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The 100




Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
(1980)
Reviewed by Arno Mikli
Rating: 3 Beans

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VHS
his film about killer tomatoes on the rampage in the United States of America can be best thought of a clumsy parody of low-budget sci-fi movies, in the same vein as "Flying High" and "Hot Shots". The version that this reviewer saw was the "Director's Cut", which included footage missing from the original release, and a lengthy preface featuring two of the film's creators, John De Bello and J.Stephen Peace.

It told the story of how tomatoes very suddenly and unexpectedly started attacking people. The less than competant authorities call in government expert Mason Dixon (David Miller) to investigate. Dixon very eventually discovers that the President's press secretary (George Wilson) is trying to manipulate the situation to his own ends, and that by playing "Puberty Love" recordings , the tomatoes revert from being giant killers to harmless fruit. Dixon puts this discovery to use and all is well again.

The trouble is that it was difficult to tell just where the parody ended and where the clumsiness started.

Many of the film's scenes and features were obviously meant to be sendups - for example, the opening credits (which included the statement that the film is based on the book "The Tomatoes of Wrath"), the President with a strong liking for sharpening pencils and signing empty documents , and the less than inspiring military staff (they include a sleepy general referred to openly as General #2).

But other parts of the film had this reviewer shaking his head with uncertainty as to their intent and effectiveness. Many of these scenes were capable of producing as many moans as laughs. They include the scene showing several young bikini-clad nymphettes in bathing suits screaming away whilst being surrounded in the sea by a dozen or so floating tomatoes (presumably a clumsy parody of Jaws), the scene where Mason got pursued out of an alley and into a hotel by a single small tomato, the saccharine love scene between Dixon and reporter Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor) and the mass tomato stomping scene in a sports stadium by a vengeful crowd (played, according to the end credits, by "every nut case in San Diego country").

However, it is difficult to believe that all of this film's problems were deliberate. For instance, was all the bad acting deliberate? Indeed, just how many people in this film were professional actors? Not too many, it would appear. According to the moviemakers themselves, Sharon Taylor was a schoolteacher at the time of filming - and is still engaged in that profession. This film remains her sole movie credit. It was also the sole movie credit for quite a few other cast members, including Hal Chidnoff (the aforementioned General #2) and Rebecca and Don Birch (an elderly couple who appear right at the start of this film).

Loose ends and contradictions existed. For instance , the mad press secretary told Mason that he has never shot anyone dead, yet earlier he shot dead three people for no apparent reason. The film editing (or was it the script?) also suggested clumsiness rather than satire. For instance, there was a very sudden leap from a couple of bizarre isolated attacks (drinking tomato juice is lethal???) to the next scene showing the authorities blazing away at a farm. It took the audience a while to work out just what precisely was happening.

Finally, the film itself looked like it had been shot on slightly overexposed video tape.

Despite all these problems, this reviewer found this film surprisingly watchable for the first hour or so, mainly because it is surprisingly easy to dismiss flaws as satires. It began to sag after that , and though it improved towards the end, it never quite recovered.

Its unexpected entertainment value has enabled this reviewer to give this film a smaller number of beans than originally intended. But the filmmakers should have worked on smoothing things a bit more, to avoid the problems listed above or at least to avoid giving the public that impression that they existed.

Oh, and one last thing. The blurb at the back of the video cover is wrong. The winner of the Golden Turkey Award for the Worst Vegetable Movie of All Time was not Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but Matango - Fungus of Terror. But this reviewer is quite confident that this was a genuine error.






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