We have Jim Henson to thank for this. During Muppets Take Manhattan, there was a fantasy sequence in which Miss Piggy fantasized about growing up with Kermit. In it, we see baby versions of Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter, and Gonzo. This inspired Henson to create The Muppet Babies animated series for CBS (and inspired that odd-ball late '80s to early '90s genre of making baby/little kid versions of already popular adult characters).
During the third season in an episode entitled “The Weirdo Zone,” the babies try to get in touch with their inner weirdness in order to understand Gonzo. Fozzie Bear is attacked by some silly tomatoes for telling bad jokes. During this scene clips from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are shown. According to the liner notes of this new Arrow Video edition of Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, this episode was popular enough that it renewed interest in Attack and thus generated demand in a sequel some ten years after the original film had ran. And here we are.
As one expects, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! is a giant red bowl of silliness. No, that’s not right, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a giant red bowl of silliness; Return of the Killer Tomatoes! is a self-aware, meta-bowl of silliness. It begins with a fake version of all those late-night basic-cable shows where they introduce bad movies. The two dudes do their thing and get all excited about a contest their running in which you win a prize if they call you and you know the magic word (which will come back into play during the final act of the film). They then introduce Return of the Killer Tomatoes but accidentally play a film entitled Big Breasted Girls Go to the Beach and Take Their Tops Off (which I think I saw one Saturday night playing on the USA Network). Before they do take their tops off, the “real” movie plays but not before the dudes complain about not getting to see the boobs. Yep, this is that kind of a movie.
It's been ten years since the Great Tomato War and life has once again gotten (more or less) back to normal. Tomatoes have been outlawed (creating some really strange pizza sauces) but peace reigns. Ah, but up in his mansion, the evil Professor Gangrene (John Astin) has enhanced his killer-tomato formula so that he can turn the vegetables (fruit?) into human slaves.
If you will recall in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Gangrene was defeated when our heroes learned that by playing the song “Puberty Love” at loud volumes the killer tomatoes retreated. This time he’s using music (and loads of toxic waste) to turn the plants into a variety of humans. He used seductive music to create Tara (Karen Mistal), an attractive love slave, and is using rock and roll to turn a garden into a battalion of muscle-bound soldiers.
Tara escapes and finds Chad (Anthony Starke) and his goofball roommate Matt (a very young and very mullet-ed George Clooney), who learn of her plant origins, and vow to save her. Later, Tara finds a rogue, rather fluffy tomato with a mind of its own rolling around the streets. She takes it in and the sequel becomes more about saving the (not-so) killer tomatoes rather than destroying them.
About 1/2 of the way through, the “director” breaks the fourth wall noting that budget constraints are keeping them from going on. Someone suggests that what they need is a bit of product placement to help them pay for it and George Clooney spends the rest of the film perfecting his George Clooney mugging for the camera routine while holding various marketing products. Yeah, it's that kind of movie.
Comedy (or a rough facsimile there of) ensues. It's all very classic b-grade, self-aware, early '90s-style comedy. If you are the sort of person who loves this sort of thing (or have fond memories of loving it growing up), then I know you are already on board. If you are wondering if the real thing can live up to those memories, then this Arrow presentation is the perfect place to find out.
They’ve done their usual fine job of putting this set together. The video looks, well I’m not going to say it looks good as there is a pretty regular graininess, gate weave, and a general flatness to the image, but this is about as good as it will ever get. Audio as well is decent. With its limited budget, no one was paying much attention to sound design in the original film and they’ve not done anything to improve it here. Dialogue is always clear and the soundtrack (including some really wonderful parody songs) are strong.
Extras include a fun commentary track with Michael Felcher and director Jon De Bello. It's a lively one and De Bello nicely covers the entire Killer Tomatoes oeuvre (which includes two more films, an animated series and a video game, seriously.) There is a new short interview with Anthony Starke and the usual trailers and images plus a nice booklet with an essay by critic James Oliver.
All in all this is one of Arrow’s weaker releases. The video isn’t up to their usual standards and the extras are a bit slim. Still you are not likely to get a better physical release for a film about killer tomatoes anytime soon.