Written by: Christopher O’Neill on October 13th, 2009
BluRay released: October 13th, 2009
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region 0
Retail Price: $34.95
Synopsis: A post-apocalyptic future: a scavenger searches the desert wastelands for materials and discovers, amongst the remnants of a battle, the skull of an android that is signified as ‘Mark 13’. Emerging from the wilderness into over-crowded urban decay, the remains find their way into the possession of Jill, an artist holed up in an apartment block closed off from the pollution-ravaged outside world. She creates art pieces with scrap metal and uses the Mark 13 elements for her latest work – but what Jill doesn’t realize is this android was build by the military to be the ultimate killing machine, able to adapt and rebuild itself out of anything under any conditions. Jill’s lover Mo, a military employee who brought the Mark 13 to her, learns of the android’s capabilities as it begins to absorb total control of the apartment. As Mo races through the city to protect Jill, she is unaware of the android’s activities and that she is simultaneously being stalked by a neighbor with degenerate intentions for her.
Co-produced by Palace Pictures and Miramax Films, HARDWARE was a major triumph for both these independent companies as well as the British film industry in general, which was struggling mightily during the early nineties. Richard Stanley had to date only helmed music videos, short films and documentaries shot on Super 8 and 16mm prior to HARDWARE but the financiers could see that the youthful writer-director was clearly an exceptional talent. Shot by an enthusiastic but largely inexperienced crew for approximately £800,000 (a meager amount for an effects-leaden genre film), it opened in America on 700 prints and rated as number six at the US box office on its first week. Eventually going on to gross £6,000,000, HARDWARE hailed 24 year-old Stanley as a director to watch and became an instant ‘cult’ favorite when released on video.
In an interview on Subversive Cinema’s DUST DEVIL disc, Stanley describes the screenplay of HARDWARE as “one of the poorest scripts I’ve ever written” and was completed in one week out of sheer frustration. According to Stanley, it is essentially a compilation of every element suggested by financiers after all of his other potential projects had been rejected, and on face value, the film is heavily derivative of just about every popular genre film of the period such as BLADE RUNNER, THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS. However, what makes HARDWARE so impressive is the way Stanley warps and molds these components into a picture that relates closer to his own cinematic influences – stylistically, the film is closer to such Italian directors as Mario Bava and Dario Argento rather than Ridley Scott or James Cameron – while reflecting his own personal interests and perceptions (for a potentially mainstream picture, HARDWARE is intensely perverse in its depiction of sex, drugs and violence). The results are an aesthetically enthralling experience that ranks as one of the finest genre debut features of the 90s.
As arresting as Stanley’s visual style is, praise must be lauded to Stacey Travis, whose central performance as Jill gives HARDWARE the emotional core it sorely needs to ultimately prove effective. A compelling screen presence as well as a strong genre heroine – Stanley compares her scream to Fay Wray – Travis is able to eclipse her co-star Dylan McDermott who, as Jill’s lover Mo, is incredibly bland and his lack of enthusiasm in the project is painfully obvious. There is, however, strong support from John Lynch as Mo’s spaced-out friend Shades (who spends much of the film on an acid trip while trying to deal with the crisis at hand) and, as the personification of sleaze, William Hootkins as Jill’s voyeuristic neighbor. Hootkins, an ex-pat who appeared in countless British pictures whenever a brash American was needed, is genuinely creepy in the role and is one of the picture’s strongest attributes. There is also an amusing cameo from Lemmy, of the band Motorhead, while Iggy Pop contributes the voice of Angry Bob, the radio personality “with the industrial dick”.
Hardware comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Details look crisp throughout, colors look lucid (especially the red hues) and nicely saturated, flesh tones look healthy and black levels remain strong throughout. There is some minor print damage with more noticeable print damage cropping up early on in the film. There is a healthy layer of grain and DNR has been kept in check.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 English and a Dolby Digital Stereo English. Both audio tracks sound balanced and dialog is clear throughout. Even though the Dolby Digital 5.1 English takes more advantage of the rear channels, the bulk of the action in this like the Dolby Digital Stereo English comes from the center channel.
Extras for this release include a German trailer for the film (2 minutes 3 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio), a vintage promo for Hardware (3 minutes 30 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio), and a segment titled “Richard Stanley on Hardware” (7 minutes 40 seconds – anamorphic widescreen). Other extras include twenty five minutes of deleted and extended scenes. These deleted / extended scenes are sourced from the only available source a VHS master that is not in that good of shape. Also included with this release are three super 8 short films also directed by Richard Stanley, “Incidents in an Expanding Universe” (44 minutes 30 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio), “Rites of Passage” (9 minutes 50 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio) and “The Sea of Perdition” (8 minutes 33 seconds – 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen). The main extra included with this release is a documentary titled “No Flesh Shall be Spared” (53 minutes 59 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), which includes comments from director Richard Stanley, cinematographers Steven Chivers and Greg Copeland, actress Stacey Travis, actor Lemmy, producers JoAnne Sellar and Paul Trijbits, executive producer Stephen Woolley and conceptual designer / storyboard artist Graham Humphreys. This is a well rounded documentary that covers the origins of this project; casting, the visual style, special effects; Simon Boswells score for the film, the films murky rights issues which have kept this film from being more widely available over the years and so much more. Rounding out the extras is a feature length audio commentary with Richard Stanley and moderator Norman Hill. This audio commentary is a lively discussion that is equally as fascinating as the making of documentary “No Flesh Shall be Spared”. In June of 2009 Optimum Releasing released Hardware on DVD and BluRay in the UK. While the bulk of contents on the Optimum release are also included on Severin release, a few extras are exclusive to the Optimum release and they are as follows, a collectable booklet and cards and an audio commentary track with director Richard Stanley and producer Paul Trijbits. Overall Hardware gets a comprehensive release from Severin Films.