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Thursday, 13 June 2013

AFICIONADO CLASSIC REVIEW: 'HARDWARE WARS' DVD


HARDWARE WARS

THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD


A film by Ernie Fosselius

Released on DVD by APPREHENSIVE FILMS


Available to purchase from www.TheGrindHouse.Net or www.amazon.com


Reviewed by Scott Weller


“Take it easy, Kid. It’s only a movie!”

Ham Salad



The “Schwartz” launched the eighties, as comedy entrepreneur Mel Brook proceeded to lampoon STAR WARS to mild success - rather late in the day, though, when Sci-Fi was beginning to go temporarily out of style- with his epic extravaganza SPACEBALLS. Then, there was the audience friendly satirizing of everyone’s favourite fantasy saga to a much cooler degree by the arrival of THE SIMPSONS animated comedy series who, even now 20 years on, have continued their occasional SW references, observations and quirky dialogue steals. Following on from the residents of Springfield came the great leap forward for all things STAR WARS spoofing-wise with the sophisticated pop culture referencing and high (or low depending on your point of view) jinx’s of the Griffin family in FAMILY GUY (which would then lead to three tribute episodes completely devoted to the Original Trilogy), followed in equally quick succession with the full out comedy genius of Seth Green’s ROBOT CHICKEN stop motion animation series which went beyond all six STAR WARS films with its gloriously funny, rib aching “what if?” scenarios and rationales behind some of the greatest moments and characters in film history. All four of these examples have become well remembered and much beloved landmarks, and all have changed the face of comedy culture on television on both their own terms and beyond in relation to their love of spoofing STAR WARS. But before them all, however-and waaayyyy before- was the granddaddy of all of ‘em-the light hearted, ultra low budget 1978 spoof from comedian and film-maker Ernie Fosselius-HARDWARE WARS, and which remains at the top of the tent pole as the most significantly important STAR WARS spoof of them all.

There is nothing new in the idea of spoofing films and TV series at all, but HARDWARE WARS, like a bottle of BLUE NUN wine held over in the cellar for thirty two years, has kept its unmistakable identity (and sense of lingering smell in the best possible way!!) as the first full STAR WARS spoof that was meant to be funny, was funny and still actually is funny even after all this time (and no, the 1978 STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL doesn’t count…it truly wasn’t meant to be a comedy despite its final televisual visage of disaster!).

Trailer: Hardware Wars (Trailer) - YouTube

Once past the Twentieth Century Foss (!!) logo and stock footage music fanfare you are instantly transported into the story of a boy, a girl and a galaxy, with an accompanying narration by Paul Frees (sounding very much like Malachi Throne did in his voiceover for the original STAR WARS trailers), set in a universe not quite like the one previously envisioned by George Lucas, one consisting of low tech household appliances, bad hairstyles and sideburns far longer than anything seen in STAR WARS itself, and overloaded seventies chic (and it turns out that the legendary ROLLING STONE magazine editorial team aren’t dead after all-they’re all in limbo here and living in the cantina sequence!).

The main cast, who look they’ve come to life literally from the pages of MAD magazine- their voices dubbed over and, in a deliberately inspired move, not totally in synch- include the young blonde wig wearing Fluke Starbucker, the daring space pilot with very little resemblance to Harrison Ford, Ham Salad, the cute Princess Anne Droid (a character who finally lives up to Carrie Fisher’s description of having Danish buns on her head that really are eat-able!), the venerable Augie “Ben” Doggie, last member of the red-eye knights, and honorable support from Chewchilla the cookie monster and the loveable droids 4-Q-2 (don’t attempt saying that when you’re drunk) and Artie Deco, whilst villainous deeds are initiated by Darph Nader the sinister baddie whose voice under his blast furnace helmet has been rendered completely un-intelligible whenever he speaks!!

“She may not look like much but she’s got it where it counts, kid” is a line of dialogue that could just as easily be referred to this film as it was to the Millennium Falcon! The acting and direction are deliberately variable, as is the editing, but there are still many fun moments in it. Played with great enthusiasm by the cast, the spoofs thirteen minute duration actually works in its favour, with the low budget aura surrounding the project adding to its strengths (I particularly laughed out loud over the two types of lightsabers shown by Luke and Auggie, and the glimpse of the final battle over the DEATH STAR) alongside a playful unabashed inventiveness to be applauded within its obviously displayed wires and strings (fully restored for this DVD release, I might add). HARDWARE WARS truly represents the time it was made, which also gives it a kind of credible association to the birth of STAR WARS and fandom.

