Uncovering Curiosities: John De Bello’s RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES

The 1988 film, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes is a glorious B-movie fun, the type of schlock that has been lost in the digital age. John De Bello’s sequel to his low budget 1977 hit sees America once again under threat from Killer Tomatoes. This time around they’ve been unleashed by John Astin’s evil Professor Gangreen – and only Anthony Starke and George Clooney (yes, that George Clooney) can stop them. It’s terrible, but in a fun sort of way.

It’s obvious that everyone involved in Return Of The Killer Tomatoes is in on the joke – this movie is supposed to be bad. The plot is ridiculous, the script is terrible and the acting is ludicrously over-the-top – but all these elements come together to cook-up a comedy with plenty of charm. Starke and Clooney make for a fun double act and it’s clear to see that Clooney would become a star (although maybe not quite the magnitude of his status); however it’s still incredible to believe that his big break in TV’s E.R was only 6 years away. Clooney isn’t the only Batman star to understand the campness of the film’s tone. It’s John Astin who really nails the tone of Return Of The Killer – and it’s easy to see why. Astin replaced Frank Gorshin in the role of The Riddler in the 1960s Batman show, and this comedy has the same self-referential tone as that iconic show.

It’s a credit to director John De Bello that Return Of The Killer Tomatoes embraces its own stupidity and it never tries to be anything other than a low-grade romp. You’d think the joke would have run-out after two movies, but It’s fascinating to think that the franchise was able to sustain 2 further sequels and a cartoon spin-off. That shows you that bad taste never gets old.