audience members under the age of forty will not recall motion picture
theatrical exhibition in the 1970s. It was a most interesting time when
drive-ins and even first-run movie theaters would pair up an older feature
film, generally one that was one to two years-old, with the main feature on a
double-bill. A handful of theaters in my area used to engage in midnight showings
of older films, too. One theater exclusively ran The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for years while another
alternated between Stanley Kubrick's 2001:
A Space Odyssey (1968), Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards
(1971), Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains
the Same (1976), David Lynch's art-house favorite Eraserhead (1977) and Alan Parker's Pink Floyd The Wall (1982). Other showcases included uncensored
bloopers featuring Carol Burnett, the Three Stooges, and Abbott and Costello.
October 1978, Attack of the Killer
Tomatoes was unleashed upon the moviegoing public (filming had begun in
early 1977). The film is an effort to poke fun at the Japanese disaster and monster
invasion films of the 1950’s and 1960’s, movies that, according to director
John DeBello, were mostly unfamiliar to the moviegoing public. Billing itself
as a comedy, to today's eyes, it's really anything but that. Despite a few
laugh out-loud sequences the film, which runs nearly 90minutes, feels nearly twice that length. There are many films that came
out during this era that are disjointed and suffer from ineffective editing like
Attack. Black Socks (aka Video Vixens)
(1974) was an effort to introduce hardcore sex into a comedy and failed
miserably. The Groove Tube (1974) and
Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) are two
other inane attempts at hilarity. However, there are some truly funny films in
this vein, as 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie
and Airplane! in 1980, can attest to.
In Attack, there is a humorous scene
wherein military officials all cram into a small room for an impromptu meeting
to discuss the best course of action against the tomato attack; a sequence
involving a blind traffic cop; a badly dubbed Japanese official; and the
requisite Jaws parody – bested by the
Attack recalls the similar premise of George
A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead
(1968) wherein dead bodies inexplicably are reanimated and begin feeding on
human flesh. The one major difference here is that the unsuspecting American
public is under attack by giant, killer tomatoes. The plot is almost too
convoluted to be believed for a send-up, but the basic premise involves the
government attempting to keep the seriousness of the tomato attacks under wraps
so as not to give way to mass hysteria and have to call in the military.
makes people laugh today is apparently different from what made people laugh forty
years ago. However, there are certain comedies that are timeless. No matter how
old I get, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges never
fail to make me laugh. There aren't too many films made in the last thirty to
forty years I can claim are able to do that. Even It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), with its television viewings
and innumerable home video releases, is still to this day laugh out-loud
hilarious. The interaction between all the characters is truly astonishing.
There is no such chemistry between anybody in Attack. I’ll admit it’s unfair to compare Stanley Kramer’s epic
comedy filled to the brim with comic geniuses who honed their talents for years
with a film put together by a group of movie fans who wanted to make a film. To
be fair, Attack probably was designed
to play at drive-ins where people had other things on their mind besides a
movie. And who can blame them? If you had to watch this film, you would do
better off filing your nails.
won't hold it against you if you're a fan of this film as I have my share of
guilty pleasures, and if you are a
fan then this DVD/Blu-ray is an absolute must-have. The restored, 4K transfer
is very colorful and the film has never looked batter. The 2003 DVD release had
several extras that have been ported over to this new release, and I will also
list the extras that for some reason fell by the wayside. I would love to see
half the number of extras lavished upon this film bestowed upon some of my
favorite and lesser-known films that I grew up watching. For a film of this
kind, the new DVD/Blu-ray combo set from MVD is jam-packed. It would have been nice if
they included a hilarious cut of the film itself!
Both the DVD and the Blu-ray have the following:
Audio commentary from writer/director John DeBello, writer/co-star Steve Peace and Costa Dillon. They reminisce and crack jokes about the making of the film and it’s worth listening to as often it’s more amusing than the film itself.
Legacy of a Legend runs about fourteen minutes and is a series of comments from John DeBello, Costa Dillon, film critic Kevin Thomas, fans Kevin Sharp and Bruce Vilanch, John Astin, Steve Peace, Jack Riley, and D.J. Sullivan. Director DeBello reveals the film’s title being thought of first, followed by the premise and then the script and the film.
Crash and Burn runs nearly four minutes and discusses the helicopter crash that occurs in the film. It turns out it was real and happened late in filming in July 1978. It was used in the film itself only because one of the camera operators had the presence of mind to keep his camera running! Very scary stuff and proof that moviemaking isn’t all fun and games. It calls to mind the Twilight Zone helicopter disaster which occurred in July 1982.
Super Duper 8 Prequels - Do They Accept Traveler's Checks in Babusuland?, the original 1971 8mm short that inspired the feature film. The liner notes say that you can play this film back “with optional audio commentary” and if you can, you’re smarter than Yours Truly because I couldn’t.
Famous Fowl runs two and-a-half minutes and is a talk with the San Diego Chicken and the tomato stomping ending.
Deleted Scenes – thankfully, these scenes ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor.
Killer Tomatomania runs four and-a-half minutes and is a “Hi, mom!” moment with random fans on the Hollywood streets discussing the movie.
Where Are They Now? runs nearly three minutes and fills the viewers in on what the cast and crew have been doing since the film was released.
We Told You So! runs three minutes and is a tongue-in-cheek look at the conspiracy of silence regarding the killer tomatoes.
Sing-Alongs (Sidewalk Sing-Along, Main Theme, The Mindmaker Song, Tomato Stomp, Puberty Love, Love Theme) – I personally never understood the purpose of this type of extra which is usually found on Disney reissues, but that’s just me.
Slated for Success is an interesting piece that runs two minutes and features Beth Reno, the woman who clacked the slate at the start of every shot. I wish that this extra was longer.
There is also a very cool and colorful fold-out poster.
Apparently, the following extras are not included from the 25th Anniversary DVD release:
Killer Stuff photo gallery
Production Design photo gallery (this is listed on that hard-to-read back cover but appears to be missing)
Easter eggs which featured Lloyd Kaufman and the San Diego chicken.
My two major complaints: The theme song that plays over the main menu is produced at an unusually high volume, much higher than the extras. Also, the liner notes on the packing are small lettering in yellow against an orange background and are difficult to read.