Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)

As a housewife innocently prepares lunch she is suddenly attacked by the most unlikely of fruits: a tomato. Elsewhere, a man is choked to death by drinking tomato juice and a baby is devoured as two senior citizens sit helplessly by.

It turns out that the government has been fiddling with the food supply. Tomatoes have gained sentience, and they are angry and hungry. After nearly being killed in a tomato attack on his helicopter, White House Communication Director Jim Richardson (George Wilson) makes it clear that this must be covered up at all cost. In an effort to make it look like the government is truly doing something, they bring disgraced special agent Mason Dixon (David Miller) out of retirement to head up an investigation by the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) into the plague of tomato-related deaths.

To hinder things along, he is saddled with other FIA operatives, such as infiltration expert Lt. Wilbur Finletter (J. Stephen Peace), disguise expert Sam Smith (Gary Smith), East German swimming expert Gretta Attenbaum (Benita Barton) and some guy in a diving suit. Hot on their trails, seeking the breakthrough story of her career, is journalist Lois Fairchild (Sharon Tyler), who is ready to do anything to get her story.

While the tomatoes multiply in both number and size, the army is overrun and the scientists are stumped. Cities are laid to waste and everyone panics at the mention of a tomato. As this unfurls, Congress discusses the situation endlessly in committees while the President (Ernie Meyers) has Richardson hire the advertising firm Mindmaker to put a positive spin on the tomato outbreak.

All seems hopeless until at one point, under attack by tomatoes, Mason Williams observes them retreating. Searching for what has disturbed them, he finds out that Richardson himself has found the means to control the tomatoes for his own uses, which are to usurp the presidency and establish a dictatorship. Mason escapes Richardson's clutches, and also discovers the possible means of bringing the uprising to an end: a horrible pop song by Ronnie Desmond called "Puberty Love". Rallying the last remaining inhabitants of San Diego, Williams and Fairchild, record in hand, make a final stand.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has famously been in the top 10 of several lists of the worst movies ever made. It is nowhere near this. First, the movie can in no way be taken seriously and, in a number of key scenes, the humor works. I say a number of key scenes, because, like any movie of this type, it fails just as often. It is still much more entertaining than crap like Teen Movie that were inspired by this and superior films like Airplane.

David Miller actually does a decent job as Mason Williams, but J. Thompson "Rock" Peace steals the movie every time he is on screen. Some of the best jokes (and most tasteless) involve Sam Smith. It is no wonder that the latter two returned for some of the sequels.

Where things do get bad in most cases is when the movie attempts to be a musical. The theme is great and "Tomato Stomp" is decently filmed, but "The Mindmaker Song" has got to be one of the worst musical sequences in any film (despite its clever lyrics). Of course "Puberty Love" is awful, but it's supposed to be - and it also provided Tim Burton inspiration on how to dispatch of the Martians in Mars Attacks!.

Personally, I prefer the first sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, largely because John Astin makes a great villain. He could have been used here, since Richardson's sudden evil turn comes out of nowhere. But there's no use overanalyzing this. It was made for fun and, in most cases, it is fun, and superior to most parodies we see these days.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)
Duration: 87 minutes
Starring: David Miller, J. Thompson "Rock" Peace, George Wilson, Sharon Taylor
Director: John De Bello

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