While THE PHANTOM MENACE is probably the biggest, most expensive STAR WARS parody ever made, the little film known as HARDWARE WARS ($15) certainly ranks amongst the earliest and the best of this specific breed. Crudely made for practically no money, HARDWARE WARS has become a classic unto itself because this film parody so perfectly hits the STAR WARS nail on the head. Devised as an extended trailer, HARDWARE WARS takes some of the best-known moments from STAR WARS and places its own humorous spin on them.
Of course, the characters are treated even more irreverently than the situations from the film itself. With names like 4-Q-2, Ham Salad, Darph Nader and Augie Ben Doggie, you know that the now classic characters were getting totally skewered twenty-five years ago. Oh, and let us not forget my personal favorite- Chewchilla the Wookie Monster, who produces a great Muppets meets STAR WARS parody moment. Even the special effects in HARDWARE WARS are shamelessly cheesy and wonderfully funny- does it get any better than toasters and irons flying through space on clearly visible wires. Oh, then there is the most high tech of the films special effects- the drone Artie-Deco, who is nothing more than a rolling vacuum cleaner being helped along by rods and wires. The cast of HARDWARE WARS includes Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale, Cindy Furgatch, Bob Knickerbocker, Ernie Fosselius and Paul Frees as the voice of the narrator.
Michael Wiese Productions has released HARDWARE WARS on DVD in a full frame presentation. Owing to the fact that HARDWARE WARS was shot inexpensively on 16mm, roughly twenty-five years ago, it comes as no surprise that this is not a demonstration quality DVD. While the presentation is highly watchable, the image on the DVD appears soft, grainy and the print used for the transfer displays a number of age related blemishes. Colors are a bit subdued in places, but they never appear faded. Blacks are accurately rendered, contrast is quite good and there is a surprising level of shadow detail for this type of production. All things considered, this is a really good presentation of this particular film. Lastly, digital compression artifacts are never a concern on this DVD.
The HARDWARE WARS soundtrack is presented in the Digi Re-Do 8.2 format, which sounds an awful lot like Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Sound quality is what one would expect from a production of its age and financial limitations. Fidelity is rather limited, but then again, the sound effects are purposely cheap and the limited fidelity works in their favor. Dialogue is of the post synched variety and is so far off from the actors lip movements that the effect has to be intentional. Still, the dialogue is cleanly recorded and is imaged in stereo to match the characters on screen locations.
Sound and a bit of animation serves to enhance the DVDs appropriately low tech interactive menus. The menus provide access to the program, as well as a surprising amount of supplements. Starting things off is a Prequel, which is in essence a parody of the PBS program Antiques Roadshow. This Antiques Sideshow features a homeowner who discovers the only surviving print of HARDWARE WARS hidden in a crawlspace and wants an appraisal. The series "expert" gives an amusing history of HARDWARE WARS and explains the value of the homeowners find.
In the Extra Stuff section one will find: Creature Features, Director's Commentary, Foreign Version, Producer's Comments, Directors Cut and More Goodies. Creature Features is a 1978 cable TV show interview with director Ernie Fosselius. Director's Commentary is a pretty amusing spoof of a typical directors commentary track that accompanies many high-profile DVDs. Foreign Version offers a goofy pirated version of the film from a little known country that must lie somewhere between Sweden and Russia. Producer's Comments come in the form of interview footage from the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 in which film students ask the producer questions about HARDWARE WARS. Directors Cut seems to be comprised of every scrap of amusing outtakes that the filmmakers could find. More Goodies includes a still gallery and a parody of a merchandising catalog.
If you are a STAR WARS fan, you got to have a copy of HARDWARE WARS for your DVD collection. The parody remains a delight and the producers have put together a terrific DVD package for their film. And dont forget while ordering the DVD- youll laugh youll cry youll kiss your fifteen bucks goodbye!
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