Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1979)

PG | 87 mins | Comedy | 1979

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HISTORY

The following notes appear on title cards in the opening credit sequence of the film: “In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock made a motion picture entitled ‘The Birds,’ a film which depicted a savage attack upon human beings by flocks of the winged creatures”; “People laughed”; “In the fall of 1975, 7 million black birds invaded the town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, resisting the best efforts of mankind to dislodge them”; “No one is laughing now”; “Special appearance of the Royal Shakespearean Tomatoes by arrangement of the Queen”; “Remember…the best bargains in town are at Sunny Vale Furniture, 173 East Main Street, just south of the Mervin exit”; “This space available, call 714-474-5566”; “Based on the best-selling novel “The Tomatoes of Wrath”.
       The following organizations and individuals are thanked in the end credits: County of San Diego; Little America Westgate Hotel; Gene Ames, Russo's Market; Fed Mart; Security Pacific; Royal Inn; American Airlines; Wagon Wheel Produce; and Ronald Matzenauer.
       A 12 Jul 1978 LAT news item reported that actors Jack Riley and George Wilson sustained slight injuries when a helicopter crashed instead of a planned landing in a tomato field. At Tri-City Hospital, they were treated for bruises and released.
       According to a 20 Jan 1979 LAT news story, the filmmakers raised $250,000 “from San Diego investors” to capitalize their parody film.
       On 6 Nov 1978 Box reported the following slogans and catchphrases were used in the marketing and advertising of the film: “Aaargh!...(Relax. It’s only a movie.)”; “A new musical-comedy-horror show!”; and “Just when you thought it was a safe to go back into the supermarket!”
       On 20 Jan 1979, ... More Less

