Most b-movies are unintentionally bad, and many of them are unintentionally hilarious as a result. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is trying to be terrible – the story goes that the filmmakers were trying to out-cheese Plan 9 From Outer Space – but it’s not bad in a funny way. It’s just kind of tedious. Sure, it’s trying hard, but it’s not bad enough to be funny and it’s not good enough to be enjoyable. Sort of like a C-minus term paper in celluloid form.
The trick with doing a deliberately ridiculous movie is disguising a well-told story as utter nonsense. The Zucker brothers did this for years (like when they brought us the murderous Reggie Jackson in “The Naked Gun”), but here the story really is nonsense. There’s a government agent named, har har, Mason Dixon (David Miller), who leads the government’s response against a mob of bloodthirsty tomatoes. It’s a standard formula for a plot – you could even say the villains are literally off the shelf – but there are subplots that make no sense: the President’s press secretary (George Wilson) hires Dixon and then tries to kill him; a very un-intrepid reporter (Sharon Taylor) follows Dixon around to get the scoop, then disappears for an hour, then reappears so as to get saved from a tomato; there’s a secret agent team working for Dixon, but they get killed pretty easily (so why show them at all?). The sequence of events is as confusing as any bad sci-fi picture, but if the point is to make us laugh, it ain’t happening.
The movie’s essentially a two-hour joke about how a tomato is a zany movie villain, only it isn’t. Past that, we’ve only got a handful of sight gags, a talking dog, an incredibly irritating pop song called “Puberty Love” (which, like Slim Whitman’s yodeling in “Mars Attacks,” proves to be the undoing of the villains) and a cameo by the San Diego Chicken. None of these bits are used to any great comic effect, or, “Puberty Love” excepted, integrated into the story at all.
But do I really need to tell you that the tomatoes are stopped in the end? Or that the reporter and Dixon fall in love, even though they’ve only briefly met once before? Of course I don’t. There’s a laundry list of cliches in the movie, which they run through almost mechanically, with no real passion or enjoyment behind them. It’s a spoof, we better have a radio announcer saying serious-sounding stuff. And a spoof on a car chase! And a dashing, courageous spy who isn’t dashing or courageous! Yuk, yuk.
I did like Dixon’s teammates, which includes a black “disguise expert” dressed as Hitler, a military guy who wears his parachute everywhere and an “underwater” expert who does underwater recon in a city fountain, but that was about it.
“Killer Tomatoes” is probably worth seeing just for the name recognition alone, but as a b-movie, it leaves a lot to be desired. Mildly recommended. There’s also a sequel, “Return of the Killer Tomatoes,” thus proving that some things can be done even if they probably shouldn’t be.
“I’m not talking about that, you weiner!” – the mayor
“At no time has the current administration expended any public monies whatsoever for the purchase of the fluffy flower print toilet paper” – press secretary
“Some crazy ass biker just got himself munched by a tomato” – press secretary
“More people were killed by car accidents, heart attacks, lung cancer and natural causes combined, than by any one tomato.” – narrator