Hardware DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Severin Films
Written and directed by Richard Stanley
1990, Region 1 (NTSC), 93 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on October 13th, 2009
Dylan McDermott as Moses Baxter
Stacey Travis as Jill
John Lynch as Shades
William Hootkins as Lincoln Wineberg Jr.
Iggy Pop as Angry Bob
Dylan McDermott (Dark Blue) stars as a post-apocalyptic scavenger who brings home a battered cyborg skull for his metal-sculptor girlfriend. But this steel scrap contains the brain of the M.A.R.K. 13, the military's most ferocious bio-mechanical combat droid. It is cunning, cruel, and knows how to reassemble itself. Tonight it is reborn...and no flesh shall be spared.
The robot skull is quite possibly the worst gift a man can bring home to his girlfriend, as witnessed in the events that transpire in Hardware. Jill (Stacey Travis) and Mo (McDermott) have a strained relationship that is further hampered by the arrival of the killer droid. Nobody expects the artifact to come to life and kill everything in its heat-seeking path, so Mo and Shades (John Lynch) have gone to seek out the next big opportunity. Now, Jill must face this attacker alone and rely on her own strengths to survive the ordeal.
Stacey Travis (Phantasm II) does the majority of the heavy lifting, since the bulk of the movie is set within the confines of Jill’s apartment. Once the droid attack begins, her character is bombarded by menacing metal accessories that she instantly regrets collecting. Jill manages to repel monsters both mechanical and human in the first sequence of graphic bloodshed when her neighbor, Lincoln (William Hootkins), arrives to help with her electrical problems. Unfortunately, this is the same neighbor who has been spying on her sex life and building a very unwanted romantic crush.
Director Richard Stanley (Dust Devil) came from the world of music videos, short films and documentaries to create a highly ambitious and visually stunning tale of man vs. technology. The protagonists try to rebuild their relationship as televisions play myriad images of atrocities intercut with pornography. Iggy Pop spreads negativity across the airwaves as radio personality Angry Bob, and the soundtrack is filled with aggressive tracks from bands like Ministry, Motörhead and Public Image Limited. These are some of the stylistic choices Stanley employs to assault audiences with a high-concept, low-budget feature debut.
The film’s 1990 release was just shy of the NC-17 option that arrived one year later, so Hardware suffered at the hands of the MPAA ratings board’s X-rating. In order to receive proper distribution and advertising, the filmmakers were forced to cut several sequences of sex and violence from the picture that were deemed objectionable in tone. The gore was offensive in that the victims didn’t die fast enough and were forced to witness their own demise. The non-violent material focused more on character dialogue than the actual sex scene that was also trimmed. The intensity of the film’s audio and video cues are overwhelming on their own, and the restoration of these additional elements is both cathartic and insightful into some character motivations.
Hardware, the bastard step-child of larger films like The Terminator and Mad Max, has been lost in a sea of legal issues as several companies have claimed ownership over the last two decades, preventing a proper video release until now. Stanley’s career has followed an equally frustrating path as his follow-up film Dust Devil (1993) was censored by more than 20 minutes domestically and his attempt at a high-budget Hollywood feature, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), lasted only a matter of days before he was removed from the project.
Richard Stanley continues to impress with his documentary work, and he also wrote the screenplay for The Abandoned, directed by Nacho Cerdá in 2007. There have long been promises of his return to the director’s chair with The Vacation, a project forever in development and eagerly awaited by fans. Hopefully this release of Hardware, will introduce a new audience to this fine South African filmmaker and invite him to share more of his nightmarish visions.
Video and Audio:
Hardware is finally given a gorgeous 1:85 anamorphic re-master that is long overdue. Steven Chivers’ cinematography has never looked better. Colors are vibrant and blacks are strong as the extreme palette is balanced with natural looking flesh tones. Detail level is shockingly high and there is not any sign of artifacting or compression issues as all the supplements are on a second disc.
A 2-channel stereo mix is offered on the disc, but you will never listen to this as the 5.1 mix will knock your socks off. It is insane how strong the music and effects are on this mix, and dialogue remains clean and free of distortion.
Severin has delivered beyond all expectations with this 2-disc release, providing more supplemental material than fans could have dared hope for. The uncut release of the feature would have been enough for many, but there is also a nice director’s commentary track that is informative and never dull.
The remaining extras reside on the second disc, and what a treat it is. Starting things off is a long overdue retrospective piece titled No Flesh Shall Be Spared that assembles almost everyone involved with the film (minus McDermott) and the story of bringing Hardware to life is laid out in just under an hour. Richard Stanley is very forthcoming with his reflections on the piece and in a separate interview discusses the ideas for the abandoned sequel.
Also provided are a series of deleted scenes that are interesting, but justly removed from the film.
Three short films are on hand, two of which (Rites of Passage and Incidents in an Expanding Universe) are earlier works that serve as the precursor origins of Hardware. A short from 2006, Sea of Perdition, shows Stanley has not lost any of his visual flair or eccentricity.
Followers of Richard Stanley’s cinematic creations have been given a nice companion piece to the stellar 5-disc release of Dust Devil. This one-two punch offers just about everything fans could hope for and with any luck Stanley will one day climb back into the director’s chair and make a new feature.
As an added bonus (sadly not included on the disc) celebrating the DVD release, Severin has created two short video promos featuring the return of two residents of the world of Hardware, Lemmy (Motörhead) and Angry Bob (Iggy Pop).
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