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We have such a splendid episode for you. Forget the stale 10 episodes a season – we decided to totally blow things out of the soup can and just toss in special episode. NOT ONLY is it a special episode – but it contains inside, a real live JEFF STRAND! That’s right – we successfully enticed Jeff to be on the podcast (we can neither confirm nor deny the use of any kidnapping or Big Mac bribery). Why you may ask? Because Jeff wrote the novelization for Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! This movie has been screaming for a novelization, and it only took Jeff 45 years to get it done.
Jeff has done a wonderful job of turning the wacky humor of the movie into a wacky novelization. Like, literally, laugh out loud laughter. He may even have more impressive alliteration. But he does have a musical number – totally in words! The man’s a genius!
Rhys and Stephen enjoy some time finding out about what it takes to write a novelization – and we even talk with Jeff some. Find out some of what we think are the reasons this movie has stayed a cult classic – and then google it anyway.
And we had to get the theme song in
If that doesn’t make you want to run out and smash a copy of … I mean, watch this movie, then nothing will
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Streaming – https://amzn.to/3O1gsje
Rhys: Finish the special yes. Crossover.
Stephen: Big crossover with a guest speaker, everything. And I keep wanting to say attack of the rotten Tomatoes. I’m like, but no. That’s movie review scores, not the movie. Yeah, it’s true.
Rhys: Or what They were actually throwing on windshields when they were filming
So it’s an in, it’s a different episode. We’re doing it as a bonus. And so this is like the first half we’re gonna do our normal type of stuff, but the second half. Where we talk about the movie has Jeff Strand on who did the novelization of the movie. So it’s a bit of talk about behind the scenes stuff and with the book, it’s a little different than our normal type of thing.
Watch. Everyone’s gonna love that. And we’re gonna go, oh, huh. Okay.
Rhys: Yeah, we should have been doing this all along with
Stephen: all the actually jokingly, I was gonna say with all the horror novelizations, but we’ve done a whole lot of movies based on books.
Rhys: And I’ve really found a lot of the, and I don’t know how true it is, but a lot of the small movie directors that we do, the Indi Independent guys, a lot of times they’re like, oh no, call me up.
You can talk to me anytime. Now. A lot of that,
Rhys: some of the ones that we’ve done though we’re about to do a movie with Ben Wheatley. When he made the movie, we’re talking about, he was no one, and now he’s pretty established. I don’t know that he’s actually gonna want to talk to us,
Stephen: We could talk to the guy that did martyr.
He’s I was sitting in my chair with my bunny slippers on and it just came to me. Yeah.
Rhys: Yeah, that might be actually a little more terrifying than the movie itself. Trying to figure out how they came up with the idea.
Stephen: He’d probably be one of those like, And I’m just totally stereotype off the cuff, but he is like probably really quiet and stuff and it’s the horror, it’s the cop movie stereotype of the killer or something.
Rhys: It’s one of those things like I illustrated entire children’s book watching nothing but horror movies back to back while I painted.
Stephen: I know people that write romance novels listening to heavy metal.
Rhys: Hey, there’s always a good time
Stephen: to listen to heavy metal. Yeah.
Especially if you have to go through a romance. All right, so T, the Rotten killer whore lasagna, tomatoes. There you go. That’s what makes the lasagna horror. It’s the rotten tomatoes, then it’s,
Rhys: yes, the tomatoes will kill you.
Stephen: All right. So what do we got on this movie? Because this one’s fairly known and popular just because of the cult following and it shows up quite often
Rhys: it seems.
I think actually if you spoke to 99% of the people, they’ll say they have heard of it, and 96% of the people have never seen it Exactly. It’s a trope, like the toxic avenger. Yes. People have heard of it. No one’s
Stephen: ever actually watched it. We saw that when it came out on video, man.
Rhys: Yes, we did.
It might surprise you that this was a US film from 1978. This was an American film. It was really the branch, how of four different guys Costa Dillon or three guys. Costa Dillon was the one who came up with the concept and he wrote it along with a gentleman named Steven Peace and another guy named John Dello.
And in fact, the three of them super invested. In the whole franchise. And if you look at things that they’ve done after this, if it’s not Killer Tomatoes, they haven’t done it because this is their niche. This is what they’ve done.
Stephen: And surprisingly it had a sequel and a cartoon, and now a novelization, it’s just took a couple decades.
Oh, it had two sequels. Oh, two sequels. I only knew there was one. Okay, I’m behind.
Rhys: So the concept. Came when they were watching a movie together and it’s one of those innate sub-level kind of racism things that happens because they were watching Japanese B films. Okay. All right.
B rated Japanese movies and the one that they actually show on screen is called Mat Tango from 1963. It’s also known as Attack of the Mushroom People. And it’s very cheaply made. The graphics aren’t great. The plot is, can seem to be wavering in this film. And they were sitting around and it’s not I won’t say I haven’t done, I did this with comic books.
They were sitting around going, we could do this. This is something we could do. And so they did. Now. Now the part that I think is subtly racist about it is that here is this western culture trio sitting around watching an East Asian film pulled out of its environment and saying this is garbage.
We could do this. Maybe you couldn’t. But would your sell as well in Japan as this one did? Because that was the market they were aiming for, not you. Really,
Stephen: that’s interesting. But to be fair, there’s plenty of people that have. Looked at other American creatives and said hell, I can do that.
Yep. Like the banana taped to the wall, yeah.
Rhys: I’m not saying, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m saying it’s I’m just recognizing that it exists. Yeah. There is this kind of undercurrent of, and it doesn’t really matter where you’re at, but if you’re looking at something that’s outside of your culture clash we’ve done that.
You could, you you could actually insultingly just assume that this is something you could just go ahead and do on your own and you’d be just fine.
Stephen: That true. I could definitely see that, but I could also see some of these countries we’ve watched movies from that are just now starting to get better, and really dive into the cinema, looking at American films and going, yeah, I could do that.
Rhys: yeah, no, and I’m guilty of the same bias myself. I’ll sit there and watch a Bollywood movie and I can’t stand it when they start in on their fourth musical number. But I know people who like eat that up with a spoon and they’re like, this is great. And I’m like, what are you talking about?
Stephen: We mentioned romance, you know there’s people that read three, four romance books per week and these writers, yeah, they have. Who was that? Philip Dick or whoever used to have the wheel. For the pulp fiction, he’d turn the wheel and it would tell him, okay, this character in this setting with this mystery, and it’s gonna solve like this.
