Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)
Director: John De Bello
Starring: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin & J. Stephen Peace
Released by: Arrow Video
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
A decade after the events of the original film, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! finds cooky Professor Gangreen (John Astin, The Addams Family) using the feared veggie-fruit to give life to an army of muscle-bound soldiers for a hostile takeover. Chocked full of ridiculous humor and shamelessly funny product placement, roommates Chad (Anthony Starke, The George Carlin Show) and Matt (George Clooney, Tomorrowland), aided by veterans of the Great Tomato War, are the only ones that can save the day and rescue Chad’s juicy new girlfriend Tara (Karen Mistal, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death).
Following its predecessors status as a glorified cult classic, continued interest from video sales would plant the seed for the deadly veggies to return during the deliciously gaudy 1980s. Outlawed since the original disaster, wacky-haired Professor Gangreen uses his breakthroughs in gene splicing to morph tomatoes into an army of Rambo-style brutes to take over the world. Working alongside his uncle and hero of the Great Tomato War at Finletter’s Pizzeria, Chad is smitten with Gangreen's beautiful assistant and former tomato Tara who turns to the delivery boy after escaping from her makers evil clutches. Using music as a strength this time instead of a weakness for his creations, Gangreen, aided by the pearly-teethed, broadcasting obsessed Igor (Steve Lundquist, The Sleeping Car), aims to use his meatheads to retrieve a villainous ally from incarceration. After Tara is captured, Chad and his ladies man best bud Matt must band together, break the fourth wall, hilariously promote Pepsi, Nestlé Crunch bars and booze to fund the remainder of the film in order to rescue Chad’s main squeeze and encourage viewers to purchase cuddly stuffed tomatoes wherever products are sold.
Unapologetically aware of the B-movie product being produced, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! takes hilarious potshots at the industry’s increased reliance on product placement, delivering one of the funnier statements on the subject. Laughing right alongside viewers, the cheeky followup has an absolute blast with the absurdity of its concept although gargantuan-sized tomatoes are lacking. Hosting comical narration accusing the film of cheaply recycling footage from its originator, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! obliterates the fourth wall as the crew including, Writer/Director John De Bello, moan about running out of money and are shaken down by a SAG representative. From Astin’s over the top mad scientist performance to Clooney’s intendedly deadpan deliveries and bodacious midsize mullet, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! knows precisely what it is, leaving viewers giggling while ripping the carpet out from underneath them with its unexpected wit and mockery of an industry embracing the greed is good mantra.
Restored in 2K from a 35mm Interpositive, Arrow Video presents Return of the Killer Tomatoes! with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Improving noticeably over its many standard-def releases, colors are far more luscious with only mild scuffs remaining while, black levels are respectably deep with occasional instances of speckling spotted. Clarity on the countless Pepsi logos and Clooney’s fearless mullet are thankfully never compromised. Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is delivered with ease making for a most accommodating listening experience. Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John De Bello, Hanging with Chad with Anthony Starke (17:24) features the film’s star recollecting on the shoot and Clooney’s humorous personality while, a Stills Gallery (2:27), the Theatrical Trailer (2:15) and a TV Spot (0:31) are also included. Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a worthwhile essay by Film Historian James Oliver on the film’s making and the surprising legs of its franchise are covered with a Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet poster rounding out the bonus features.
Bearing a title as ludicrous as Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, the decade late sequel to the original drive-in favorite is entertainingly silly and surprisingly smarter than expected. Continuing the low-budget zaniness one might expect, the vegetable fearing comedy makes a mockery of the Hollywood system and itself while happily inviting viewers in on the joke. Graduating to the realm of high-definition, Arrow Video delivers a certifiably fresh viewing experience of the B-picture with supplements that may be few yet, entertain and enrich all the same.