Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is in that thankfully small sub-genre of film I like to call “frat guy camp,” which also includes National Lampoon Goes to the Movies and Kentucky Fried Movie (the genre’s sole shining light). Their humor is mostly milked from self-reflective, meta-movie badness (the element that’s missing from such modern day imitators as American Pie and Dorm Daze) and they’re marked by gentle “we’re just kidding but hey, we did say it” racism, sexism, and homophobia (the element that’s unfortunately still hanging around). If Tomatoes has anything going for it nowadays, it’s that the word “fag” is only used once (“Tomatoes are fags.” “He means fruits.”). That’s pretty sparse for a ’70s comedy. But crassness comes in other forms than mere isms. Early on in the filming of Tomatoes, a botched helicopter landing nearly killed TV star Jack Riley (of “The Bob Newhart Show”). But, as no one was actually killed and the cameras rolled through the entire, unbelievably goofy-looking mishap, into the final film it went. Tasteless as the decision is, you can’t fault the films’ creators for recognizing the only juicy piece of filming they had. But even more so than the Samuel Arkoff-like opportunism of the producers, and more so than some of the worst framing this side of Coleman Francis, the really frustrating thing about Tomatoes is the toothlessness of its satire. And that’s a major missed opportunity, considering that the irony of using a stereotypically foreign genre (Japanese monster movies) against a parody of America’s jingoistic reliance on military power (the Army is useless against the giant tomatoes) should’ve been a comedic gold mine.
Rhino's presentation of the shoddily-shot Attack of the Killer Tomatoes couldn't be more pristine: a sparklingly clean view of a frequently out-of-focus film with student-film standards of lighting. That some colors come through as boldly as they do (and some of the garish '70s upholstery is opulently hued) is to the credit of Rhino's likely post-production boosting. The simple stereo sound mix of a film that is oh-so-obviously monaural actually does a good job making all the lines legible. Most of the film's scenes are completely without any ambient noise aside from the musical score, leaving the dialogue completely naked and close. But, to be brutal about it, the film's core audience isn't likely to be fazed one way or the other by the DVD transfer.
First up is a serviceable commentary by the film’s main creators De Bello, Peace, and Dillon. Here again the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comparison is apt, as both sets of creators have so much fun simply sitting back and watching their own films and nitpicking jokes that don’t really work that they forget to offer much insight into the making of the film. Better for fans of the film to turn on the Tomato-Vision function, which is basically the "Follow the white rabbit" function from The Matrix DVD, only pressing "enter" will take you to some remarkably bad effects-footage instead of great stuff. The large handful of featurettes all focus on such mundanities as the production slate girl and the helicopter mishap. All of this should appeal to the film’s fans, because everything on the disc caters to the in-on-the-joke mentality of die-hard cultists. They’ll also wrap their arms around two actual 8mm student films (as opposed to simply looking like one) by Tomatoes’ creators: Do They Accept Traveler’s Checks in Babusuland (moderately clever) and the prototype for Tomatoes (which features a few gags that are as good as anything in the "professional" version). Unfortunately, both are presented with commentary over the top, making it impossible to actually hear half of the films. Trivia, radio spots and a few other none-too-consequential goodies round out a phenomenally extensive set of extra features. Nice job.
There’s no such thing as "Frat guy camp." I made that oxymoronic shit up.