Sunday, October 02, 2011


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
    One of the first films ever to be designed specifically to become a cult movie, this silly low-budget comedy has tomatoes growing to giant size and terrorizing screaming '70s types. It's really bad on purpose, with awful effects and a dumb script, in hopes of luring fans of campy old movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space. There's a fun Jaws parody as the tomatoes attack a swimmer and a cute bit involving a military meeting in a small office with a very large table, but overall it fails to generate many laughs. The problem is that the films which this one attempts to mock -- mainly bad 1950s sci-fi pictures -- have a cult following because they are funny unintentionally, and are beloved for reasons which this somewhat cynical effort completely misses. It has its moments, granted, but it just tries too hard. – Rovi
    38% liked it

    PG, 1 hr. 27 min.

    Director: John De Bello

    October 2, 2011: Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

    So, after 4 1/2 years of trudging through bad movies, we’re finally getting around to Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes. Really, you have to wonder what took so long. After all, this may not be the kind of movie which appeals to the more serious (too serious?) movie reviewers such as the one above from Rovi, but Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is tailor made for sites like this. I mean, c’mon, any movie that has a couple of old, obviously unprofessional, actors sitting on a sofa deadpanning dialog like…

    Jess: "Look at the giant tomato, Martha."
    Martha: "I didn't know they grow'd them so big, Jess."
    Jess: "I wonder where he's going. (pause) He got little Timmy."
    Martha: "Poor Timmy."
    Jess: "He et him all up."

    …is more than welcome around here.

    And it’s not just the horrible line readings that make Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes so endearing to bad movie fans like myself. There’s goofy characters like the master of disguise who successfully infiltrates enemy territory by dressing as a tomato (only to blow his cover by asking for some ketchup). There’s musical numbers with all the quality of a grade school play such as the mind numbingly bad pop opus "Puberty Love" (sung, if you want to call it that, by Matt Cameron, future drummer for Soundgarden and Pearl Jam). There’s the telltale signs of guerilla filmmaking such as the scene in which the film crew inadvertently crashed their rented helicopter and rewrote the script to include the accident because, on their budget, who could afford to waste a good disaster (no one was injured, but watch the actors playing the policemen in the foreground realize what’s happening and begin to freak out). And the whole shebang ends with a free for all tomato stomping bonanza that includes most of the cast and crew, some guys dressed like the Marx Brothers, a whole gaggle of kids fresh off the street, and inexplicably, the San Diego Chicken.

    Now, if all that’s not enough to convince you that there’s no way to take a movie like this as a serious piece of work (much less review it as such), then just remember… it’s about a bunch of tomatoes… who kill people. Of course the movie is bad. Who cares if they made it that way on purpose, or just pretended they did after the fact. It’s about killer fruit. Who in their right mind would take a story about a bunch of tomatoes seriously? Now, grapes, that’s a different matter altogether. If the story had been about grapes, then we might have something serious on our hands. Grapes can be real trouble.


    I sense there may be some doubt. Well, if that’s the case, perhaps you should take a peek at this week’s first reading if you need a little more convincing. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah tells us about his friend who owned a vineyard. “He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” Wild grapes! Everybody run for the hills! I’m telling you, Isaiah is one of the big names in the Bible, and if he’s worried about wild grapes, then the rest of us should be as well. I’m serious, we should all…

    Huh? What’s that? Pope Benedict XVI had a slightly different take on this passage? Well, let’s see what he had to say. "[This story] speaks above all of the goodness of God's creation and of the greatness of the election with which he seeks and loves us. But it also speaks about the history that occurred later, man's failure. God had planted choice vines and yet they yielded wild grapes. What are the wild grapes? The good grapes that God expected, says the prophet, would have consisted in justice and uprightness. Wild grapes on the contrary are violence, the shedding of blood and oppression, which make people groan under the yoke of injustice… what appears first of all is the accusation of the violation of social justice, contempt for man by man. Deep down, however, one sees that with contempt for the Torah, for the law given by God, there is contempt for God himself; there is only a desire to enjoy power itself… We want to be the sole owners in the first person. We want to possess the world and our own life in an unlimited manner. God annoys us or we make of him a simple devout phrase or deny him altogether, eradicating him from public life, so that in this way he no longer has any meaning at all. Tolerance that only admits God as a private opinion, but that denies him the public domain, the reality of the world and of our life, is not tolerance but hypocrisy. Whenever man becomes the only owner of the world and proprietor of himself there can be no justice.”

    So, um, apparently that whole wild grapes thing is a metaphor for mankind’s tendency to reject God’s plan and try to run the world all by themselves? Well, as the Pope points out, that always ends up in a disaster. Much, much worse than killer fruit. Seriously.


    Rocket Scientist said...

    One of our favorite movies. I read your post to the family on the way home from Mass on Sunday since you covered the readings. This also evokes one of my fondest memories: most of the family in the living room singing the "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" song along with the movie, and my oldest son on the phone with his friends, sticking the phone receiver out to hear us, and saying to his friends on the other end: "See what I have to put up with?" WAY more fun than the movie.

    EegahInc said...

    Ah, there's nothing like torturing the kids. I used to drag my daughter and her friends into the TV room with lines like, "Come here, you just have to see this scene from The Flying Guillotine!"