Boom, he had a story. He’d sit down, set it up, turn it in, turn the wheel right, the next story. It was, very templated in that way.
Rhys: And look at the popularity of hallmark Christmas movies. Yep. It’s the exact same thing. They’re the same kind of movie, just over and over
Yeah. Yeah. After my father passed, I sold all my Hallmark stock, cuz I knew it was go down after that.
Rhys: And the funny thing there too is I can sit there and talk about how I find those movies to be trash. That being said, my daughter loves them because every year for Christmas, she would go and spend the day with my mother-in-law and they would be getting ready for Christmas, and on the TV in the background would just be these movies, so it actually meant something to her.
Even though. But
Stephen: Same thing with us. Maybe we would like the cheesy bee rated horror movies, cuz we would every year watch three or four of ’em, go down to the store, get a couple watch, so same thing. Yeah. I get that Westerns are like that.
Walker is like that with Colin, yeah.
Rhys: They managed to make this movie on a budget just under a hundred thousand dollars and it’s an 83 minute film. The perfect. Yeah, the financing came mostly from their own family members.
Stephen: Oh. So they went, if everybody gives us $600, yeah. Yes.
Rhys: Forget. We’re back to the battery finance model.
Debela wrote the famous theme song, which is probably more people can probably hum the theme song. Then it can actually say they’ve seen the movie. Because it is literally a attack. Are the killer tomatoes and on
Stephen: mash. Yeah. And I think Jeff might have actually had an extra stanza in the book with the lyrics cuz I was looking at the lyrics when I was, had the movie playing.
I’m like, Hey, there’s more here than I heard.
Rhys: Yeah. The, that theme music was based off of the early Japanese Guzik films, and the music for those were almost all composed by a gay guy named Akira Ifu Kube. He was the original composer who did all of those kind of don very dramatic sounding, almost militaristic sound to it.
And you can still hear like the, you can still hear echoes of that. In modern. Movie scoring
Stephen: too. Yeah I definitely agree with that. And then they also had the ones with the child choir, angel singing ones when he’d come outta the water and stuff, yeah.
Rhys: I really would have a hard time, I don’t know that you would have the Imperial March from Star Wars without the existence of Akira II’s music in the sixties.
Stephen: It definitely like we’ve said many times before, Sometimes that music really helps set the mood and makes it that, it adds that emotional a bit to it.
Rhys: Yeah. The vast majority of the rest of the music, and it’s so funny cuz we’ll be sitting here talking about movies and be like, oh yeah, the soundtrack.
And I’m like, oh, I don’t even, I didn’t even look up who wrote it. This one I did. The vast majority of the rest of the music in the film was composed by a guy named Gordon Goodwin and Paul sunk, and between the two of them, they did all the rest of the soundtrack that you actually hear
Stephen: in the film.
Nice. And it’s, silly, goofy, a lot of the, like the one the guy breaks into a musical in the middle of the thing with the sales pitch for the stuff he’s selling. And Jeff actually put that into the book and expanded it and it’s really well done. Yeah.
Rhys: There’s a whole bunch, I’m not gonna say from any specific movie, but there are a whole bunch.
If you look at the. Killer Tomatoes franchise. There are a lot of famous people who moved through there. And there’s not a ton of them in any one specific movie, but like the second attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Starge, George Clooney
Rhys: I, and it’s like one of his first movies. So that’s funny.
And this one’s not it’s not foreign into this film either, because the anti tomato song. Puberty Love, which makes the tomatoes explode, was sung by this teenager named Matt Cameron. And Matt Cameron went on to become the drummer for Sound Garden. Oh geez. And eventually Pearl Jam when in Pearl Jam in the late nineties.
He went on to become a pretty successful musician.
Stephen: You know that? Yeah. That’s a great way to start your career. Not necessarily known for his voice. John Bonjovi sang on the infamous Star Wars Christmas album.
Rhys: Wow. Yeah. Just as a chorus part or,
Stephen: yeah. Background. Yeah. I think it was a what do you get a wooki for Christmas if he already has a comb?
I think it was that one. Oh, all right. Anil song.
Rhys: The movie opens with one of the best. Or arguably one of the worst stunts of all time because they had a part that was supposed to happen later in the film where a Hillary 12 E helicopter comes down and touches down and then takes off. It was supposed to be dropping off troops, but when the pilot did it, the tail rotor hit the ground.
Which caused it to spin outta control roll on its side and catch fire. Right now the pilots successfully got away with, bumps and scratches and stuff, but they put it at the front of the movie because it’s probably the most expensive stunt they did. And yeah, the actual helicopter crash in the start of the film was an actual helicopter crash.
Stephen: Yeah. And that’s in the movie it’s even more funny because it’s obvious when you look at that, the burning pile of wreckage is not, there’s no helicopter there that, it’s one of those, they used it effectively. I’ll give them so much credit for that,
Rhys: if you look through this trio’s production, they really made the most with their money.
It’s amazing as we go on. So yeah, we hired this helicopter, no fault of our own. The pilot crashed it. Hey, we’ve got an amazing opening to our film. Yeah. Because the cameras happen to be rolling. I am glad that we’re not going to go in depth in the plot here, because the pace of this film is frenetic.
Yeah. It just is bang. I liken it to a and I didn’t, I might have likened it to a mad magazine, but it’s more like a cracked magazine where it’s here was Mad Magazine and then underneath that was cracked. It wasn’t quite the same level.
But if you were to try and sit there and talk about each scene lasts maybe three to five minutes, and they change constantly so that within the first. 20, 30 minutes. You’re not even exactly sure who the antagonist who the protagonist of the film is. They
Stephen: never they never, you never see Godzilla come out of the water.
It is like you start in the middle of it with Godzilla stomping on buildings in town and that’s how the movie starts essentially. Yeah. And every scene, and I thought about this cuz we mentioned it a bit, instead of every scene having a little transition part where you see people walking or opening a door or something, they’re like always immediately.
In the middle of a sentence sitting down or something like that. Yep. They’re in the middle of every single scene is in the media ray in some way, and it just moves and it’s done and over and you don’t get much chance to digest what is going on, who is what. It’s just suddenly tomatoes are attacking.
