Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Film #62: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

The tomato revolt was bound to happen.
First came the years of humans pulverizing their bodies and pouring the drippings over oily Freedom Fries.
Then there’s the incessant teasing that tomatoes are soft “fruits.”
And you can’t even mention what goes on in Bunol, Spain each year without a tomato bursting into sorrowful tears.
You could say we had it coming.

The tomatoes finally had enough of their human torture in this week’s flick “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

The federal government’s experimental gardening program unexpectedly produces (get it, produce) giant, murderous tomatoes. It’s a menace so rotten that even the Army can’t quash the revolt! “All we wanted was a bigger, healthier tomato!” a military science screams in anguish.

The bumbling president of the United States orders his silver-tongued spokesperson Jim Richardson to cover up the crisis while the military assembles a crack team of operatives to Heinz's the Red Threat. “If John Q public finds out what is going on we will all be dead,” Richardson pontificates.
The military operatives, led by straight man Mason Dixon, comprises of a hulking Russian ex-Pat swimmer who eats Steroids for breakfast, a scuba diver who walks on land in full swim gear, and a master of disguise who depends on random costumes (Black Hitler, felt Tomato Suit) to deceive his enemies.

After an anonymous source tips the San Diego newspaper about the tomato threat and ensuing government cover-up, eye-brow heavy Society page reporter Lois Fairchild gets the break of her career when the newspaper’s crusty editor assigns her the story!

Fairchild relentlessly tracks Dixon and his incompetent team as they search for a way to stop the seemingly invincible mutant tomatoes. There has got to be a way to kill a tomato! But how?

That’s pretty much the plot. Mix in WWII jokes, toilet humor and a few musical numbers and you have the 1978 horror/comedy/musical-spoof, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.0
Chris Dimick squishes:
“Tomaato? TomAAto? Oh, let’s call the whole thing off. I wish the producers of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes would have taken the latter advice. For this guy, this tomato’s humor and horror was a little over-ripe.

While some of the jokes were laugh out loud funny (Japanese scientist awkwardly knocks a picture of the USS Arizona into a fish tank among a room of US military), there just weren’t enough of them to make the poor production quality and bad acting worth watching.

For a horror spoof to work, it has to be edgy and depict a spot-on parody of the genre. Maybe viewing this film out of context (it isn’t 1978 after all) made it less on-point and biting, but from where I was sitting this “spoof” of giant monster films was more just a chance for squishy silly dialog, cliché and rotten sight gags, and garden-variety musical numbers. It didn’t cut down into the heart of the monster genre, only used the premise to sing stupid songs and make lame jokes.

Though I want to completely hate this movie, I can’t. The producers meant well, and really weren’t trying to produce a great movie.
They were having fun, and that spirit shows throughout the film. One feels bad disliking this picture.
It is like that annoying kid who used to live down the block from you.

Sure, you didn’t want to hang out with him, ride bikes around town or play a board game in his room. But how could you avoid it when he showed up on your front porch asking for ya to come out and play!? The poor guy didn’t have any other friends, and geez, guess you weren’t doing anything right then anyway.

AotKT is like that pitied kid. They are just looking for a good time, and they have a good heart, and here they are in front of your eyes. Might as well view it and get some mild fun. Still, for some reason you just don’t click with them… and that reason is lameness.

For years I’ve heard about Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and how awesome the movie was. I think this build up may have set my expectations too high, and caused the resulting long fall when I found those expectations couldn’t support the viewing reality. “Airplane” or “Scary Movie” this is not. Not even close.

But probably the biggest reason for my low rating – I hate tomatoes. There is nothing that can ruin a good burger more than a steak-sliced tomato. It should be a capital crime to put such things on innocent grilled bovine muscle.

And when that red hunk of fruit flesh shows up unexpected on pure meat… now THAT is horror!”

N-Rating: 1.7
Nick Rich squishes:
"I still haven't decided if being ill during this week's viewing of AotKT was a curse or a blessing. My senses were dulled - ears plugged, eyes unfocused and sinuses pregnant with naughty juice - all of which made it difficult at times to focus on the film. Wellll.... considering Chris's rating and double-checking mine (I'd already forgotten what I had wrote as I'm still sick) I'd say that not being mentally present 100% during this film may indeed have been a blessing.

