Blindspot 2018: Cult Films of the 1950s to 1970s: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

This month I watched John De Bello’s 1978 B-movie satire Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Genetically modified tomatoes unexpectedly become sentient and begin killing people around the United States. While the President’s press secretary Jim Richardson (George Wilson) wants to ensure the public that there is no real threat, the President (Ernie Meyers) decides to form a task force headed by Mason Dixon (David Miller), members of which include master of disguise Sam Smith (Gary Smith) and parachute-toting soldier Wilbur Finletter (J. Stephen Peace). While the task force try to find a way to stop the tomatoes, they begin being tailed by reporter Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor).

Forty years ago, writer/director John De Bello and writer/producer/actor J. Stephen Peace unleashed Attack of the Killer Tomatoes onto an unsuspecting world. Spoofing sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s, with added references to The Birds and JawsAttack of the Killer Tomatoes is a film produced with tongue firmly in cheek. 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a film that is trying very hard to be “so bad, it’s good,” however I have to admit that the film was actually pretty bad. The bareboned plot didn’t really have that much substance and the killer tomatoes themselves are just the result of bad effects. In fact, the most positive thing I can think of about the film is the catchy radio serial style theme song in the opening credits. Other than that, there isn’t all that much for me to grasp on with this film.

Probably the most amazing thing about Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is that 
John De Bello ended up turning this film into a franchise, with no less than three sequels. Reportedly, 1988’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes is a film that’s considered a vast improvement over the original, with it featuring George Clooney in one of his first roles and introducing John Astin as mad scientist antagonist Professor Mortimer Gangreen.

There is not really much more that I can say about Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The goofy tone doesn’t really do it for me at the killer tomatoes seem vaguely menacing at best.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).