Rhys: Yeah. And you’re probably 30 to 45 minutes in before you’re like, okay. There’s the guy who always has a parachute on. He seems to be in a lot of scenes. There’s the beleaguered government agent who’s been giving a giant pile of crap and he’s supposed to make it work. Okay? So he’s seems to be in it pretty frequently.
Oh, and then here’s the newspaper reporter after an hour, right? Who starts showing up on a regular basis.
Stephen: Yeah, I can’t. I asked Jeff about afterwards, Hey, you got any tips for doing this type of writing? Taking, he says, don’t ask me. He’s no one probably has ever written a novel based on a movie like this.
He is just I was given free reign. I. Went at it and he’s I don’t really even know how I did it half the time. And
Rhys: literally all credit to Jeff Strand. I don’t know that they could’ve picked a better author to do it. Yeah, I agree. Because it really seems like what, right up his alley.
Stephen: Yeah. I agree. And I told him, I said, this book had me laughing. More than even some of the other ones that I think are hilarious. And that’s what I love him for. He does have some serious horror also and he does have some ya fiction and stuff, but it’s his comedy horror that is his top.
Yeah. What I really love about him.
Rhys: Yeah. Everything has teeth. That anthology book of his that I read, it really did kinda seem to mix it up. And I don’t want to say that there was anything too serious in there, but the level of humor. Very drastically as you would go through. So you would have some that were like actually vaguely disturbing with kind of the loved ones.
Where it feels humorous and you’re, but you’re like, eh, don’t know that I should be laughing at this kind of thing. Yeah. Stephen, peace. Decided when he looked at it all, he’s you know what, if I take a leading role and I play it myself, we’ll save tons of money. So he is the guy who’s the parachute guy.
Okay. And he decided to play that all by himself. Other than him, the film has three other actors who did go on to actually. Have further film career. Any tomatoes besides any tomatoes. Because, a lot of the tomatoes were harmed in the filming of this movie and it kinda soured them to the industry.
They’re like, I’m not going
Stephen: back. Yeah. That’s why they had to get the the people for the Ewoks. I couldn’t use the tomatoes anymore. That’s right.
Rhys: Eric Christmas was in it. He is a British actor in the movie he plays one of the, he’s plays the senator who runs the senate subcommittee meetings when they’re not sitting there asleep or drooling on themselves.
The world lost Eric Christmas, around 2000. He passed away. He had been involved in 134 projects, the first five of which were released in 1939. Wow. They were television programs for in Great Britain. So it’s nothing that you and I are gonna know. But if you look at television, he had been in tons of television shows, just little spot things like Bonanza Colombo, Kojack, cheers, night Court, exfil Seinfeld.
Nice. He had a long run as a priest on Days of Our Lives.
Rhys: But if you look at the films he was in, he had bit Parts in the Andromeda Strain and then Johnny got his gun. Oh, interesting. And the Changeling big fan of that movie. That was the movie that he was in right after attacking the Killer Tomatoes.
Actually. He went from this? Yeah. Yeah. But he’s also pretty well known from porkies and Porkies too. I believe he was the judge. Oh, okay. In porkies and porkies too. And he was in Naked Gun 33 and a third and Air Bud. He wasn’t winning any Oscars for any of the films he was in, but he was a working actor, clear up until he passed away until in the year 2000.
Stephen: Yeah. Nice. I’m sure his career skyrocketed after tomatoes.
Rhys: He went straight from there to the change lane, which is, yeah. Jack Riley was in it and he was only in it for a bit. In fact, when he showed up on screen at first I was like, you’re kidding me. They actually afforded, they could afford to get Jack Riley in here, cuz he had been working quite a bit back then too.
No, don’t worry for their budget cuz they only had him in about three scenes because they could only afford him for so long. He was the police officer. In the end, I think his car, he and his partner in his car and they just get pelted with tomatoes and crasher car. Yeah. The nice thing for us about Jack Riley, he’s born in Cleveland.
Stephen: Oh, he was Cleveland born, have a connection to
Rhys: tomatoes. We did have a connection to the tomatoes. He died in 2016. Wow.
Stephen: It’s still a connection,
Rhys: and you know him when you see him, you know him because you’re like, oh, I’ve seen this sarcastic son of a bitch in so many different things.
And that’s what he excelled at playing this deadpan, dry, humorous, sarcastic character. He had been on 181 different projects, and he did tons of voiceover work towards the end of his life, the end of the nineties, because he was the voice of Stew Pickles in the Rugrats. Oh, beautiful. Yeah. On regular television, he showed up in Gomer Pile, the Flying Nun.
I dream of Jeanie Hogan’s Heroes mash, Mary Tyler Moore. Happy Days. He had a long run on the Bob Newhart show. Oh, okay. He was, I think he was like the neighbor. The kind of quirky
Stephen: I remember. Yeah.
Rhys: I go back and watch it. Yeah. Yeah. You’ll recognize him. He was in Barney Miller in Fantasy Island, Simon and Simon, blah, blah, blah.
Tons and tons of movies, TV shows. As far as films go, he was in catch 22. And there were actually two of them. I didn’t realize there was one like way back in the sixties and then another one was done towards the end of the seventies. I think he was in both of them. Wow.
Stephen: History. No, I don’t think so.
That, that would be, that’s interesting. I get to be in both of them, but different parts. Yeah. Interesting.
Rhys: Wednesday just did that. The bad guy in Wednesday was Wednesday in the nineties, right? Yeah. History of the World, part one. Which, it really sounds like the kind of thing this guy would be in.
He was also in volume two. I love how they do that too. History of the World. Part One. History of the World. Volume two.
Stephen: That’s probably part of the humor there too. Yeah.
Rhys: He was in Space Balls CHD two, bud The Chu and he was in Boogie Nights. The last guy who was in there he plays a little boy, I think the little boy at the po at the lake.
Oh, okay. When they’re swimming and they get attacked by the tomatoes, something reminiscent of creep show or something. He’s Dana Ashbrook and he’s an American movie. This was his first movie. He went on to do a lot of television. His longest runs being in Twin Peaks, both runs of Twin Peaks, Dawson’s Creek and Crash.
So he was like the handsome pretty boy who shows up in a lot of those kind of shows. He is also involved with a couple movies returned to the Living Dead too. Both Twin Peaks movies and he’s actually got one project in the pipe right now called Unplugged. Huh. Yeah. Still working. And when it comes out, you wanna see what Dana Ash Brooks up to go see that film.