Even now as I press my thoughts back to the film it is difficult to formulate a complete picture of what I beheld, however, I seem to recall:
  • Wayne Brady as Hitler
  • Tomatoes that didn't have mouthes eating people (WAY misleading poster! For shame!)
  • The plot feeling a lot like Mars Attacks!
  • Seeing San Diego's own Star of India
  • Wanting the film to have been made by ZAZ
  • A man running around constantly with an opened parachute:

Most of these things seem like something that would appear in a film due to illness-induced hallucinations, but alas these things did indeed take place in AotKT (well, everything except Wayne Brady dressing up like Hitler... that was some other dude)! It was just that kind of film.
Honestly, it felt like a low-budget Mel Brooks film where they didn't really have enough time, talent or funds to pull it off. As a comedy it didn't shine that brightly and as a horror film, well, by no stretch of the imagination would I consider this a horror film.

As you can tell, AotKT didn't do a whole heck of a lot for me - I mean, practically speaking tomatoes don't even have enough Vitamin C to help me get over my current immune system blitzkrieg! Exhibit A:

40% of my daily value of Vitamin C?!? Weak! I'm going to need at least 80% to kick whatever bug has been tangoing with my white blood cells! Hrm... perhaps the calcium from the teeth of the killer tomatoes would help with the nutritional content a bit... assuming of course I could eat them before they ate me... but, considering how much this film bites, my money would be on the tomatoes being victorious.
Can't live with 'em, can't watch movies about them.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you've ever wanted to see the San Diego Chicken mascot in a feature length film... or if you've ever wondered about the tomato's fruit vs. vegetable origins.

Things We Learned from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes:
-Tomatoes will eat you for brunch, and finish you for lunch.
-This film was based on the bestselling book “Tomatoes of Wrath.”
-WWII jokes were still edgy in 1978.
-A wink and a smile can get a woman anything.
-The public is too busy to make up their own minds.
-Tomatoes can, and will, rape.
-Metaphors are too slow for the go-go 2011s. And Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is proof.
-A tomato’s voice sounds like a Mo-ped motor.
-Chris’ new home office has doors with the ability to “lock” exactly like Sidney’s bedroom in Scream:

Quote of the Viewing:
[A scene shows a crowded library of people reading books. Nick gives the screen a confused glare.]
Nick: “What are those things those people are holding?”

RDHP Presents:
RC Cola

This week's RDHP brought about a strange synchronicity with both Nick and Chris imbibing an RC Cola on the day of the viewing! Nick's was prescribed in an effort to ward off a current bout of illness (the healing properties of RC have long been touted by the RDHP's #1 fan Jim, who supplies Nick with cans when he falls ill); Chris's was enjoyed as the spoils of an old school pizza parlor that, upon each delivery, graces customers with a free liter of the precious liquid (a 1 liter?!? Who buys 1 liters?!?).
As neither man is a frequent patron of RC's caramely goodness, this can only be a sign from the Cola gods - but to what end? Dare you tempt fate and try an RC for yourself???

RDHP Presents:
What To Do

News just broke that Killer Tomatoes have killed half of the US population, with the rest of mankind expected to be devoured by the ferocious fruit in a matter of days. With the end times in clear sight, what would your last living act be? Don’t know? Here are a few bucket-list suggestions.

Fart and Sneeze and Cough, At the Same Time!
(Junior-High legend says your heart will stop in response to three bodily functions occurring at once. But what do you have to lose now?!)

Punch Miley Cyrus in the Stomach
(She’s had it coming for awhile.)

Eat Deep Dish Pizza, Honey Buns and Red Bull Until Your Stomach Ruptures
(Who said dying like the Gluttony victim is Se7en is a bad thing?)

Learn to Read
(Time to stop putting that off, rummy. Like we should talk. We can write, but never learned to read. What did we just type?)

Tell Your Dad You Love Him
(Assuming “he just knows” was only fine before the tomatopocalypse.)

Free-base Heroin
(We’ve heard it tastes like blackened soul. You know, from a friend...)


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