Horror, Robots, Science Fiction

Hardware (1990)

0 Comments 01 September 2014

hardware blu ray

Studio: Severin

Theatrical Release: September 14, 1990

Blu Ray Release: October 13, 2009

Director: Richard Stanley

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Hardware is a rather unique film, one that breathes fresh air in a world overloaded with films based on comic books, sequels or remakes. Inspired by cyber punk novels and Italian horror films, Richard Stanley’s horrific sci-fi film may not be every ones cup of tea. Made for just over $1.5 million in a time where CGI didn’t fill every ounce of a frame, Stanley’s film feels even more original than when it was first released 24 years ago.

This post apocalyptic tale is set in the not too distant future, in a world where the world is just covered in dust, the sky is red, the temperature is over 110 degrees and the remaining survivors are either villainous scum or mechanical workers just trying to make ends meet. The local D.J. (voiced by Iggy Pop) even mocks the society they live in, while playing hard rock / punk music in between his political rants.

Dylan McDermott (while everyone knows his from The Practice, I like to think of him as the star to the criminally underrated Hamburger Hill) plays Moe, an egotistical scavenger who picks up a battered cyborg skull in his travels for his sculptor girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis) as a Christmas gift. These two estranged lovers are very much like how the world is now; distant and cold. The only time Jill even seems remotely interested in anything is when she happens to be sculpting. She begins to work on the skull, giving the tainted cranium a make over. But what Stacey doesn’t know is that the skull has the brain of the M.A.R.K. 13, a bio-mechanical android created by the military as a killing machine which has the power to reassemble itself if taken apart.

Richard Stanley’s little thriller has a great premise, with several scenes that I rather enjoyed. My biggest issue with the script is that I just didn’t care what happened to these characters. Everyone is a scumbag, from Moe to the peeping Tom next door neighbor. Even the tough-as-nails Jill seems too cold and angry to be likable. Another issue I had is that the film is sprinkled with constant dream sequences. While these sequences are fun to look at and are visually stunning, they happen at inappropriate moments in the film and seem to stop the action too abruptly. I can’t help but see a dream sequence and think the director is just trying to show off or just doesn’t know what he/she is doing.

That is not to say Hardware isn’t a good film. Technically, I loved the look of the movie. One can’t help but know Stanley’s influences but yet he doesn’t try to copy his favorite film makers, a task that most film makers in the 90’s couldn’t seem to do. I loved the cyber punk look of the film, the detail in not just the cyborg but of the entire ruined city. There are some good scares and ultra graphic moments as well, which caused the film to be edited down to an R rating back in 1990 (thankfully, Severin has released the unrated version with all of the gruesome practical gore effects inserted back into the film).

Speaking of Severin, this may be one of their best looking blu rays they have ever released. I saw Hardware on VHS (I tried to sneak into the theater to see it back in the day but my 14 year old self wasn’t smart enough to outwit the usher) and the VHS tape looked ultra grainy. The blu ray captures every detail of the set design and art direction that make Hardware so unique. The 5.1 surround also sounds amazing and clear. Severin also goes out of its way to pack the blu ray with as many special features as it can. There is the documentary on the making of the film (both Stanley and Travis look very much the same), an audio commentary by Stanley himself, deleted and extended scenes, and several of Stanley’s own short films, including Incidents in an Expanding Universe, the super 8 mm short that was the basis for Hardware.

Hardware may not win everyone over but for those who enjoy cyber punk and post apocalypse stories, Hardware may be worth a look. The stunning blu ray by Severin alone is worth adding to your collection.

Movie Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★★

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