Return of the Murdering Vegetables

There are no killer tomatoes in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Technically, that’s the joke.

Unable to repeat the rudimentary ’50s sci-fi spoof of its predecessor, Return kitchen sinks itself. Cowboys fight ninjas, Rambo knock-offs guard a secret lab, there are allusions to the war on drugs, parodies of E.T., and manic cartoon logic. Oddly, it’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes which first noted the booming business possibilities of product placement years before audiences caught on. Always expect your monster tomato movies to go beyond.

The intervening decade between original and sequel allows for a bit of cinematic maturity. A bit brighter and more coherent, Return would signal a minor bump in tomato mania. From this low-fi movie sequel came merchandising, a video game, and a cartoon series. The ’90s were weird – this was the period where Troma’s trashy Toxic Avenger regressed in the same way. You know, for kids. Luckily there’s a playful streak running through Killer Tomatoes. A cartoon wasn’t a stretch.

Six years before his breakout stint on ER, Clooney landed a role in a Killer Tomatoes sequel…

A bit manic and irredeemably goofy, the Killer Tomatoes series either hits or it doesn’t. There are genuine gags and honest fails in Return, led by an enthusiastic Chad Finletter (Anthony Starke) and his compatriot – George Clooney. Six years before his breakout stint on ER, Clooney landed a role in a Killer Tomatoes sequel, playing a crude womanizer who despises red vegetables.

For the sake of budget – and acknowledging so – the tomatoes are people this time. Artlessly recalling Universal’s iconic lab movies of the ’30s, Return enacts the vials & beaker set design cliché. John Astin has a blast pouring liquids as Professor Gangreen, trying to take over the world with his veggies-turned-people. So, a ’50s era Body Snatchers motif too. The series couldn’t let go of everything it started.

Return lumbers and bounces between scenes, sometimes successfully, often not. The warped sense of comedy certainly builds a distinctive style – neither spoof nor satire, or at least not both at the same time. A touch idiosyncratic, writer/director John De Bello didn’t make his Killer Tomatoes flicks like anything else. Good or bad, it’s why they’ve subsisted in pop culture. Return dabbles in everything trying to find something, and if by pure will or accident, managed to hook some laughs and a small time ’90s phenomenon.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes Blu-ray screen shot 12


Arrow’s Blu-ray comes with expected concessions given the thin budget. Still, this is not one of their better outings. An older master, possibly telecine, struts across the screen with a flat, listless image quality. Simple contrast and even weaker color saturation (except for the fuzzy tomato) lessen the appeal. Thankfully, the presentation remains free of processing.

If not telecine, than maybe a release print. Damage to the source stays minor, while gate weave has excessive moments. A few scenes wobble uncontrollably.

Arrow being Arrow though, grain stays intact while a hearty encode preserves the film stock transparently. The few spikes cause limited problems for this disc. Underneath sits fine detail, resolving some unexpected facial detail considering images appear wanting for resolution. Without the modern transfer methods behind it, Return of the Killer Tomatoes does fairly.


The awesome theme song (adapted to fit the cartoon series) and other parody pop songs carry the bulk of this PCM mono track. Like the video, everything hinges on age and budget. Both are going against this mix, if to limited depreciation.

Problems are few, if any really considering the source. Dialog occurs without post-production clean-up so expect lessened fidelity as opposed to better budgeted outings. What little action there is stays stable amidst the chaos. Adequate.


Jon De Bello joins a commentary track hosted by Micheal Felcher, remaining lively as De Bello covers the entire spectrum of Killer Tomatoes. Arrow produces Hangin’ with Chad, a 17-minute interview with star Anthony Starke. Afterward, trailer and still galleries fill out the disc.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Cheesy and stupid, Return of the Killer Tomatoes would have it no other way. George Clooney’s early role is a hoot in this spoof/send-up/satire.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.

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