ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! It’s as silly as it is funny

Crazy 70’s, crazy tomatoes on acid.

Odys Korczyński

18 September 2023

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES As silly as it is funny

Alfred Hitchcock’s cinema not only inspires renowned directors of serious horror films but also eccentric creators who dedicate their entire lives to exploring one abstract topic: killer tomatoes that particularly despise humans. They certainly have their reasons, especially considering all those pastes and concentrates. John De Bello did just that – he dedicated himself entirely. His filmography consists of 99 percent of films about tomatoes in various versions. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is one of the crazier productions of the 1970s, and most importantly, it’s De Bello’s first take on the subject – who knows, maybe the best. Such peculiar subject matter has the power to entertain due to its novelty, but it quickly becomes boring. I am convinced that every fan of Z-grade cinema, both horror and comedy, must watch this film because it’s not just about tomatoes.

Tomatoes in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes were just a side note, a pretext for making a comedy that mocked the seriousness in cinema, its political affiliations, the tie-wearing authorities separated from ordinary society by high walls of positions, and even Hitler, who briefly becomes an African American with a moustache in the film, shouting something in German.

attack of the killer tomatoes

Perhaps some of you still remember the times when cinema didn’t only entertain us with special effects and superheroes who had to show us some superpower? Back then, films could be simultaneously funny and idiotic without consequences. No one cared if someone was offended, which had both good and bad sides. No one also cared too much about technical quality because you could gain popularity despite its absence. It seems that today’s audience is much more sensitive. Of course, there are still completely idiotic films made today, but such idiocy is often designed without any purpose. Maybe everything has already been done, and it’s hard to come up with cult-level stupidity. However, it’s worth remembering that once such fantastic productions were made, and today they can still entertain, despite the passage of time. In an era of blockbusters and Hollywood super-productions, it’s sometimes worth going back to the roots and remembering that cinema could entertain the audience in an absolutely absurd way. One exceptional example of this absurdity is the film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes from 1978.

attack of the killer tomatoes

Although it may seem unbelievable to some today, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a film that has gained a certain cult popularity. You may not see it in the number of ratings on platforms like IMDB, but this type of cinema often doesn’t generate many reactions, yet it is known among fans of parodies. Director John De Bello created a work that is in no way serious or ambitious. Instead, we get something best described as a parody of disaster cinema, in which we are attacked by giant, self-aware tomatoes.

The very idea of the plot is absurd: in a small town in Southern California, mysterious attacks by tomatoes occur, and from the very beginning, they are strangely lethal. Victims are essentially felled because they come into contact with enraged tomatoes. Not much more is shown. One victim, for example, drinks tomato juice, which turns out to be poison. Others fall under the influence of tomatoes leaping at them, while still others are supposedly devoured by bloodthirsty fruits that people often mistake for vegetables. The U.S. government sends a special agent to solve this mystery, and thus begins a story that is a mixture of parody, black comedy, and absurd humor. The mysterious agent assembles an equally peculiar team of specialists, who more resemble bunglers, and we are drawn into a plot where we see tomatoes jumping on people, killing them in various crazy ways, but in the end, the people manage to unite and triumph when the authorities are completely unable to deal with the threat. This is the more satirical and societal aspect of the film.

attack of the killer tomatoes

There is a scene in the production where the first crisis team meeting is shown, when tomatoes begin to attack people massively. Generals, civilian government officials, and scientists attend the meeting. The room prepared for them is surprisingly small. A table with chairs has been placed in it, taking up almost the entire space. The first guest can still enter, but each subsequent one must climb over the backs of others and, of course, over the table. Furthermore, the dignitaries present at the meeting have little knowledge about tomatoes, but they love themselves. The scene with the table is one of the most important sequences in the film. Afterward, we see several more shots from larger meetings, during which some dignitaries even fall asleep. It can feel like a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. They could have invited a representative of the bloodthirsty tomatoes to make it more exciting.

In summary, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a film that not only entertains but also reminds us that cinema can be crazy, nonsensical, and unpretentious, while still showing something important, criticism rather than cynicism. For many viewers, it is a true cult film gem, and for others, it may serve as an inspiration to occasionally set aside lofty expectations and simply enjoy the absurdity of cinema. Let this film be a reminder that cinema can be incredibly creative, even if it is as silly as it is funny.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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