Stephen: There you go.
Rhys: I find it really interesting that the movie starts with just tomatoes, so No expense, just buying tomatoes over time. They actually worked with people who taught them how to use foam to cast tomatoes and spray paint them. So once they learned how to do it, you started to get various sized tomatoes and they weren’t all just regular tomatoes, right?
Now they were foam cast tomatoes culminating in like a tomato. It was probably about six foot in diameter or so. It’s hard to say for sure. Yeah, but all of their props were made with super cheap stuff. Like the tomatoes put on ear protection, to guard against the song. The ear protection were green toilet seat covers with a green strap holding them in place on top of the tomatoes.
So that’s funny.
Stephen: You know that’s, again, it may not have been the highest budget, but. Having the struggle to make that stuff work adds to the humor a whole lot. It’s just those little things.
Rhys: Absolutely. And they continued. If you were ever looking for production people, honestly, you should give these guys a call cuz like all of the army uniforms that were used in the movie and there are quite a few, they just scoured Goodwills.
Throughout the area and bought them all from Goodwill. Nice. So all these guys are wearing these Army uniforms, they just got ’em for what a nickel a pop or something like that back in the seventies. And a goodwill. And they also did stuff like they didn’t get
Stephen: permits to film. Oh, another one of those.
We’ve had a few of those. Yeah.
Rhys: And it seems like the only one that people ever actually mention when they talk about it was the fountain scene. You have the guy in the scuba gear who’s been walking through the desert for pretty much the whole movie. He comes to a fountain and he just starts swimming in the fountain.
They didn’t have a permit for that. The guy just starts walking and everyone’s looking at him weird, just like they would in the
Rhys: He gets in the fountain and paddles around in the fountain and then they cut. The amount of money they saved in that is pretty astronomical.
Stephen: Yeah. As long as they didn’t get caught and then have court fines and all sorts of stuff.
So we’re, yeah. We hope that doesn’t happen. Yeah. Yeah. We’re good on that.
Rhys: They filmed at Dodger State, not Dodger Stadium. It’s in San Diego.
Stephen: That’s where it was supposed to be.
Rhys: Yeah, so they were filming there and all of the extras there. They just put out a call for all of the weirdos in the San Diego area who wanted to be in a movie, and that’s where all those people came from.
They just answered this CATA call. They turned no one away, just crammed them in there and said, here’s what’s happening. Go. And so all that you see there is the creation of the people that they were working
Stephen: with. Oh, that’s, it’s, it makes it even better because it’s a very chaotic scene with everybody running and all that.
And the very last part, there’s 50 people gathered together. I’m like, that’s all of the city, yeah,
Rhys: It almost makes it worthwhile to watch the scene again, just to watch what the people came up with when someone said action.
Stephen: That’s like the early version of today’s walking Dead Zombies, yeah.
Rhys: Romero had that with Night at a Living Dead too, right? He had these people, he’s okay, I want you to walk around you’re dead. And he just started filming stuff and he is if I put stuff out here, would you guys actually bite it? And they’re like, sure. And so he is Throwing out cat, raw cow liver, and they’re like, they’re pulling on it with their teeth.
And he was like, I was amazed at what the people were willing
Stephen: to do. Yeah. But it was a almost like a college thing, yeah. When you’re in college, yeah. You’ll do any stupid shit.
Rhys: The film was and to this day is pretty universally panned by critics.
Stephen: Not by us though.
Rhys: No. It did go on to become a cult classic all on its own, against all of the, and I think it has to do with a lot of the midnight showing kind of places.
Yeah. Where you’d be showing Rocky Horror Picture Show. In fact, it gets mentioned. It would be paired with Rocky Horror Picture Show. People would come out to see Rocky Horror Picture Show and then stick around and watch this afterwards. So it’s I don’t wanna say it’s the same crowd, but it’s the same kind of mentality.
The big difference being, Rocky Horror Picture Show. They took it a step further and directly interacted with the film Yeah. With cast out parts. Yeah. But it became a cult classic. It oh. Actually made three sequels. There were three sequels. I think one was. The first one was like attacking the killer tomatoes two.
The second was like Killer tomatoes, eat New York. And then one was, they attacks Paris of course. So there were, yeah, there were three of them. There was a cartoon series. Yeah. And I think that was Fox, who Fox decided they were gonna do one, and it lasted, I think a season, maybe two before it got canceled.
And all kinds of video games Yeah. Have been produced from back in the day when you and I used to sit around and pirate video games, you’d come across this. And there was a comic book adaptation by Viper Comics. Yeah.
Stephen: And now a
Rhys: novelization and now a novelization. So it is one of those kind of cases where you just have something that, you have three guys who sat around and said, I think we could do better.
And if you compare this with the original raw material that they were looking at, they did because regardless of How well it did financially or anything like that. You look at the cultural impact, this movie came out in 78, so it’s what, 30 years old? Yeah. 40, 30 plus almost 40 years old. And you we’re still here talking about it.
People are still making stuff about it, so it’s very, it’s a very impressive feat that they accomplished.
Stephen: Yeah. And it’s one of those, lightning and bottle things. Yeah. They, I know that’s, What they wanted to do. But you can’t really plan that at times. You can’t plan a cultural phenomen on that.
Everyone wants to watch underground and all that.
Rhys: I think Costa Dylan was, I was watching an interview with him and he was talking, he was walking down the street and this guy came up and he is like, Hey, you’re Costa Dylan, right? And he is Yeah. He’s you made attack the killer tomatoes, right?
And he is yeah. And he’s you made me a million dollars. Cause the guy had the distribution rights for He had the distribution rights for Rocky Horror Picture Show, and he found he could actually charge more if he paired something up with it. And this movie was so cheap for distribution and he tagged it to the end.
He could charge one and a half times the cost of the ticket. And over the years, people just kept coming and he just made tons of money off of it and deco and Dylan’s you made more money off of it than I did.
Stephen: I love that story. That’s pretty good. Here’s hoping Jeff Strand makes good money off this book.
Rhys: Yeah. Certainly. Anybody who’s willing to take on this learning and hydra and tame it down deserves something.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. I know I watched the movie with a friend that it’s, this isn’t their bread and butter movie watching. Yeah. They’re like, What are we watching? Are you serious? What is this?
