August 31st, 2011: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)

Cast and Crew:  Rick Rockwell

What It’s About: When tomatoes begin killing people all over the United States, and then begin growing to enormous size, an inept government task force covering up the attacks appoint Mason Dixon (David Miller) to head up a team to combat the menace.  While he does so, the President’s Press Secretary Jim Richardson (George Wilson) works on a PR campaign that tries to sell the tomato problem as a benefit (“Hey man, bigger tomatoes mean bigger pizzas!”), and Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor), a feminist reporter, tries to get through the cover-up to the story.  Can Mason Dixon and Lois Fairchild get to the bottom of the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes before it’s too late?

Why Watch it Today?: La Tomatina, the annual event held the last Wednesday in August in Bunol, Spain, in which thousands throw over ripe tomatoes at each other for one hour, bears a resemblance to the climax of today’s film.  Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is a very silly spoof of 1950s monster movies, “animal attack” movies, and disaster movies, in the spirit of other goofy 1970s parody films (i.e. sight gags, puns, some mildly offensive jokes) but at the same time so incredibly tied to the post-Watergate era that the film functions as a time capsule about as well as it does a comedy.  The film was a labor of love made on a very low-budget by amateur filmmakers and is essentially a long series of skits tied in with the  tomato theme, with more misses than hits, but it is worth seeing for the jokes that do work, especially for fans of the movies lovingly spoofed.  In the interest of full disclosure, this was one of those movies I saw on clip shows like It Came From Hollywood, rented from our local video store, dubbed, and watched more times than I’d care to admit, so my judgement is definitely influenced by nostalgia.  Somehow the film managed to spawn terrible sequels and an awful animated TV series.

Where to Get It: Netflix (rental) or Amazon

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