Hardware Wars (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Jun 26, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Hardware Wars (Blu-ray Review)


Ernie Fosselius

Release Date(s)

1978 (May 7, 2024)


Pyramid Films (MVD Rewind Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: B
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Hardware Wars (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


Take it easy kid, it’s only a movie.”

There’s been a seemingly endless supply of Star Wars parodies since the original film debuted in 1977, and thanks to Vimeo, Youtube, TikTok, and other video-based internet platforms, that supply has grown exponentially, being more commonplace than rare nowadays. Such was not the case in 1978 when Hardware Wars started appearing in front of audiences. Shot on 16 mm film and coming directly from 20th Century Foss (San Francisco filmmaker Ernie Fosselius), it’s at once one of the most well-realized, as well as one of the silliest, sendups of the Star Wars franchise ever produced. It’s also an outright hoot.

About 13 minutes in length, Hardware Wars is also an extended teaser trailer parody. The cast includes the likes of Scott Mathews as Fluke Starbucker (Luke Skywalker), Bob Knickerbocker as Ham Salad (Han Solo), Cindy Furgatch as Princess Anne-Droid (Princess Leia), Jeff Hale as Augie “Ben” Doggie (Obi-Wan Kenobi), the lovable “drones” 4-Q-2 (C-3PO, in the guise of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz) and Artie Deco (R2-D2), the incomprehensible villain Darph Nader (Darth Vader), and of course, Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster (Chewbacca—quite literally a brown version of the Cookie Monster). Standing in for the various props are a steam iron, toasters, and tape players as the spaceships; a 70s dive bar standing in as the cantina; “Basketball” standing in as the planet of Alderaan; electric drills standing in as phasers; and a flashlight in a smoky room standing in for a lightsaber, among other obviously preposterous items.

As for the plot? Well, it’s Star Wars, but quite askew, to say the least... one could even say that it’s an alternate Star Wars universe where everything is absolutely ridiculous to the outsiders looking in. We’re all in on it, but at the same time, the actors take it seriously enough to sell the absurdity without overtly winking at the camera... well, not entirely. The icing on the cake is expert narration by the great Paul Frees, giving the whole thing a little more validity, as well as theme music in the form of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (made infamous a year later by Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now, of which Ernie Fosselius also made a parody.)

In short, Hardware Wars is absolute foolishness that’s impossible to take seriously, nor should you. This is nothing more than a romp in every sense of the term, and should be treated as such. The fact that it’s had the kind of legs that it has is beyond wild. Many similarly-realized short films by amateur filmmakers shot on 8 mm, Super 8 mm, and 16 mm as kids and teenagers in the 1960s and 1970s don’t have nearly this kind of reach. It just makes Hardware Wars that much more interesting and special.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry... you’ll kiss three bucks goodbye.”

Hardware Wars was shot on 16 mm film by John V. Fante and Michael Wiese with spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. MVD Rewind Collection brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time utilizing a newly-remastered 2K scan from a 16 mm reversal release print, carried out by Vinegar Syndrome. A 2012 HD presentation created by Ernie Fosselius is included in the extras. According to the text that opens the main presentation, “Due to poor handling of the camera original during the editing process, a large amount of dirt and damage is inherent to the production, especially during the film’s frequent optical effect and dupe sequences. As this damage has been present since the film was initially released in 1978, it has been retained here, as removing or even reducing it would not accurately represent how audiences first experienced the film.”

Keeping all of that in mind, Hardware Wars has never, ever looked this good on home video. It’s quite organic with natural blacks and good contrast, as well as surprisingly good color. There’s a very high yield of grain, but the extremely high bitrates that push almost into 50Mbps at times drive out every possible detail to be had. The leftover damage ranges from dirt, scratches, speckling, cracked frames, instability, and some washed out whites, but as these are inherent to the presentation, they’re of little consequence. In truth, even if the original camera negative could be obtained, an awful lot of the damage would be inherent anyway (as explained in the opening paragraphs). Bottom line: the film looks miles beyond the low grade VHS presentations of old, which for people of a certain age, is how we all experienced it the first time around.

