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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

by on June 1, 2010
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An “Airplane”-esque satire on horror movie cliches,” “Tomatoes” is a sometimes-funny look at frights and laughs.

Meant as a direct response to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” which is noted in a foreward, there are several nods to Hitchcock, including a musical cue to “Psycho” in the famed theme song to “Tomatoes,” a sequence where characters repeatedly duck as a crop duster flies overhead, and one where a character battles tomatoes ala Tippi Hedren (there is also one pretty big reference to “Jaws,” and plenty of others).

Writer/director John DiBello doesn’t try to mask the silliness of the film (why would he, honestly, with a title like that?), and instead goes the other way, inserting scrolling ads for furniture stores into the film and assorted other trivialities, such as naming one character, a journalist, Lois Fairchild, then having speak to a man with glasses named Clark, who then is heard off camera shouting “Up, up and away!”

With a plot like this-literally killer tomatoes are running amok-you shouldn’t be expecting even a coherent story, because you’re not getting it. The tomatoes are shown as indestructible and deadly, killing humans simply by touching (and presumably biting, though we never see mouths or teeth) them. The cops (and others) use shotguns to no avail, though it seems a good thick-soled shoe would do the trick.

The government downplays the “tomato menace,” ignoring the problem until it’s too late. Later the White House Press Secretary goes to a salesman to come up with a new way of spinning the  negative of rogue tomatoes killing people like Romero zombies into something positive.

Later, though, the tomatoes mutate, aided by eating someone who had consumed “Steroids” out of a cereal box that looked conspicuously like Wheaties.

Scenes are strung together haphazardly, built around silly gags (one character, Mason Dixon, is a spy who “hasn’t worked since the Bay of Pigs”). It lacks the subtlety of a Zucker Brothers film (and that’s saying something, isn’t it?), but has the same zeal and runaway gusto if not the same cleverness (though to be fair, we’re living in the age of a bazillion Scary, Epic, Superhero, and Date Movies that have copied, faxed, spilled coffee on, re-faxed and faxed the fax of the spoof formula until it is a blurry, messy, incoherent shell of its former self.

So who will win the battle between man and vegetable…er, fruit?

Guess you gotta watch to find out, if you care.