movie's cast.)
    • Sam Smith: Master of Disguise
    • Gretta Attenbaum: Exercise expert
    • Greg Colburn: Underwater expert
    • Not to mention the mob that Wilbur gathers at the end of the first movie to fight the tomatoes. The credits list them as "Every screwball in San Diego County."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The helicopter crash early in the film was NOT scripted, but happened to occur in front of the cameras, so it was written in. The director noted in an interview that they couldn't have afforded so fancy a "special effect" had they wanted it, but since they didn't, insurance covered it.
  • Recursive Canon: In Killer Tomatoes Eat France, Professor Gangreen at one point uses small toys and figurines to illustrate his battle plan to Zoltan, Ketchuck, and Viper. One of the items he uses is his figure in the animated series' toyline.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: The second film is called Return of the Killer Tomatoes and the third one is called Killer Tomatoes Strike Back.
  • Role Reprisal: The animated series has John Astin reprise his role from the films as Dr. Gangreen.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • The second movie makes several jabs at itself, most notably having an angry caller complaining about the use of recycled footage from the first movie and the television host watching the film remarking during the credits about how bad it is.
    • The animated series uses footage from the first film at one point as Cool and Unusual Punishment. This happens in the far-flung future in Season one episode, "Terminator Tomato From Tomorrow"... torturing Wilbur and the Killer Tomato Task Force.
  • Sequel Hook: Every film in the series does this.
    • The first film ends with carrots sprouting from the ground and deciding that it is safe to start their attack now that the tomatoes have been defeated.
    • The second film states in the opening song that a third film would be in the cards if the second film is successful enough and also states in the credits to look out for Killer Tomatoes Eat France, even though the third film was entitled Killer Tomatoes Strike Back with Eat France becoming the fourth film in the series.
    • Professor Gangreen turns up during the credits of the third film after apparently being killed by his tomatoes and promises to return yet again.
    • The fourth and final film ends with Professor Gangreen escaping and again promising to return.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: During the credits of Killer Tomatoes Strike Back, a "deleted scene" of Lance Boyle and Kennedy Johnson preparing to get intimate is shown, but they cut away before the scene gets too risque.
  • Shower Scene:
    • There is a scene in Return of the Killer Tomatoes where Tara takes a shower.
    • In an homage to Psycho, Kennedy Johnson at one point gets attacked by a tomato while taking a shower in Killer Tomatoes Strike Back.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: A blatant spoof of campy old-school horror films.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Greta Attenbaum was killed off in the original movie, but Mary Jo Nagamininashy, her equivalent in the animated series, remains alive and well.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is it Gangreen, Gangrene or something else?
  • Stay in the Kitchen:Matt's idea of the perfect woman.
    Matt: Listen, Chad. She's sexy. She's smart. She cooks. She cleans - I think you've found the perfect woman.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: "Puberty Love" is so bad that it causes the tomatoes to become harmless and vulnerable.
  • Team Rocket Wins: In the cartoons, Gangrene and his Tomatoes actually manage to conquer the world for a few episodes. They are so surprised that they have no idea what to do with it, leading to their downfall.
  • Tempting Fate: The heroes in the Animated Series comment that they'll have to defeat Gangrene because he never succeeds in the opener to the Second Season. He then beats them and the entire season is about his domination of the world.
    • The second season premiere also lampshades Gangrene's success at the end of the episode: "This is not a two-parter, this is a one-parter."
  • Title Theme Tune: The first two films and the animated series have the theme song's lyrics repeatedly mention the work's title.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The Trope Namer.
  • Tomato Surprise: Tara is actually a tomato made human.
  • Troperiffic: All Tropes Must Be Mocked!
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: Killer Tomatoes Eat France ends with Professor Gangreen making his getaway in a hot air balloon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" it's never revealed whatever happened to Mason Dixon, the hero of the first film, however he does appear in Wilbur's flashback of the first film.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: In the animated series, the tomatoes are clearly sentient and aware, but are killed by the hundreds. Except Tara and FT. Tara turns into a cute human and FT is already cute, so killing them would be... just wrong.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Chad believes the only good tomato is a squashed tomato, until Tara comes into his life.
    • In the Season One episode, The Tomato From the Black Lagoon, the titular tomato named Link, lampshades this:
    Link: Not all tomatoes are vicious veggies bent on plundering and pillaging, you know!
  • Womb Level: In one of the video games.
  • Younger and Hipper: Wilbur Finletter's nephew Chad was a young adult in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, but he is a pre-teen boy in the animated series.


Alternative Title(s): Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, Killer Tomatoes Strike Back, Killer Tomatoes Eat Paris

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/AttackOfTheKillerTomatoes?from=Main.AttackOfTheKillerTomatoes