In 1978, John De Bello made a motion picture titled ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, a film which depicted a vicious assault upon human beings by a bunch of the seedy vegetables… I mean fruit.
In the winter of 2017, I have developed a theory so brilliant yet incredibly ludicrous that it will cure all of your confusion. Well, not all of your confusion. It won’t explain why you’re growing hair in strange places and losing it in others. Or why your grandmother glares at you when you put your elbows on the table. Or why you might enjoy a movie that has a measly 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. But it will explain why these funky little tomatoes attacked an entire nation and how they were able to communicate, and move, and how they ended up in the water, and how they were able to destroy a helicopter.
No one will be laughing now. “You can’t ignore the press!”
You might believe that the tomato war was initiated on American soil. However, the problem with these juicy enemies arose overseas in the faraway town of Buñol in the province of Valencia, Spain. The quaint yet scenic town is bordered by the Buñol River and has a breath-taking view of mountain ranges that you may not be able to pronounce. Buñol’s economy almost entirely relies on farming and industrialization. Population: 9,000… except during La Tomatina.
Ah, La Tomatina. Spain’s annual tomato throwing festival. Yes, this is a real tradition that has been happening for over 70 years in which approximately 40,000 people flock to Buñol from all over the world to take their life’s disappointments out on complete strangers. And tomatoes. Of course, you can’t just throw the tomatoes. That would be rude. To reduce the pain inflicted on others, you must first squash the tomatoes before throwing them. Not to worry, tomatoes don’t have feelings.
Originally, the festival was organized by the people for the people. For decades, the tomatoes were bought locally. But in 1975, a community group called Los Clavarios de San Luis Bertrán. took over the event and it has not been the same since.
Every year, more and more people were attending this annual food fight and Los Clavarios were struck by vanity and greed. The troop began importing truckloads of tomatoes from Extremadura, Spain in an attempt to keep up with the massive turnouts each year. By 1978, Los Clavarios demanded that the farmers in Extremadura produce more tomatoes, larger tomatoes. Desperate to appease Los Clavarios but annoyed by their persistence, the farmers concocted a chemical which they drunkenly called La Muerte Roja (“The Red Death”) in order to rapidly produce more of these edible weapons of mass destruction. The secret ingredient: their finest imported bottle of Miller Lite.
Los Clavarios wanted a tomato fight that the people of Spain would never forget and they got their wish. The tomatoes grew in hordes, some growing to be the size of beach balls. They were hideous, and red, and their juice had a subtle aftertaste of carbonated urine. But those weren’t the only results to come from the intoxicated farmers’ La Muerte Roja.
In addition to the expected effects, the tomatoes also developed the power of mobility. They could roll and bounce across the soil like rubber tires. Then came the ability to fly… or at least self-launch through the air until gravity took over. Worst of all, they were now able to talk amongst each other in an unidentifiable muffled, gibberish. They were able to conspire.
They heard the farmers jesting about the annual slaughter of their brothers and sisters, and they knew their unfortunate fate was near. But unbeknownst to the farmers, Los Clavarios, and the festival goers, these tomatoes had had enough. This year, they would revolt. This time, they would fight back. With 40,000 people and 120,000 tomatoes, the people would not stand a refrigerated chance in tomato Hell.
As the tomato trucks approached the town center in Buñol on August 30, 1978, the people began to cheer and raise their fists to their air, unaware of the red mutated beasts waiting inside. The backs of the vehicles were opened and tomatoes were unloaded crate by crate. The leader of Los Clavarios himself fired the first gunshot, signifying that the fight was officially in effect.
Locals and tourists alike began picking up as many tomatoes as they could carry when they heard garbled sounds coming from the shiny red fruit (they are fruit, right?). The tomatoes began hurling themselves at festival participants, squirting them with their disgusting juices. They rolled after townspeople, the larger tomatoes laying them out flat on the streets and the smaller ones spitting seeds like tiny pellets. Buñol was soon reduced to a tomato-based bloodbath. The sole survivor, the leader of Los Clavarios, who stood in the town’s center, clutching his gun, and repeatedly muttering “Todo lo que queríamos era un tomate más grande y saludable” (“All we wanted was a bigger, healthier tomato.”).
Rolling and bouncing through the streets to ensure that the war had been won, an obnoxious commercial was overheard on a television inside a nearly demolished bar.
“Pass the ketchup! Grab a bloody Mary! Come on down to the first annual tomato festival in the U-S-of-A! Buy your tickets now while they’re on sale! Sale! Sale! Brought to you by MindMaker.”
The tomato massacre was worse than the tomatoes had imagined. It was spreading and it had to be stopped. Furious and eager to take immediate action, the tomatoes rolled out of Spain in single file lines to the Buñol River where they floated downstream all the way to the Atlantic, riding the current to the United States. Nothing would keep them from ending any human being who so much as slapped a slippery tomato slice on a BLT. That is, nothing except their newly discovered heightened sensitivity to sound and the abomination of American popular music.
*All Photos: iStock, Header Photo: ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! (1978)