Killer Tomatoes title card

Most b-movies are unintentionally bad, and many of them are unintentionally hilarious as a result. Conversely, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is trying to be terrible- the story goes that they 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, 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 have done this for years (like the murderous Reggie Jackson in The Naked Gun), but here the story really is nonsense. Following the usual “evil invader” scenario, the plot has a government agent named, har har, Mason Dixon (David Miller) leading the government’s response against a mob of bloodthirsty tomatoes, or something. There are some subplots, too, but they make even less 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 skinny, then disappears for an hour, then reappears so as to get saved from a tomato and fall in love with Dixon; and Dixon’s secret agent team gets 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 in “Mars Attacks,” proves to be the undoing of the villains) and a cameo by the San Diego Chicken. None of these are used to any great comic effect, or even integrated into the story at all, save for “Puberty Love.”

But do I really need to tell you that the tomatoes are stopped in the end? Or that Lois 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.

But, like we already noted, they aren’t that funny. My guess is there must have been an on-set power struggle between director John de Bello and producer Steve Peace. “This is a spoof! It has to be funny!” one would say. And the other would reply, “no, this is supposed to be bad! Making funny jokes would make people enjoy this movie and I won’t stand for anyone enjoying this movie!”

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

“Technically, vegetables are fags.” – Dr. Nokitofa

“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

“Weinerschnitzel!” – Sam Smith

“More people were killed by car accidents, heart attacks, lung cancer and natural causes combined, than by any one tomato.” – narrator