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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 5/6/02



Hardware Wars
Collector's Edition - 1977 (2002) - Michael Wiese Productions

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Hardware Wars: Collector's Edition Program Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/C+

Specs and Features

13 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Ernie Fosselius, Producer's Comments featurette (5 mins), Antiques Sideshow "prequel" (5 mins), Foreign Version (11 mins), Director's Cut (10 mins), Creature Feature (6 mins), photo gallery, Hollywood Gift Catalog, DVD credits, Easter egg (?), animated film-themed menus with sound effects and music, program access, languages: English (Dolby Pro Logic compatible LPCM), subtitles: none

"You'll laugh... you'll cry... you'll kiss three bucks good-bye!"

Yes, it's true. Hardware Wars - that sprawling space saga of romance, rebellion and household appliances - has finally made its way to DVD. Hardware Wars is the original Star Wars spoof - the fan film that inspired all fan films. And as such, it holds a special place in the hearts of every film geek (or film geek-at-heart). I recall the first time I ever saw the short, at a sci-fi convention in Fargo, ND, way back in 1980 or '81. They were playing it as part of a triple bill with Bambi Meets Godzilla and Closet Cases of the Nerd Kind. And it was the hit of the show. Ham Salad? Augie Ben Doggie? The evil Darph Nader? You had to love it. And we did. And now you can pick it up on your favorite 5" disc.

Video-wise, the flick looks about as good as you can expect for 25-year-old 16 mm film. Which is to say that it looks as good as it ever has, but it isn't gonna win any awards. The print is grainy, it's dirty, but that's all part of the charm. The audio is actually better than I expected, in Pro Logic compatible LPCM. You get the illusion of surround, with surprising ambience (wind noise, etc...), some panning and dialogue that moves around the front of the soundstage in cheesy but appropriate fashion. It's fun and it works.

To be honest, you get a surprising amount of extras on this disc, but all of it is the sort of thing that's probably really only funny to the folks who were involved in the making of the film in the first place. There's a tongue-in-cheek audio commentary with director Ernie Fosselius, that's cute for a few minutes but is way too scripted to be funny and too short to contain anything substantial. There's a made-up pirated "foreign" version of the film that would like you to believe it came from Russia. There's a briefly amusing Antiques Sideshow spoof "prequel" wherein an antique expert appraises the only remaining copy of the film. There's a video clip of the producer talking about the film. There's a video segment of the director being interviewed on what looks like a cable access show (from the early 80s judging by the quality). There's also a "director's version" of the film made up of outtakes and unused footage from the original production (the cat swatting at the opening titles is a funny touch). Beyond that, there's a photo gallery, a spoof Hollywood Gift Catalog and what looks like an Easter egg that will "detonate the DVD" (I couldn't figure out how to work it - maybe that's the joke). There's also supposed to be the film's script (according to the packaging) but I couldn't find it.

I'm frankly surprised, what with all this stuff, that they didn't include the goofy CGI-enhanced Special Edition version of Hardware Wars on this disc. It was done in 1997 to spoof the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. I actually bought the VHS tape a few years ago, but every time I see a VHS tape these days I get the urge to chuck it in the trash. I'm miffed that it isn't on this disc in the very same way I'd be miffed if George Lucas released only the original theatrical version of Star Wars on DVD without the Special Edition version. To be complete, you gotta have both. Yeah, I'm picking nits. But it's an obvious nit. I mean, it's not like there wasn't room on the DVD. And it's a shame, because it's not like anyone's gonna want to buy ANOTHER version of this film on disc. DVD fans have enough trouble keeping up with the major studio DVD re-releases of their favorite films. Oh well.

Hardware Wars is available online from Michael Wiese Productions at this link (as well as a few other select retailers, including Suncoast and its affiliated stores). You want it? Click on over there and order a copy. The only drawback is that while it might have been three bucks back in 1977, in 2002, you'll be kissing fifteen bucks (plus another five-spot for shipping and handling) good-bye. Still, not bad if you're a fan.

It's shocking how much mileage the makers of this film have gotten out of it. But you gotta hand it to them. They had an original idea (well, okay... an almost original idea based on someone else's almost original idea) and they ran with it. Better still, they were the first to do it. Hardware Wars is undeniably funny. So for all those of you who ever spent time at a science fiction convention (and you KNOW who you are), does the sheer nostalgia value of this disc make it worth adding to your collection? You bet your asteroids, kid.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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