Revisiting 'Hardware Wars', The First (And Best) 'Star Wars' Parody
"Hardware Wars! A thrilling space saga of romance, rebellion, and household appliances!"
In news somewhat less earth-shuddering than that time George Lucas dropped his wallet, there's no shortage of Star Wars parodies on the market. Hardware Wars, "filmed entirely on location in space," was among the first, packed to the rafters with jokes and puns sourced from a galaxy far, far away.
Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" serves as the theme song, leading into 13 minutes of incalculable kookiness. We begin with a steam iron hurtling through space, a (toast-firing) toaster in hot pursuit. Naturally, they're both suspended by all-too-visible strings.
The cast of main characters soon makes an entry, including 4-Q-2 (who looks like a deplorably rebuffed clone of The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man), Arty-Deco (a cassette player), Fluke Starbucker (played by Scott Matthews, who went on to win a bonanza of prestigious music production awards), and Princess Anne-Droid (complete with cinnamon buns fastened to her head), who says stuff like:
"No! No! You can't destroy innocent people! Basketball's a peaceful planet! Please! We have no weapons!"
Writer/director Ernie Fosselius was the head honcho behind the madness, working alongside producer Michael Wiese. Structured and presented as something of a mock movie trailer, veteran actor Paul Frees—who voiced the original Star Wars trailer—provides narration throughout.
Armed with an $8,000 budget and a Super-8 camera, Fosselius was only too happy to utilize numerous (and increasingly bizarre) household items as film props. It certainly worked—the film grossed $1,000,000, making it the most profitable short film of all time. Going by these numbers, its profit ratio was a damn sight larger than even Star Wars itself. No wonder Scott Matthews declared retirement from acting after the film’s release.... In his own words: "I'm goin' out on top, baby!"
Hardware Wars was shot in four days around Fosselius’ native San Francisco. Speaking to Salon magazine, Matthews claimed the film crew had no knowledge they were lampooning what would become one of cinema’s most prominent properties. He said:
"I think a lot of the charm of that movie is the fact that we didn't really know what we were doing. It was cinéma vérité at its finest."
Hardware Wars wasn't without its fair share of plaudits, either—it was awarded the Most Popular Short Film at The Chicago Film Festival, and Lucasfilm honored it with a Pioneer Award at 2003's Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. George Lucas deems it his favorite Star Wars parody, and a "cute little film."
Initially distributed through Pyramid Films, Hardware Wars saw its first official commercial release via Warner Home Video, coupled with several more of Fosselius' parodies, including Porklips Now and (the no-doubt classic) Bambi Meets Godzilla.
"Jeepers! What is it, Augie Ben Doggie? Did you feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?"
"No, just a little headache."
As any ardent Star Wars fan will tell you, the original trilogy of films received the "Special Edition” treatment in 1997. In keep with this, Hardware Wars boasted its own 20-Year Anniversary makeover, featuring an array of "Special Defects." Ernie Fosselius wasn't involved in this particular re-release, although he did approve and license the 30th Anniversary Edition in 2007.
I'll finish with the film's closing credits. Because they're, well, mental. Behold:
"All scenes depicting violence towards animals were deleted from the film. Also, some animals tasted better than others. People with special dietary needs should consult with a physician before digesting the flesh of once-living things."