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!
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!
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!
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 Paris!
, as well as a few video games.
Tropes in this series:
- Animated Adaptation: It has a tomato who can take the form of a human girl but changes back to a tomato after touching salt, and returns to normal after a sprinkle of pepper.
- Who did exist in some form in Return Of The Killer Tomatoes!
- Anthropomorphic Food: Is trying to kill you.
- 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.
- Bar Brawl: Found in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, completely with cowboys. And ninja.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb
- 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...
- 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).
- Catchphrase: "I'm not Mad! I'm ANGRY! I'm an Angry Scientist!"
- Coincidental Broadcast: Spoofed, of course.
- 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.
- 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.
- Disney Death: FT is okay!
- 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.
- The Eighties: Return of the Killer Tomatoes has this in spades with mullets and '80s Hair, garish clothes and synth music.
- Even Evil Has Standards: One episode 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.
- Evil Is Hammy: Dr. Gangrene... 100%!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Tomatoes that kill, attack, then return, strike back, and, one presumes, eat Paris. Poor Paris.
- 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: In the Animated Series, underwater expert Greg Colburn is replaced with a similar character named Floyd Bridgework and Russian Olympic athlete Gretta Attenbaum is replaced with a similar character named Mary Jo Nagamininashy, except she is German.
- Family-Friendly Firearms: Lampshaded.
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.
- 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).
- Genre Savvy: Chad in both Return and the Animated series. In the series it often borders on Only Sane Man.
- Giant Mooks: There are several gigantic tomatoes alongside the smaller ones.
- Godzilla Threshold
- 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 Return 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.
- 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!
- Joker Immunity: Doctor Gangrene has this, mostly because no-one takes him seriously.
- Last Minute Hookup: Complete with really bad love song.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Lois has a friend named Clark. He wears glasses. He has a cape sticking out of the bottom of his jacket. He can fly. Lois doesn't seem to notice.
- Lighter and Softer: Tara never once discussed oral sex, bondage, or leather whips in the animated series. There was also a distinct lack of killer tomatoes killing.
- Mad Scientist: Don't call Dr. Gangrene mad. He isn't mad! A little angry sometimes...
- Mad Scientist Laboratory
- 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
- 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."
- 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-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.
- Parody Names: Every First Season episode. Spatula, Prinze of Dorkness, War of the Weirds, Invasion of the Tomato Snatchers...
- Plant Aliens: They aren't actually aliens, but somebody thought it was close enough to put in and who am I to argue?
- There were some planted on Mars in one episode that waged war upon the Earth.
- The Power of Rock: Spoofed in the first film.
- 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.
- Revenge of the Sequel
- Self-Deprecation: 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.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
- Suckiness Is Painful: "Puberty Love"
- 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
- Tomato Surprise: Tara
- Troperiffic: All Tropes Must Be Mocked!
- 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.