Not since the era of Ed Wood has a movie been so delightfully bad it was actually good. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! was so bad, in fact, that one might actually surmise that the filmmaker purposefully set out to make the worst movie possible…and they would be right. Producer John De Bello was determined to make a spoof of the horrifically bad 1950s-style horror films, and he succeeded so magnificently that the movie set the benchmark for bad movies for perhaps centuries to come. Let’s take a look back at this unforgettable film, released in 1978.
As the title suggests, there are some carnivorous tomatoes on the prowl, some of which are bigger than a human. As they turn the tables on the human race, devouring any citizen that gets in their path, CIA agent Mason Dixon (ugh) is put on the case and assembles a crack squad that includes disguise expert Sam Smith, SCUBA diver Greg Colburn, Greta the Russian swimmer and a saber carrying soldier with a screw loose, Lt. Finletter. Tagging along is journalist Lois Fairchild, eager to break the story. And, as one might expect, the mutant tomatoes are the fruit of the US Governments efforts. Now, Mason is not only fighting terrorizing tomatoes but a corrupt administration that would like to see him canned for good.
With a plot that bad, surely the first word that pops to mind is…”sequel!” It would take ten long years (hey, it must have been a daunting task to come up with a worse idea for a movie) before De Bello was ready to unleash the frightening fruit for another go around. Return of the Killer Tomatoes proved to be just as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor (no small feat) and this time, the film cast John Astin (Gomez on TV’s The Addams Family) as mad scientist (prepare to groan again) Professor Gangrene. His particular green thumb talents allowed him to create tomatoes from humans and humans from tomatoes, all of which had the same killer instincts that movie fans had grown to love. With a cast that featured George Clooney and Rick Rockwell (of Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire fame), audiences got everything they hoped for and more from a sequel that proved it was a worthy contender for worst film ever.
If that weren’t enough to satiate the appetite of those gluttonous for more tomato punishment, a Saturday morning cartoon series seemed to be the perfect addition to the legacy. But, just to make sure that nobody was left hungry, a couple more sequels were released for good measure – Killer Tomatoes Strike Back and Killer Tomatoes Eat France. All of which serves to prove that you should never leave a theater thinking that you have just seen the worst movie you have ever seen. There are always worse ideas on the horizon, enough to create a whole franchise if the filmmaker is so inclined. In other words, be careful what you wish for, even in jest – you just might get it.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has certainly earned its place in infamy, and is now considered a cult classic. If this saucy little film is one of your guilty pleasures, we welcome your reflections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this horrific, yet most-endearing film.