The Film (4/5)
Return of the Killer Tomatoes was the first film in the "Killer Tomatoes" series of the films that I saw at a very young age. Around 1991 there was a blink, and you'd have missed it trend in taking inappropriate cinematic properties like the Toxic Avenger and the Killer Tomatoes franchise, and turning them into children's television fodder. Kids like myself ate them up, and bought the action figures (in my case literally), and even in those pre-Internet days it was easy to find out that these were based off earlier films. Well, if your favorite cartoons are based on movies, you are going to seek them out, and seek them out I did.
My local video store (Family Video in Secaucus, NJ.) had Toxic Avenger 1 so I saw that easily after seeing Toxic Crusaders. However, that same store only had Return of the Killer Tomatoes, not Attack of the Killer Tomatoes which is what the cartoon series derived it's name from. I remember renting, and watching Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and being disappointed, because I expected giant killer tomatoes attacking people, and what Return of the Killer Tomatoes ended up being was not quite that. There was an irony in this, that I didn't resolve at the time, being that the cartoon show was a closer analog to Return of the Killer Tomatoes than it was to the original movie, but it would be years before I would see the original, and find that out for myself.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes takes place 10 years after the events of the original. The events of "The Great Tomato War" have caused the red, never-took-off-as-a-hand-fruit to be banned worldwide lest another attack begin. The film follows the exploits of Chad (Anthony Starke), the nephew of Tomato War hero Wilbur Finletter, and his best friend Matt (George Clooney). The two work together in a no-tomato pizza joint. Professor Gangreen (John Astin TV’s Addams Family) who was responsible for the tomato menace from the first film, has created a method using music to turn toxic waste soaked tomatoes into human clones using different sorts of music (rock music for soldiers for example) with these tomatoes turned human he plans to take over the world. Unless, Chad, Matt, and renegade tomato turned human Tara can stop him.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes is FANTASTIC. I haven't seen the film in over 20 years, and didn't expect much of it, but it works as a great satiric comedy in the Zucker brothers vein. The film has great visual comic elements to it, and fantastic one liners that are insanely quotable. The film has a pretty basic workman-like visual style at times, but there are some cool set design choices like Gangreens lab that are fun.
The performances across the board are completely solid, and fitting to the material. Anthony Starke is great as Chad, and he delivers with great comic timing. John Astin, most known to viewers as Gomez in TV's Addams Family is delightfully over the top as Gangreen, and Karen Mistal delivers a solid turn as Tara. Of course, the stand out performances goes to George Clooney, who turns in a deadpan comic performance, and truly shows his bourgeoning acting chops.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes is presented by Arrow with a very nice, but not perfect 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Detail is quite solid especially in the brighter, exterior moments, but also tends to fluctuate. Colors throughout are nicely reproduced, and blacks are solid. The grain field is natural at times, but there are moments where it gets a bit noisy, and not quite natural. There is some minor speckling, but not much in the way of actual damage from the source.
The audio is presented with an LPCM 2.0 track in English. The track does what it needs to do with dialogue and score coming through nicely, and no apparent issues to complain about.
We get an interview with Anthony Starke that runs about 20 minutes in length. A commentary track with director John DeBello and moderated by Michael Felsher. The disc is rounded off by a TV spot, trailer, and still gallery. A booklet of liner notes is included.
A wonderful piece of late 80's satiric comedy Return of the Killer Tomatoes is a blast of fun that I regret not returning to much sooner. The Blu-ray from Arrow looks and sounds quite nice, and has a nice sampling of extra features. RECOMMENDED.