Return of the Killer Tomatoes

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Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn De Bello
Produced byStephen Peace
Written by
Music by
  • Neal Fox
  • Rick Patterson
CinematographyStephen Kent Welch
Edited byJohn De Bello
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • April 22, 1988 (1988-04-22)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5 million[1]

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! is a 1988 American comedy horror film directed by John De Bello. The first sequel to the 1978 film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,[2] the film stars Anthony Starke, Karen Mistal, and John Astin, as well as George Clooney in an early role. The film has developed a cult following.[3]


Set ten years after the events of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (referred to as the "Great Tomato War"), the United States is once again safe, and tomatoes have been outlawed (although authorities still deal with "tomato smugglers" who sell to people who cannot live without ordinary tomatoes). Wilbur Finletter (Steve Peace) has been praised as a hero of the Great Tomato War and parlayed his fame into opening Finletter's Pizzeria, which serves tomato-less pizzas. Working for Wilbur is his nephew Chad Finletter (Anthony Starke) who is a delivery boy. Also with Chad is his roommate Matt Stevens (George Clooney), a suave ladies' man.

However, trouble returns with a misanthropic villain, Professor Mortimer Gangreen (played by John Astin) and his assistant Igor (Steve Lundquist) seek to unleash another wave of tomato terror. Professor Gangreen was perplexed at being defeated by "Puberty Love", the worst song ever created, and says that this time music will aid, rather than hinder him. Gangreen has created a tomato transformation chamber by which he can turn ordinary tomatoes into replicas of men and women. By dipping ordinary tomatoes into vats of toxic waste and then placing them into the chamber, Gangreen uses music to his advantage, as the juke box that is hooked up to the chamber syncs up with the tomato transformation chamber, allowing him to create virtually anything by the use of whatever song he has picked (Michael Jackson music seems to make tomatoes into a clone of Jackson, the Miami Vice theme seems to make replicas of Don Johnson and seductive music apparently turns tomatoes into beautiful women). Gangreen's preferred music is rock, which creates soldiers. With his tomato commandos, Professor Gangreen seeks to attack the nearby prison where he will break out his imprisoned ally Jim Richardson (Rick Rockwell), then take over the United States under the subjugation of his killer tomatoes and installing Richardson as President of the United States. Gangreen has also used his device to create an attractive female replica named Tara (Karen Mistal), who serves Gangreen (As she straightforwardly informs a visitor: "I'm his lover. I also cook and clean.") until she realizes his abusive attitude towards a wrongly mutated tomato whom she dubs FT, or Fuzzy Tomato. Tara defects to Finletter's Pizza where she starts dating Chad.

The quirky plot line partially breaks the "fourth wall" as the characters relate to the audience that the production has run out of money. Matt suggests "product placement" – at that time an emerging practice in film and television – as a solution for the financial problems. From that point forward, the film's characters comically showcase and promote various products as the film's plot line continues.[4]


Future US congressman Gary Condit also had an uncredited and unspoken role in the film. Rick Rockwell, who played Jim Richardson, later would appear on the TV show Who Wants to Marry a Multi-millionaire?.


The art for the poster, shown above, was created by then illustrator now portrait painter, David R. Darrow, now living in San Jose, CA. The original design as assigned by designer Kevin Eaton and completed by Darrow, used the design of a Campbell's Soup can, using the face of actor John Astin in the center seal. The idea was sidelined over copyright / branding concerns, and a "patch" was created to alter the work. High-end digital compositing was too expensive at the time, so Darrow was further commissioned to create the new replacement label which was physically glued over the original illustration, preserving the original background and tomato characters. Darrow still retains the original, 2-layer artwork.


As the film was not intended to be taken seriously, few serious critics reviewed it. According to aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the few that did review it panned the film. Rotten Tomatoes indicated that audiences had mixed reactions.[5] According to IMDb it grossed $5 million in U.S. sales.[6]


  1. ^ "Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)". IMDb. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Return Of The Killer Tomatoes". TV Guide. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  3. ^ Aldwinckle, Nick (August 10, 2016). "The Bottom Shelf: Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, He Never Died". Den of Geek. Retrieved 6 June 2018. In this shabby, silly cult classic to help ease our current tomato-uous (tumultuous) situation.
  4. ^ Loughrey, Clarisse (23 February 2016). "The most hilarious product placements in cinema". UK Independent.
  5. ^ "Return of the Killer Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved Sep 2, 2018.
  6. ^ "Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)". IMDb. Retrieved Sep 2, 2018.

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