You sometimes these type of movies, the bee movies, the cult movies, you gotta get it. You either get it or you don’t,
Rhys: you’ve ma said several times when we sat there and we talked about murders or the loved ones. You’re like, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to everyone.
I would say the same about this. But from a different side of the coin, right? It’s not that this is gonna be too disturbing or anyone’s gonna be too upset by watching it. They just might literally be sitting there going, what the hell did we just spend 83 minutes doing? I don’t get it.
Stephen: Where? Where’s my life go?
Why did I waste it on this? Yeah. Yeah. Cool man. All right there’s killer tomatoes, and we’re gonna just shove this in here. And link over to Jeff’s book. It’s a bonus episode in the middle of season four. Awesome. Plenty of season four. Still to come. Cool. All right, man. Later.
Rhys: Take it easy.
so this is a special episode. It’s not even one of our bonus episodes, Reese. This is just a special episode. It’ll take the place, the highest place of honor amongst all our episodes. Its, we’re going to do this with Discovered Wordsmith also.
So Jeff you get to be on my other podcast twice. You’re one of the lucky handful. Before we get rolling, everybody knows me and Reese, all four people and Ramo that listened to us. Hello. So first of all, we’ve got a guest Jeff Strand. So Jeff. Tell everybody a little bit about who you are and then we can start making fun of you.
Jeff: I’m a writer. I have written a little over 50 books. My most recent one was Demonic, the Killer Tomatoes, the Novelization, which I assume will come up at some point during this discussion. Oh, we probably should have about that. I’ve done some young adult comedy pretty much all over the place, but mostly horror comedies where I’m at.
Stephen: And I know I’ve mentioned you to Reese and others a couple times that I just fell in love with your books. And I texted you the other day, I said, oh my God, I’m reading the attack of the Killer Tomatoes and it’s your best one. I am l out loud laughing and I’m reading it to my son, just bits and pieces and he’s laughing, just listening to the little bits I put.
We wanna talk a little bit about the movie and the novelization a bit My first question, Reese. Oh, you had a couple questions. Background
Jeff: I didn’t know any different, so I, I was born in Baltimore, but I grew up in Alaska from six months old till 15. So I, didn’t know any different. So the fact that it is light, 24 7 during the summer. It was not weird to me. That’s just the way it is. The fact that it gets, I would get on the bus to go to school.
It’d be pitch black, and then by the time I got on the bus to come home for school, pitch black, there are a little bit of daylight in the middle, so the long nights during the winter, the long. Days during the summer, that was just the way things were. So people would visit in the summer and like, how can you sleep?
It’s, four in the morning and it is bright out and, but that, none of that stuff was weird to me. What was, what I realized was the most weird and didn’t impact me at all growing up was in Fairbanks. You were in Fairbanks. So like right now I’m in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I, I think nothing.
I drive to Nashville tomorrow. I’m gonna go to Atlanta. Knoxville, the whole, continental United States is at my disposal without it being that big of a trip. Whereas in Fairbanks, Fairbanks was the only place I was, unless we took a vacation to Anchorage, which was like six or eight hours.
So there were tiny little towns that were basically a, Gas station and maybe a restaurant, but for the most part, I, if you were a resident of Fairbanks, that’s where you spent all your time because there weren’t other cities that you could just drive to on a casual basis. Yeah,
Stephen: I talk to a lot of Canadian authors and it’s the same thing.
They’re like yeah, I got a favorite bookstore. It’s three and a half hours north of me. I’m like, do you have anything closer? No, that’s like the closest, and I thought it was bad here. I. Driving eight miles to get to the grocery store.
Jeff: Yeah. Kurt Banks had everything, it had a movie theater, it had bookstores, it had restaurants stuff, but you just, there was nothing beyond the boundaries of it.
Stephen: So did I know we go a little south here into Amish country and there’s lots of places that have horse and buggy set up. So did they actually have like dog sleds set ups that people drive to the movie theaters to see
Jeff: the movies? No, you had dog sleds that were people training for the Iditarod race, but you didn’t have people who were dog sledding as a means of transportation.
Stephen: Oh, there you go. See my, my fantasies are gone. I’m yeah.
Jeff: This was Fairbanks, which was the second biggest city. If you’re in Anchorage, it’s basically like any other big city. Fairbanks was quite a bit smaller, but Yeah, you didn’t have the, mush. Let’s go to the
Stephen: movies type thing.
The, Riker from Star Trek was from Fairbanks, so good company. Yeah. And he did live in Kent for a while, which is one of the reasons I went when, after I read his, the one book Cyclops Road, I went, oh my God, this guy like was in Kent about the same time I was living in this area and we’re like two days apart.
Reese, you call me old man cuz. We’re like five months apart. Jeff is actually two days older than me, so I’m not the oldest anymore. Yeah, look at that. Alright, so first of all, the movie itself now. I know a lot of people probably haven’t seen the movie which is good. That’s what we want.
We want movies like that. It is not your typical horror movie, especially for what Reese and I do, it’s comedy. Jeff, how would you describe the movie and what. You enjoy it with
Jeff: it? No, it’s just, it’s as silly as you would think from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s weird seeing stuff saying, knows one of the worst movies ever made where they don’t acknowledge that it’s a comedy.
It’s not a straightforward movie about Killer Tomatoes. It wasn’t some guy saying, we’re gonna make the scariest movie ever about, killer Tomatoes. It’s a goofy comedy from beginning to end. It’s, just. Joke. Not every joke lands, but a lot of them really do. Even, 45 years later, there’s lots of genuinely funny stuff in the movie and it.
Some of the jokes are overplayed, some of the, they’re, it’s not a flawless masterpiece of cinematic comedy, but it really works. I think. I love the movie. I think it’s really entertaining and fun.
Stephen: A absolutely agree. If you like airplane movies, there’s probably a lot in this you’ll like, but the funny thing is, I like attack at the Killer Tomatoes, but I’m not as big on airplane.
Jeff: I, I never, I love airplane too. So Airplane, naked Gun, all those movies, they’re all in my wheelhouse.
Stephen: Yeah. I’m weird. I know. My son tells me I’m a weirdo for not liking him, and I’m like, I don’t know. I, when I saw ’em, I guess I didn’t find them funny, so I. It just stuck. But
Jeff: with your son here, so
Stephen: like you said, with Killer Tomatoes, it, it’s got some things in it that are very subtle and you have to really pay attention sometimes to pick up on them.