The following notes appear on title cards in the opening credit sequence of the film: “In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock made a motion picture entitled ‘The Birds,’ a film which depicted a savage attack upon human beings by flocks of the winged creatures”; “People laughed”; “In the fall of 1975, 7 million black birds invaded the town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, resisting the best efforts of mankind to dislodge them”; “No one is laughing now”; “Special appearance of the Royal Shakespearean Tomatoes by arrangement of the Queen”; “Remember…the best bargains in town are at Sunny Vale Furniture, 173 East Main Street, just south of the Mervin exit”; “This space available, call 714-474-5566”; “Based on the best-selling novel “The Tomatoes of Wrath”.
       The following organizations and individuals are thanked in the end credits: County of San Diego; Little America Westgate Hotel; Gene Ames, Russo's Market; Fed Mart; Security Pacific; Royal Inn; American Airlines; Wagon Wheel Produce; and Ronald Matzenauer.
       A 12 Jul 1978 LAT news item reported that actors Jack Riley and George Wilson sustained slight injuries when a helicopter crashed instead of a planned landing in a tomato field. At Tri-City Hospital, they were treated for bruises and released.
       According to a 20 Jan 1979 LAT news story, the filmmakers raised $250,000 “from San Diego investors” to capitalize their parody film.
       On 6 Nov 1978 Box reported the following slogans and catchphrases were used in the marketing and advertising of the film: “Aaargh!...(Relax. It’s only a movie.)”; “A new musical-comedy-horror show!”; and “Just when you thought it was a safe to go back into the supermarket!”
       On 20 Jan 1979, the LAT reported that the creators of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes had staged various promotional stunts to draw attention to their film. The Four Square Productions publicity and advertising team of Corey Brown, David Hirsch, and Robert Matzenauer made an appearance at one newspaper office in which Brown dressed as a “steel, foam and cloth ‘killer tomato’”, which generated a lot of laughs. The “killer tomato” also made appearances outside a Hollywood Boulevard movie theater, a popular chili dog stand, and posed with a figure of Marilyn Monroe at a wax museum. Press kits for the film included a list of suggestions on proper tomato care and a 45-r.p.m. record of a tune titled “Tomato Stomp.”
       An 18 Apr 1980 LAT article reported that brothers Michael and Harry Medved, authors and emcees of “The Golden Turkey Awards,” honored the film “as the Worst Vegetable Movie of All Time.” Screenings of the awarded films took place over six days and the film shared notoriety with other bombs such as Ed Wood ’s Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959, see entry) and Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love (1975, see entry).
       A 10 May 1980 LAT news article noted that the Burbank Film Festival’s only feature film was The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes . The Burbank Civic Pride Committee and KMPC radio disc jockey Robert W. Morgan created the one-time event to draw further attention to jokes in the film about Burbank, as well as Burbank’s reputation as a hotbed for film production. Other festival highlights included The Burbank Choral Club, which sang a rendition of the film’s title song.
^A 25 Jan 1979 DV film review summed up the film’s shortcomings, criticizing its lack of plot, embarrassing special and technical effects and lackluster performances, which foreshadowed box office disaster. The review said the film’s only merits included a title that didn’t live up to its promise, a clever opening title sequence that parodied drive-in theater “trailers and advertising pitches,” and a catchy theme song written in the tradition of “disaster picture music.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Nov 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Jul 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jan 1979
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1980
Section VI, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 May 1980
p. 1, 12.
Variety
31 Jan 1979
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Co-starring
Co-starring
Special appearance by
Special appearance by
Richard Curtis
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cine/Dir of photog
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art work
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Properties
COSTUMES
"Sam Smith Tomatoe Costume"
MUSIC
Score comp by
Score comp by
And performed by the
Mus ed
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Miniaturization
Spec eff
Giant tomatoes
Titles and opticals
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Talent coord
SOURCES
SONGS
"Theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," words and music by John De Bello
"Puberty Love," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace
"The Mindmaker Song," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace."Tomato Stomp," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace
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SONGS
"Theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," words and music by John De Bello
"Puberty Love," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace
"The Mindmaker Song," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace."Tomato Stomp," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace
and "Love Theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace." "Theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," arranged by Gordon Goodwin, performed by Lewis Lee, words and music by John De Bello
"Puberty Love," performed by 'Foo' Cameron, vocal coordinator Steve Hollandsworth, music by Paul Sundfor and Gordon Goodwin, lyrics by Costa Dillon, John De Bello, and Steve Peace."
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DETAILS
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 17 January 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Four Square Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1978
Copyright Number:
PA67377
Physical Properties:
Color
CFI
Duration(in mins):
87
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a suburban home, the police find a housewife dead and smeared with tomato juice. With no weapon or motive, their only clue is a radio news report about the unprecedented growth of tomatoes in the region. Soon, other news reports of “killer tomatoes” begin to surface. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s experimental farmland, agricultural officials and law enforcement agents arrive to contain the threat of the aggressive tomatoes. One agricultural official says that the President wants to conduct a secret investigation, while behind him a sheriff blasts at runaway tomatoes with his shotgun. The agricultural official arranges a meeting with the nation’s most insignificant generals and scientists to solve the problem. At the meeting, Mr. Platt, the head of the Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA) says he has assigned four of his best agents to the investigation, including Sam Smith, a disguise expert; Greta Attenbaum, a swimming expert; and Greg Colburn, an underwater expert. The fourth member of the team, Lt. Wilbur Finletter, will join them after wrapping up another mission. Platt introduces his agents to Mason Dixon, the head of the tomato investigation. Soon after, another tomato attack occurs in a lake where children are swimming and sailing. At a White House press briefing, young Bobby Drake asks press secretary Jim Richardson what the President is doing about the growing tomato menace. Jim says that although the outbreaks involve isolated incidences, the President plans to launch an investigation. When a Senate investigating committee meets to discuss the tomatoes, they discover that one of their top secret-briefing manuals is missing. The manual is leaked to the local newspaper, where the ... +


