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Savant Short Review:


Hardware Wars
Michael Wiese DVD
1977 / Color / 1:37 / 13 min. / Collector's Edition
Starring Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale, Cindy Furgatch, Bob Knickerbocker, Paul Frees
Cinematography John V. Fante, Michael Wiese
Produced by John V. Fante, Ernie Fosselius and Michael Wiese
Written, Designed, Directed by Ernie Fosselius

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Star Wars hit so big and so hard in 1977 that it punched a hole in the entire summer's moviegoing. It was if no other pictures existed. The Lucasfilm production played for weeks and weeks, until going back to see it over and over became a ritual for kids across America. The awful movie Laserblast actually got a crowd because word got around that its ray-gun wielding hero blasted a big sign that read 'Star Wars'. Probably inspired by the kind of skit satire that was then just a couple of years old on Saturday Night Live, this short subject started appearing in theaters, often before screenings of Star Wars. For a short time, it was all anyone could talk about: Hardware Wars this, Hardware Wars that.


Star Wars is parodied in miniature: Fluke Starbucker (Scott Mathews) rescues Princess Anne-Droid (Cindy Furgatch) with the help of Augie 'Ben' Doggie (Jeff Hale), and his two robot sidekicks, 4-Q-2 (Frank Robertson) and Artie Deco. Along the way, space pirate Ham Salad (Bob Knickerbocker) joins in with his pal, the Wookie Monster. Together they have to defeat the evil but unintelligible Darph Nader.

It is what it is and it's fairly cute. With cheap opticals but a fairly unerring eye for parody, sound editor Ernie Fosselius captured a lot of the fun of early Star Wars jokes right from the beginning. Artie Deco is basically a cannister vacuum cleaner, the spaceships are all steam irons and waffle makers on strings, and the ray blasts are scratches on the film. Nobody acts, but silly faces are all that's needed. Gags such as the Wookie monster eating Princess Anne-Droid's sticky-bun hairdo, just like his Sesame Street counterpart are pretty darn funny, even though this is the kind of picture that works only if your friends are in it.

People claim that this is the first popular theatrical spoof short subject of it's kind, but Savant still sticks up for Du Düve, a fall-down funny takeoff on Ingmar Bergman movies from the '60s. After Hardware Wars, Fosselius also sent up Apocalypse Now in his Pork Lips Now, which is supposed to be just as witty. In 1998, home computer web-heads came forth with a number of Star Wars parody short subjects, sometimes with very impressive technical specs, and delivered them directly to the web. Finally, in 1999 a USC student attracted career-enhancing attention with George Lucas in Love, an eight-minute parody which saw Lucas in film school surrounded with doppelgangers for his future Star Wars characters.

This DVD of Hardware Wars comes from one of its original producers, after finally wresting rights back from other hands. There's a phone number on the back for ordering copies: 1-800 833 5738. The disc is padded with what's described as an hour of material. The basic show is there, nicely transferred and remastered in stereo. There's also a 'foreign version': a meaningless recut with gag foreign voices dubbed in. A director's commentary is a cinema-babble exercise in tangents and lame humor. A 'director's cut' is a purposely mixed-up collection of outtakes and stage waits. The producer gets into the act talking about the picture in a video interview addtion, and an old public-access TV tape allows Fosselius to make jokes about his props. There's also a shooting script, and a gag catalog of 'Captain Company' joke items about moviemaking. It's a pretty exhausting package.

The most elaborate extra is a takeoff called 'Antiques Sideshow', where a print of Hardware Wars shows up on the appraisal table and has to be identified. The show makes the claim that Hardware Wars was made ten years before Lucas' movie, which is therefore a ripoff. The comedy is only so-so. The appraiser decrees the film to be worthless, but the labels on the can are collector's items.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Hardware Wars rates:
Movie: Cute
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: a raft of amendments and goodies of varying interest to pad the disc out to an hour
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 17, 2002

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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