And there’s a few jokes that. Are little outdated, let’s say nowadays it probably would get people upset, but the stupid little things, like they go into that conference room and it’s so narrow they have to crawl across the table, but they don’t make a big show of it other than if you think about it or when the Japanese guy hits the picture and it’s the Arizona and it falls in a fish tank.
And the funniest part for that for me is there’s no fish tank in the room. So where did that fall into the fish tank that, it’s little things like that I think are
Jeff: great. Yeah, the conference room is great because it doesn’t overplay, it’s not like wacky music, like it’s just people trying to retain their dignity while they get seated in a room that’s way too small for them.
Stephen: Would you like Reese?
Mad Magazine was superior though just.
Yeah. Yeah. So watching the movie, Jeff, and I’ve read the book, watched the movie now. I told Reese I owe him a copy of the book because it’s just pretty fantastic. He’ll love it. How did you come about and get this, okay, first of all, I, if anybody hasn’t read the book we’re trying not to get Jeff arrested so we won’t mention him Killing Mr.
Tomato. Book writer. But that, that right there made me laugh. That was the prelude and you just flowed right in with the feel of the whole movie and then each scene you expanded on. So let’s back up. How did you get the gig? Why did you wanna do it and what took so long? Like 40 year old movie?
Jeff: Part of it was just, it would be a really fun book to adapt.
Because the book is, the movie is just, all jokes. I’d love to do an adaptation of airplane too. They’ll never let me do it, but that would be, so what really happened was I was thinking of, what to tweet, what will amuse my Twitter followers? And so I just said, how is it possible that no one is.
Invited me to do a attack of the Killer Tomatoes Novelization not, it was not meant to be a
Jeff: solicitation of work. It was just something funny to tweet. And then Mark Miller had Ency Apocalypse books sent me a private email and said, Hey, if you’re serious about that, I’ll see what I can make happen.
Yeah. And then within a few weeks I was on a Zoom call with the filmmakers who were all in, My resume is pretty good for someone to write an attack of the Killer Tomato. It’s not oh man, let’s take a shot on this guy who has no experience in that particular genre. It’s like when it was announced, we’re like, yeah, Jeff Strand attack of the killer tomatoes.
That, if it was Jeff Strand doing Casablanca, wait, what? But attack tomatoes is something that I can pull off. Basically. Their, they, the only request they had was keep it as family friendly as the movies. The movie, it’s a, it’s pg but it’s 1978 pg, so it’d be a fairly strong PG 13 now.
So I kept to that, which is what I would’ve done anyway, and I basically pitched it as I’m going to treat it like you guys had Marvel Cinematic Universe money to make the original movie, and so they were all in and. I was set free to write the attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
No, there was nothing. And I treat it as a self-contained, cuz original, my original thought was, I’m gonna weave in elements of all the movies and the cartoon series and all that. And I thought, no, cuz if this is successful, if someone else wants to do a return of the Killer tomatoes, I don’t wanna step on their toes.
So there are no George Clooney jokes. There are no, professor Gangrene isn’t in. I basically, I decided I would stick exclusively to the first movie and not mess with what other people might wanna do. If, there is a future of more attack of the Killer Tomatoes novels, again, they, there was no, you need, these characters need to be in a, you need to stick to this.
It wasn’t, I did a short story that never got published. For a major video game franchise, and they were very strict. These characters need to be handled this way. What happened ultimately was that the story went to their lore person who said, that’s not really the direction we wanna take with this character.
And I got paid in full, but they didn’t use the story, actually told not like that. It was, have fun, we trust you. They read it. It wasn’t like they, they have read the book, they love it, but there were no No, no handcuffs, no stick to this, just.
Stephen: Which is good because like I said, I read it and I was laughing and I love your books, and this one just made me laugh even more than normal.
So just, you had a structure, but you were able to do what you wanted with it. I think it worked really well. But the weird thing to me was why choose a movie Novelization? Now because they’re not that popular. They used to be way more popular, but nobody sees too much, especially for a low budget movie from 40 years ago.
It’s an super. Interesting choice cuz it fits us well. And the fact that we’re talking about this low budget movie that had sequels Reese, I mean that, that’s that. So why, I know it was like, Hey, let’s make this happen. Why do you think they wanted to do it? And a movie,
Jeff: novelization Apocalypse has done some vintage novelizations, so they’ve brought back some that were written at the time, but they’ve also gone back and done, creature and Stuff like that.
And they’re, they’ve announced a few more. They’re doing nail gun massacre and dead Girl and redneck Zombies. So they’re there’s a little bit of a niche market. We don’t know how big it’s too early to gauge the success level of stuff like attack the Killer Tomatoes. But really it was just a fun thing.
It’s, I think you need to pick movies that people can see the novelization. Potential in like technical tomatoes. It’s, it’s going to be a really dumb book. It’s just goofy fun. It’s not meant to be a literal pa, it’s, it doesn’t follow the previous trend in novelizations, which were you?
I’ve seen the movie in the theater, you’re never gonna see it again unless it goes into a second run. But you’ve got the novelization so you can relive the story of et the extraterrestrial right, whenever you want in book form. Whereas now it’s just you have to bring something more to it. So it, it’s not meant to just be a transcript of spectacular killer tomatoes.
It’s basically all new jokes, unless I took their joke and used it to springboard to something else. Because the jokes in the movie are, Perfectly good. My job was not to retell stuff that already works in the movie. My job was to take the framework of the movie and expand on it and do all new jokes.
Stephen: And even there though the two I thought of reading it, the one with the bad Japanese over Dubb with the guy’s lips movie and then hear a voice say, and then I said, and that cracked me up cuz obviously the Godzilla movies and everything else. But then the musical number, I don’t know if I’ve ever read.
Such a great retelling of a musical number in a novel format. And you did that great, expanded that scene. Wonderful. So I think you broke new ground. You pioneered a new, modern modern novelization of a movie. Cuz you know, the stuff makes you laugh in the movie. If you have twisted minds like some of us.
But again, the book just expanded on all of that, making it even funnier, I think.
Jeff: Yeah. What I wanted it to be the best way to read the book, you could read it without any prior tomatoes experience. The best way to do it is to have freshly seen the movie I. Because a lot of it is callbacks to the film, so the optimal way to experience it, you watch the movie and then you go right into the book and then I think it, there’s a lot of stuff that works even better in that context.
