Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1990)

killer tomatoes strike back

“The power… of really bad television!”

The Scoop: 1990 PG, directed by John De Bello and starring Debi Fares, Rick Rockwell, and John Astin

Tagline: Any way you slice it.

Summary Capsule: Prof. Gangreen attempts to control the media with the power of little red ripe fruits

Justin’s rating: A dream come true! (a slightly icky dream, tho…)

Justin’s review: From The Mutant Gazette (“Proudly Cut-n-Pasting Articles Since 1986”), October 1990:


San Diego, CA — With the memories of the Great Tomato War of 1978 a distant memory for most, and a non-existent one for these new “hip” kids of the 90’s, the threat of homicidal produce seems to be receding in the public consciousness. Perhaps that is why it came as a shock when a bumbling police detective followed a trail of murders and kidnappings, only to find that it led to the world’s most dangerous vegetable.

Although some would technically call it a “fruit”.

Indeed, the killer tomatoes are back in force, after a long truce that saw them conforming to society’s laws and nature’s pecking order. Some say that this new wave of violence is the result of one long-absent Professor Gangreen, your average Mad Scientist-in-a-basement-plotting-world-domination. Previously, Gangreen was held responsible for illegal genetic tampering that turned a tomato into a faux-human being.

Tomato celebrity and man’s best friend, F.T. (“fuzzy tomato”), responded to the new string of tomatoey violence with a nonsensical warble.

As the hours count down toward humanity’s doom and a new era of Red Menace, we can only watch. Watch and pray.

I think my wife recently discovered, for the first time, my ability to produce a really loud, girlish shriek of delight when I learned the news that the final two movies of the Killer Tomato saga were finally released to DVD for my viewing pleasure. Reportedly, my shriek was of such a pitch that two dogs in neighboring apartments went into heat on the spot.

You can hardly blame me for my excitement. After all, it was the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes that began my life-long love of cult cinema, and I hold that film and its sequel dear to my squishy heart. The series as a whole isn’t the best cinema that’s ever been made, a sort of homebrew blend of monster movie satire, slapstick comedy, and absurd genius that requires a very acquired taste for many to appreciate. The first movie was one of my original reviews on the site; it’s a relief to be able to wrap them up now.

While AOTKT was more in the vein of Airplane! and the like, Return of the Killer Tomatoes grabbed on to the ’80s with such fevered passion that George Clooney is still reeling from it today. Both of those films were decidedly more grown-up, which changed as Killer Tomatoes Strike Back and Killer Tomatoes Eat France downshifted into a more innocent kiddy-mode, where some of the edgier humor was replaced with better tomato puppets. This tied in well with the under-appreciated Killer Tomatoes cartoon that ran in the early ’90s.

KTSB sees the return of many famous Killer Tomato stars: Prof. Gangreen (John Astin) as the mad tomato scientist/evil talk show host, Capt. Finletter as the police chief/WWI parachuting nut, and F.T. as… well, F.T.. With the help of his trusty (yet dumb) sidekick Igor and a few thousand loyal tomatoes, Gangreen kidnaps the media and begins to brainwash everyone in sight. Only the efforts of childish cop Lance (Rick Rockwell, who had a couple other roles in ROTKT) and love interest/Tomatologist Kennedi (Crystal Carson) stand in the way of a very strange plot to rule the world.

If you aren’t as familiar with the pre-grunge early ’90s, let this film be your guide to how gaudy the period became. Remember those brightly colored parachute pants made famous by M.C. Hammer? Remember that there was a good three- or four-year period where no good music was released, because the ’80s ended and we’d yet to be introduced to the happy-go-lucky strains of Smashing Pumpkins? Remember when Killer Tomatoes Strike Back went straight to video? Ah, upsetting nostalgia.

These types of movies aren’t guided by a steady hand through the seas of uncertainty; nay, the hand guiding this ship probably suffered from tremors and narcolepsy. KTSB is all over the place, comedy-wise, striking blisteringly funny humor (whoever put a cow’s “moo” on the soundtrack as a crowd of media herded into a lunch tent was a certified genius) and sinking to lame quips that needed to be forgotten by the actors so that they can go on to live somewhat normal lives. So I, too, wavered between really enjoying parts of this movie, albeit as long as I was channeling my inner child, and just wishing that I could go back and watch the first two movies all over again. I miss Tara. She be hot.

At least John Astin doesn’t tone anything down — Gangreen is meant to be enjoyed at full volume — and we have much-improved tomato effects. Godfather Tomato! Ninja Tomatoes! Friday the 13th Tomatoes! Bob the Tomato! Oh, wait. Wrong series. Let’s face it, the world just needs more killer tomatoes in its diet. Here. Have a heaping.

Don't mess with Crazy Eye Johnson!
Don’t mess with Crazy Eye Johnson!


  • The “Jason” tomatoes
  • Does this guy wake up like this EVERY day?
  • The very FAKE bird and police tape galore
  • Flame pants rock!
  • Igor’s back! Finletter! F.T.!
  • Geranahue?
  • I wanna be a Tomatologist when I grow up
  • What an awesome car commercial
  • Yes, we do like watching girls shower, why do you ask?
  • Psycho homage
  • Saying “tome-ah-toe” like that is quite funny. Do it a lot.
  • Mass poisonings at the old folks home can be a hoot, if put in perspective
  • Media like free food
  • How to make meter maids happy
  • Would you really keep an OPEN piranha tank around?
  • Um, your coat’s on top of the car… might not want to drive off there…
  • Little marshmallows > big ones in chocolate
  • Nice positioning of the “tomatoes” on her chest
  • How disturbed the bank teller is
  • The music video homage was a nice touch
  • A tomato bar?
  • The AOTKT theme plays a couple times in various versions
  • Drunk tomatoes
  • Tomato Godfather
  • Cool CBS hotel room
  • The dead goalie from Scene 1
  • Ninja tomatoes
  • East Lansing got DISSED
  • I’d watch a chimp read the news…
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Absolutely — there’s a “post-movie show” that is actually a hoot.

Groovy Quotes

Gangreen: The power… of really bad television!

Detective Lance Boyle: [Seeing the first murder victim, a guy dressed in full hockey outfit:] Boy, hockey is a tough sport!

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