Audio is included in English 2.0 stereo or mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. Purists will likely want to stick with the original mono as it best represents how audiences saw the film originally, though it’s very narrow with obvious hiss and not much fidelity. The stereo track is much cleaner with excellent support for dialogue, score, and special effects, even throwing in a few occasional panning moments when the “spaceships” fly across the screen. Even Paul Frees’ narration has more aural muscle to it. Your mileage may vary though.

The Blu-ray of Hardware Wars from the MVD Rewind Collection sits a clear Amaray case alongside an advertisement for Hardware Wars Ebay merchandise, and a double-sided insert that features artwork from the Apprehensive Films “screening cassette” release on one side and MVD’s version of the Warner Home Video clamshell VHS artwork on the other. Everything is housed in a slipcover that replicates that same Warner Home Video clamshell VHS artwork, complete with the title Hardware Wars and Other Film Farces. (It’s a shame that the 1997 VHS Special Edition artwork couldn’t have been salvaged somehow; for completists’ sake, if nothing else.) The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary by Ernie Fosselius
  • Hardware Wars 2012 HD Master (HD – 12:54)
  • Hardware Wars “Director’s Cut” (SD – 10:16)
  • Hardware Wars “Foreign Version (SD – 11:15)
  • 1978 Creature Features Interview (SD – 6:04)
  • Hardware Wars Saves Christmas (SD – 6:10)
  • Hardware Wars Prequel Featurette (SD – 5:23)
  • Awards Reel (HD – 1:09)
  • Porklips Now (SD – 21:40)
  • Plan 9.1 from Outer Space (SD – 20:47)
  • Trailers:
    • Hardware Wars (HD – 1:28)
    • Ghoulies (SD – 1:55)
    • Ghoulies II (HD – 1:23)
    • Swamp Thing (Upscaled SD – 1:31)
    • The Man from Earth (HD – 1:29)

First up is the 2002 audio commentary by Ernie Fosselius, which like the film itself, is more of a sendup of audio commentaries, quickly descending into trivialities and entertaining nonsense. As mentioned previously, also included is the 2012 HD master of the film. Despite being taken from either the original camera negative or an interpositive of some kind, it’s less satisfying that the main presentation as it’s much lower resolution and brimming with crushed blacks and uneven color temperatures. However, it contains about the same degree of built-in dirt and debris. There’s also the “Director’s Cut,” which is made up of additional and alternate takes, and a “Foreign Version,” overdubbed in gobbledygook. Next is an interview with “video laugh specialist” Ernie Fosselius by Bob Wilkins on the TV show Creature Features, discussing his degree in “laughology” and promoting Hardware Wars in order to sell the merchandise that was created before the film was released (cracking up the crew in the process). Hardware Wars Saves Christmas features a Christmas reading of the film by Fosselius. The Hardware Wars Prequel Featurette offers footage from an “Antiques Roadshow” in which a lady, who found the print of the film under her house, tries to ascertain its value... but the expert is far more interested in the labels on the canister than the film itself. The Awards Reel features stills of various awards given to the film. Next are two additional short films made by Enrie Fosselius, Porklips Now and Plan 9.1 from Outer Space. While Porklips Now is on par with if not surpasses its main presentation in terms of entertainment value (my own opinion), Plan 9.1 from Outer Space is mostly a puppet re-telling the Ed Wood camp classic set to audio from the film. Cute. Last is a series of trailers for various MVD Rewind Collection releases, including Hardware Wars itself.

Not included is the 1997 Special Edition version, which was made without the participation of Ernie Fosselius, and was an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars films being re-released in theaters. I personally enjoy this version as well and, dare I say, it’s more respectful to the original version than Star Wars is to its own original version. Also not included from previous DVD releases is a brief interview with producer Michael Weise at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and a 5.1 sound option.

MVD Rewind’s Blu-ray upgrade of Hardware Wars more than honors the spirit of the Red Eye Knights with excellent picture and sound, and a great extras package. If you’ve never heard of or seen this short film before, it’s well worth your time. Highly recommened.

May the farce be with you.”

- Tim Salmons

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