At a suburban home, the police find a housewife dead and smeared with tomato juice. With no weapon or motive, their only clue is a radio news report about the unprecedented growth of tomatoes in the region. Soon, other news reports of “killer tomatoes” begin to surface. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s experimental farmland, agricultural officials and law enforcement agents arrive to contain the threat of the aggressive tomatoes. One agricultural official says that the President wants to conduct a secret investigation, while behind him a sheriff blasts at runaway tomatoes with his shotgun. The agricultural official arranges a meeting with the nation’s most insignificant generals and scientists to solve the problem. At the meeting, Mr. Platt, the head of the Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA) says he has assigned four of his best agents to the investigation, including Sam Smith, a disguise expert; Greta Attenbaum, a swimming expert; and Greg Colburn, an underwater expert. The fourth member of the team, Lt. Wilbur Finletter, will join them after wrapping up another mission. Platt introduces his agents to Mason Dixon, the head of the tomato investigation. Soon after, another tomato attack occurs in a lake where children are swimming and sailing. At a White House press briefing, young Bobby Drake asks press secretary Jim Richardson what the President is doing about the growing tomato menace. Jim says that although the outbreaks involve isolated incidences, the President plans to launch an investigation. When a Senate investigating committee meets to discuss the tomatoes, they discover that one of their top secret-briefing manuals is missing. The manual is leaked to the local newspaper, where the editor assigns society reporter Lois Fairchild to investigate the killer tomatoes. Later, Mason meets agent Finletter when he parachutes down onto the roof of an FIA car with Mason and Sam Smith inside. Mason orders Sam to disguise himself as a tomato and to infiltrate the killers. Meanwhile, Jim meets with Mr. Ted Swann, an advertising genius whose work helped get the President elected, to get the tomato problem under control. Swann says that although it is a challenge to orchestrate a cover up, it can be done. Lois watches Mason as he checks into a hotel, and persuades the desk clerk to give her the key to Mason’s room. Later, when she sneaks into his room, she is surprised to see Finletter, who is sharing the room, and leaves without doing a search. On a stakeout, agent Greta Attenbaum is attacked by killer tomatoes. Finletter hears her scream and finds her dead. Later, Ted shows Jim his ideas for the Stop Tomato Program (STP). After hearing a radio broadcast announce that the tomato invasion has spread to Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Chicago, Mason says that the investigation has taken its toll and suggests Finletter take a nap. Meanwhile, the newspaper editor tells Lois to impersonate a prostitute to get the information she needs for her story. Lois propositions Finletter but he turns her down. Soon after, Lois wanders into Finletter’s hotel room while he struggles to remove his skydiving gear. When Finletter sees her, he chases her around the room, calling her a spy. When Mason returns to the hotel room, it is ransacked; and Finletter lies on the floor covered by a bed sheet, and Lois is gone. Mason asks Finletter if he warned Greta about the danger, and Finletter responds that Greta is dead. In a phone call with the president, Mason receives orders to fight off the tomatoes on the West Coast. As the fighting between soldiers and tomatoes escalates, radio reports announce that the tomatoes have defeated the military across the country. Mason is chased into an apartment building by a killer tomato, but he narrowly escapes. He notices a man in a knit ski cap vandalizing an FIA car on the street. Before Mason can confront the man, he drives away and Mason follows him. Finletter’s parachute is caught in Mason’s car door, and he is dragged along on the ground during the chase. When Mason’s car malfunctions, he continues his chase on foot. He’s about to arrest the mystery man in the knit ski cap when the FIA car rolls into Mason and knocks him out. When he regains consciousness, Mason is staring at “the mystery man,” Jim, who is holding a gun. Jim announces that his plot is to overthrow the President and gain power with the help of the killer tomatoes. Before Jim can shoot Mason dead, Finletter appears and kills Jim with his sword. Mason sees an album with the pop song “Puberty Love” and has an idea. He tells Finletter to round up all the people that are still in the city and fill San Diego stadium. The killer tomatoes follow the crowd into the stadium and the threat of a mass killing hangs in the air. Mason orders someone to play the record on the stadium speakers and instructs the crowd to cover its ears. The music is so awful that the tomatoes retreat and shrivel. The crowd races out of the stadium and tramples the smaller tomatoes on the road. Mason hears Lois’s screams and discovers her cornered by a giant tomato wearing earmuffs. He shoves the sheet music of “Puberty Love” in the tomato’s face and it shrinks. Lois thanks Mason for saving her life and they fall into each other’s arms. In love, they walk off into the sunset, while a carrot pops up in a field and says, “All right you guys, they’ve gone now.”
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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