But yeah, the point, again, it’s not to you. You can watch tackle the Killer Tomatoes whenever you want. It’s on streaming. You can get the. Multiple DVDs. There’s the big collector’s edition. It’s very easily accessible. So what I wanted to do was give the book its own identity. It works as a separate, but it’s completely linked to it.
It’s not, I love attack of the K. This wasn’t me being better than the movie. This was having fun with various aspects of it and trying to get very similar tone with a completely different experience. Not really because I’ve got experience in it. This, there’s a reason I was the right guy to write this book. So I’ve done my adult horror comedy novels. I try to treat the horror legitimately, but have lots of laughs. But I’ve done young adult books that are just joke. So I’ve done, It’s not, if you read a attack of the Killer Tomatoes and then you read my book, A Bad Day for Voodoo, there’s, you can see there’s still the meta element.
And so I’ve, I have done books that are just pure comedies all the way through. So it wasn’t like, okay, how am I gonna tackle this? I have that little experience. It’s hard. It’s not oh yeah, I can just easily knock this out. It’s a, it was a fun book to write. It is, when you are doing something that is just, joke after joke.
And you’re not letting the characters or the story carry you through. Cuz I’m, I’ll be honest, I technically killed the novelization. You’re not going to get deeply invested in these characters. I don’t care if it’s funny or not, I’m just, I need to know what’s gonna happen to this guy. That’s not the experience you’re gonna get with it, and it’s, it’s not a scary book, it’s just. As funny as I could possibly make it. So yeah, you do need to keep the pacing up. You, it creates a scenario like, like the movie airplane, like the movie Naked Gun, like attacking the killer tomato. You can’t let up on the laughs because the book doesn’t.
Have the framework to allow you to say, let’s just cool down for a couple pages. No, it has to be nonstop throughout, which is not for everyone, but the people who love it.
Stephen: Which actually you, even you do a lot of fourth wall breaking in the book and you even reference that. It’s okay, Mr.
Arthur, now maybe we should slow this chapter down and not put so many jokes. So the joke was the not doing so many jokes which I thought was pretty, pretty brilliant. And, E Reese. So we talk a lot about the special effects in movies, and the special effects in this one obviously is not computer graphics.
And they do it wonderfully though because they don’t try and make all these big, scary looking tomatoes. They just take like garden tomatoes and put ’em on the ground, then overdub it with every.
What what are thoughts on the special effects? Cause I know a lot of people would say this movie sucks, like you said, because the special effects suck. But I think the special effects are part of the comedy.
Which is something we would’ve punched, right?
Yeah. In the grocery store.
Yes. Agreed. Jeff I know some of Reese’s favorite movies, like all 1200 of them. What are some of your other favorite horror movies?
Jeff: Shawn of the Dead is my favorite horror movie and favorite movie, so it’s it works brilliantly as a comedy and brilliantly as a horror movie. So it’s not like attacking the killer tomatoes that in Shawn of the Dead.
It’s really funny, but you’re also fully invested in the characters. When things get serious, there are actual stakes. So that’s my number. I’ll swing over to my. Poster and then return of the Living Dead. One of my all-time favorites that one. I think to me, that’s the eighties horror movie that holds up the best.
I think it’s, it still plays just as well now, even though a lot of the stuff that they originated is now, zombie lore, right? It’s got, the Fast zombies, that Return of Living Dead, that wasn’t 28 days later, that was Return of Living Dead. The fact that, they. A hit to the brain won’t kill them, that you have to dismember them.
The fact that they the meta aspect, the fact that this is based, neither Living Dead was just a movie, so the character’s referring to neither Living Dead. So it’s got all kind, talking zombies. It’s got all kinds of stuff that was done later, but it does it all in one movie. So that’s one of my old time favorites.
I love the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s probably my favorite, just. Straight horror movie, although that has lots of dark comedy tune, it’s got the funniest line of any movie of, look what
Stephen: your brother did to the door.
Jeff: That one line is the most perfect comic relief line ever because it is completely logical.
In a movie where suddenly logic shouldn’t apply, right? So it’s like you’ve got this guy wearing, human skin chain, sawing a door, and of course you’re gonna be upset that this guy chain saw your door. But in the context of the movie, you don’t think they care about their door. So then to have, look what your brother did to the door just suddenly takes you back to the reality of the situation is absolutely brilliant.
Original Texas JaneSAW massacre. And then there’s, as for more obscure stuff that maybe not a lot of people have seen, may one of my all-time favorites okay. Lucky Ed with Angela Bees that I saw that film festival and it rocketed to the all-time favorites. And there’s a Lower.
Much, much lower budget we called found, which is just one of the darkest and most, I dunno, that one disturbing things. That’s something good you should cover. Check it out.
Stephen: Yeah. R Reese. Yeah, Reese always makes notes of any he hasn’t seen. And then we’ll watch movies in reference, here’s 20 other similar ones.
Jeff, have you seen Todd in the book of
Jeff: Pure Evil? I have not. I’ve heard it’s really good.
Stephen: It, yeah, it. We enjoyed watching. We reviewed it enjoyed it. And another one that comes to mind Phantom of the
Jeff: Paradise. Yes, I hadn’t I, Phan of the Paradise is something I’d been wanting to see for a really long time.
And back when I first saw the documentary Tear in the Aisles, they had a clip from it. It’s where he hits I think Garrett Graham in the mouth with the toilet plunger, and I’m like, I have to see this movie. But I didn’t know what movie it was and they didn’t, the documentary didn’t identify the clips, so I would watch the end credits.
They had the long list of all the clips, like I don’t know which one it is. I don’t know which one it is, cause I haven’t seen all these movies. So I finally discovered that it was Fent on the Paradise, but I could never find it on video. I finally saw it about three years ago in. The actual movie theater.
They Wow. A theater in Atlanta played it. So I went, so my first experience with fans of The Paradise was seeing it on the big screen with a big crowd. And it was wonderful. It lived up right?
Stephen: Not in our basement, in the dark, right? Like most of the bad horror movies we’ve watched through the years. Re what else you got, Reese?
I know you had a whole list and I’ve jumped in.
I did not, I’m not sure what that is.
No, I spent too much time in movie theaters and bookstores. I missed out on the fingers. Now I won’t
Stephen: see them.