It may not have the comic grandeur of later SW parodies, but HARDWARE WARS as a short film/extended trailer zips along at a happy pace and looks great in its restored film quality (the best you’re ever going to see of it quality wise-it’ll certainly stand out after all the years it’s only been available to watch on VHS or on the bootleg front). I look at the endeavour in the same way that I look at an old sofa I’ve enjoyed sitting on. Yep, it may be a little frayed at the edges, there may be a part of the underside ready to fall off, but its still as comfy as ever, and will last just that little bit longer with a touch of faith!!

Regarded as one of the most profitable short spoofs of all time (it made nearly a million dollars from an $8,000 budget (a much better profit ratio than even the original STAR WARS come to think of it)), its also one of the few spoofs/ non STAR WARS authorized productions that LUCASFILM have actually been fond of, especially in those early day of the STAR WARS CORPORATION when Lucas’s lawyers were starting to sue anyone that they thought were treading on their commercial toes. To this day the film has continued to have the affection of George Lucas (who called it his favourite spoof on the UK THE BIG BREAKFAST chat show in 1999) and with such notable LUCASFILM employees/fans as Steve Sansweet and Pablo Hidalgo. I suspect Lucas likes it for its bravura film-making - because of the miracles that Fosselius has pulled off with such little money, and the kind of creative verve similar to his own when he was a youngster at USC when he was making his projects like THX:1138 EB: ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH. HARDWARE WARS has that kind of film school mentality and look about it, kind of like the way John Carpenter’s DARK STAR appealed and had that edge of humour representing the seventies.

As an indication of how popular the spoof was with LUCASFILM, Fosselius even got the chance to partake in the real STAR WARS saga, when Ben Burtt invited him to voice the sobs of the Rancor Keeper crying over the death of his beloved pet during RETURN OF THE JEDI!! And, in 2003, HARDWARE WARS was honored by LUCASFILM when it was given the Pioneer Award at that year's Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards.

A basic but pleasing amount of extras with the film include a newly unearthed Director’s Cut as well as an “unauthorized” foreign language version/remake of the film that I think must have been re-dubbed by the Swedish Chef from THE MUPPET SHOW!!, there’s a short but fun commentary from the director that’s best described as comparing the film to high art touched with behind the scenes amnesia and reminisces about Canadian trout fishing!!!, two Creature Feature extras clips from 1978 in which Fosselius, acting in his position as a Video Laugh Specialist, goes onto an unknown US late night comedy chart show to talk with popular TV horror host Bob Wilkins about his work on the then upcoming HARDWARE WARS and the numerous (fake) merchandise being planned for release (the KENNER cardboard gift certificate gets a nice spoofing here, too!!), some of which I wished had been released-I loved the watch that gives you a continuous run down on the films box office receipts-I bet George Lucas and Alan Ladd Jr. wished they’d each had one of those back in 1977!

Rounding off the extras is a short but very amusing new piece that’s considered a prequel to HARDWARE WARS and set at an antiques sideshow in which we find out the real truth behind the saga and how HW influenced STAR WARS, and not the other way round!! And a special mention of the wonderful DVD sleeve with it’s cool re-use of the art cover tribute, again by Fosselius, to the classic Hildebrant Brothers/Tom Jung 1977 UK and US release STAR WARS posters, cross bred with the faded ripped poster look style similar to Drew Struzan’s 1978 SW “Circus” poster (complete with interior VHS tape on the back!! Very nicely done).

In it’s Thirtieth Anniversary director approved release from APPREHENSIVE FILMS, surely an up and coming label to look out for in the specialized world of cult releases, HARDWARE WARS has generally held up well and its reputation as one of the most important pieces of STAR WARS related 1970’s history remains undiminished. If you’ve got the budget for it, it’s certainly a nice presentation to add to your STAR WARS DVD collection.


AFICIONADO RATING: You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll kiss three bucks goodbye..."
Old legends never die, and, like STAR WARS, HARDWARE WARS, despite all the amazing modern spoofs on the Saga that have proceeded it, continues to endure in all its funky, low budget retro film-making chutzpah. May the Farce be with you!! 8 out of 10

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