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THE VEGETABLES OF DOOM!

The killer tomatoes are back! But this time around, they’re going to have to contend with late ’80s George Clooney and his wicked mullet… Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Nope, it’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes!

Ten years on from the Great Tomato War, mankind lives in fear of another uprising by the waxy red menace. Meanwhile, Professor Gangreen – played with gusto by the great John Astin from TV’s The Addams Family – sets out to pursue his own evil ends by creating a burgeoning army of tomato militia men (who, somewhat conveniently, look just like regular men).

Following on from the 1978 cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Return of the Killer Tomatoes came armed with a healthy sense of its own ridiculousness and would expand upon a franchise that now comprises four films, two TV series and a video game. So what are you waiting for? Make Return of the Killer Tomatoes one of your five-a-day now!
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

Video


Arrow’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes release arrives with a 1.85:1 framed AVC encoded transfer. According to the information contained in the accompanying booklet, the image was sourced from a 2K scan of a 35mm interpositive. The results are pretty impressive given the film’s pedigree, offering up a nicely detailed image that retains plenty of grain (even if it is a bit clumpy at times). The palette is natural if slightly muted, and while the darker scenes preserve adequate shadow detail for the most part they do occasionally look a little murky. As is to be expected for a film of this budget and vintage, there are one or two issues. Stability (wobble) is problematic during a number of scenes and as clean as the image generally is, film artefacts do rear their ugly heads at times. The encoding isn’t quite up to the label’s best offerings either, but it looks better in motion than in the stills on this page. Even so, I never expected to see a film like this on Blu-ray let alone in anything resembling this sort of quality, so the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Audio


A solitary LPCM 2.0 Mono track is included; one that does the basics well enough, but is unlikely to live long in the memory. Dialogue is always intelligible, sound effects are reasonably well-represented (although understandably anaemic), and music comes through loud and clear. Beyond that there’s not much to say. It’s an unremarkable soundtrack, but that’s no fault of the Blu-ray presentation.

Extras


A small but interesting selection of bonus material is included with this release, as detailed below. The commentary and interview are the highlights, but I’d have loved there to have been some input from a few of the other stars (particularly Karen Waldron). Still, you can’t have everything, and I imagine Mr. Clooney distances himself from this one these days...

  • Brand new audio commentary with writer-director John De Bello
  • Brand new interview with star Anthony Starke
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
  • Fully-illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver

Overall


Although I saw both on VHS when I was younger, I don’t remember much about the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes at all. I have far more vivid memories of the sequel, which I must have seen half a dozen times as a kid and enjoyed a great deal. Revisiting it again all of these years later it actually holds up fairly well, with its mix of satire, slapstick, pop culture awareness, and fourth-wall breaking asides sharing much in common with a lot of very successful films that have come since. Not that I’m suggesting Return of the Killer Tomatoes pioneered these things, but it certainly deserves credit for being more than just a stupid film about murderous fruit.

Although no one was ever going to win an award for their performance, the acting here is actually half decent, at least from the principal cast. Both Anthony Starke and George Clooney put in decent turns as the earnest Chad and his suave roommate Matt, while the wonderful John Astin hams it up big time as the villainous Gangreen. Another big selling point for the teenage me – okay, and the adult me - was the presence of Karen Waldrom’s (credited here as Karen Mistal) Tara Boumdeay, the easy-on-the-eye fresh produce/love interest with a penchant for fertiliser. The effects, while ropey as hell, are also tonally in keeping with the absurdity of the premise, with some particularly amusing use of ‘matte paintings’ for establishing shots sticking in the memory.

Technically the Blu-ray release of the film is what you’d expect from Arrow. Although not an in-house transfer the audio-visual quality will be a revelation to those who grew up watching the film on VHS, and whilst the extras aren’t as plentiful as some of its releases the label has still assembled some new and interesting content. It’s definitely a worthy purchase if you’re a long-time fan, or indeed if you enjoy films like Hot Shots, Airplane!, Wayne’s World and even more recent efforts such as Anchor Man.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the true quality of the source.

 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes
 Return of the Killer Tomatoes


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