Three of them but really, how many people can you go up to and say, have you seen Mary B’s fingers? Oh yeah, I’ve been there. You get no. What’s that? Let tell you. Present, doing something haven’t done. I love doing that.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s not as much fun. I used, cemetery dance. It’s published very infrequently now. It’s still a print magazine. I got the latest issue a couple weeks ago. But yeah, I used to get tons of them. I would go to the bookstore and there’d just be a whole rack of horror fiction magazines and I would, Read a lot of new stuff that way.
Now I really don’t now. I either read anthologies or just novels. So yeah, it’s, it was more fun to. I wasn’t getting published regularly back in those days, so I would get lots of rejections. So I have, I don’t have a big stack of literary magazines. I’ve been in, I have a big stack of rejections magazines.
It’s still, it’s more fun to, see your story in an actual printed magazine.
Stephen: It’s like the fake money drop off. You take all your rejections, put ’em in between the two magazines you’ve been in and so it looks like you have a huge pile of these literary magazines. Oh, there goes Reese again.
He’ll be back. I’m sure we’ll just keep going and we’ll pretend these ghost or whatever. So Jeff, for people listening, we asked you a little bit about yourself. What books would you recommend that someone start with? I discovered Cyclops Road because I got a free copy. I’ve told you that.
Oh, look. A free horror movie. I’ll, or book, I’ll take it. So what books do you recommend
Jeff: of my own? Generally I would
Jeff: them, say, okay, do you want the goofier stuff or do you want the more serious stuff? In the absence of any information, I generally go with Wolf Hunt. Which is a super violent comedy horror crime werewolf book.
So that’s kinda like my default. I also sometimes will say Autumn Bleeds into winner, which is a coming of age thriller. Or Alison, which is a telekinetic horror thriller. Lots of humor in all of those. Yeah, Alison Dweller is one of my most popular books, but it’s also. Sort of an outlier cause it’s very sad.
And I don’t generally do bummer books, but dweller a bummer book. So that probably is my most, the most popular thing I’ve ever written with readers, but it’s not necessarily my starting place and stuff like pressure again, that was. One of my most popular ones, but it’s also very dark and intense and so on.
If you’re like, okay, what best exemplifies what a Jeff Strand book is, and I’m all over the place, but I generally would say, okay, Wolf Hunt Alison, or autumn Bleeds
Stephen: in the winter. I haven’t read Allison or Autumn Bleeds. I did pick up Alison when I saw you, but Wolf Hunt and Forbidden Forest and Blister.
I like those forbidden forest and wolf hunt. I’ve got those on audio and I’ve listened to ’em a couple times. Oh, cool. Because they’re good fun to listen to it. They crack me up still. And it’s also at the scares of that care, which you were recently at when I saw you, Armon, Shimerman was there and he wrote some, what I call.
Fan fiction, alternative Shakespeare history, and those are much heavier to read. And I even comment. I said, yeah I liked reading the first one. I said, but it takes so much brain power to read it. I said, I need to get something, that a little more fun and easier to read and your stuff has fit that perfectly.
Plus then I’ve gone back multiple times. So for everybody listening, you got a favorite movie, horror movie that we’ve done, you watch. Great. Here’s some favorite horror books to add to that collection.
You actually have one. I didn’t know that. Awesome.
Thank you. What’s, you’ve got some other great titles like Dead Clown Barbecue, which I’ve got digitally you haven’t read yet. Was that one of the Mayhem books? Or not,
Jeff: or is that Anth Dead Clown Barbecue is a short story collection. Okay. I’ve got five. Five of my books are just collections of short stories.
It’s glee, macab tales, dead clown barbecue. Everything has teeth candy coated madness and freaky briefs. Then the others are not novels. Okay. And then one non-fiction book, the Writing
Stephen: Life, which again, for all the writers, if I put this up on my write everything I is my, I have two writer books that are go-tos that I have both read both of them a couple times.
And one was Stephen King’s on Writing. I think his beginning autobiography part is. Just great read to listen to, it’s not dry or anything. And then the advice, yeah, that’s okay. But then the other one is your writing life because it’s so personal and down to earth and makes me laugh while also making me feel better.
It’s yeah, I had a really crappy day. I feel like the worst writer in the world. I’ll read some Jeff Strm because he’ll make me feel a little better about my life. And it actually has. So
Jeff: you’ve, that’s who it’s supposed to be. It’s not a book about. Here’s how to write the perfect query letter, or here’s how to create characters that you know come to life.
It’s meant to be. Here’s what it’s like if you do a book signing and no one shows up and here’s how to cope with rejection. It’s kinda like the real stuff about being a working writer who is not making, a hundred million dollars
Stephen: a year. Which I absolutely love because that’s why I started the podcast because I was tired of going into all those Facebook groups of people going, Hey, look at the a hundred thousand I made this month on the three books I’ve written and I’m going, I can’t relate to that.
And I’m looking around going, there’s 50,000 people here. You can’t tell me. 50,000 authors can relate to that. And that was the genesis of the podcast. All right what you got? Anything else to add to this conversation, Reese, before we let Jeff go?
Jeff: I do not. I have lots of movie stuff going on, like there’s actually really cool stuff happening, at this very moment that I’m not allowed to talk about. But blister is not one of them. So that would be a. Blist blister. It’s really, it’s one of my bestselling novels, but the movie interest has been almost non-existent, so I’ve got lots of cool stuff going on.
But yeah, if there’s a movie being made of blister, they’ve either done it without telling me or it’s someone else.
Stephen: Blisters is an interesting book of yours too, because it’s not super dark, but it’s also not super funny. But it definitely is that, Just cuz someone doesn’t look like you, watch how you treat ’em.
Jeff: Now leading ready to, but I can confirm nothing.
No, I can officially deny. Hopefully this will be outdated and they’ll, b blister will been this massive success. He was lying. No, I’m not involved in a blist This well,
Stephen: well, as soon as a big one comes out we’ll review it and we’ll do a link between this one and then we’ll get you back on tot about it.
All right, I’m ready. That’s why we work. All right, Jeff I appreciate you taking some time chatting with us today. Thanks for having me. Yeah. Thank you. We’ll let you know when the episode goes live. You can hear about all the background stuff that we discovered, and then tell us about the things we didn’t know.
All right. Thanks, sir. Thank
Jeff: you guys.