One of the earliest reviews I did for this site was a review of Hardware. I’m redoing it now because I don’t much like the original review as it’s quite wishy washy and isn’t very good. In the early days of this site, I would review whatever I watched the night before but I wasn’t particularly good at selling people on why they should bother with this movie or that. I would just gush endlessly about a movie and then post a link to Amazon where you could buy it and I’d get a tiny fraction of the action. You know? So here I am, trying this again to coincide with the release of the 2-disc special edition from Severin Films. Maybe I’ll do a better job of it this time. Comparing my first review ever, to some of the latest reviews, I feel like I’ve come a long way but maybe I’m still not very good. You be the judge.
Hardware was one of the last movies to be threatened with an X rating before the MPAA instituted the equally lethal NC-17 rating. I caught the trailer on Entertainment Tonight, which seemed to feature it because of the violent and sexual content and immediately resigned to never seeing it. I live in the sticks and the limited release stuff never makes it my way, theatrically. That always means a trip to Boston, which is a major inconvience just to see a movie, but like most people n the cult circuit, I caught it on video the next year and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
It’s a typically 80’s vision of the future. Nuclear war has devastated everything. The war continues. Survivors waiting to die of radiation poisoning and cancer continue to live their lives in wasted cities. Moses Baxter, soldier, returns from ‘the zone’ to visit his girlfriend, Jill, a metal sculptor and drops off some scrap he bought from a scavenger. It’s just too bad that the scraps are the remains of an experimental cyborg soldier that is capable of tapping into electrical sources of any kind and reassembling itself, which it promptly gets to doing. While Moe is out, the droid springs to life and spends the rest of the movie chasing Jill around her apartment and killing anyone who happens upon them.
Stanley’s post-nuke vision of the future, though fairly standard post-nuke material, comes off fresh. It’s saturated in all the trappings of your average industrial music album cover and reeks of Ministry and Skinny Puppy. What’s left over is a light haze of goth rock and metal and represents all of the above with cameos by Lemmy, Carl McCoy of the goth rock giants, Fields of the Nephilim and Iggy Pop (in voice only as the wiley DJ, Angry Bob). It also features a killer soundtrack featuring Ministry’s abrasive, mechanical tune, Stigmata. Also, Public Image Limited scores the sexiest heat vision sex scene you’re likely to ever see. Everything clicks. Right off the bat. Hardware isn’t your typical post-nuke movie. Australians and Italians set that playbook early and Hardware has nothing in common withThe Road Warrior. This is far more cyberpunk a movie than it is a blood and diesel fumes car combat flick.
The killer robot, Mark 13 is the obvious draw here. Stanley shoots Mark 13 as though he’s shooting Jaws. Obvious budgetary limitations means a floppy and crappy killer robot, so you never get a real good look at what is chasing Jill around the house. You see pieces and parts and what there is looks really cool. It’s a testament to capable filmmaking. Stanley, a veteran of music video direction manages to strike a balance between flash and substance. A rare talent. This is a gorgeous and grimy flick, awash in a red color palette and gory as all get out. We’re treated to a capable cast, occasionally bogged down by some awkward dialog and sloppy deliveries but the premise is so tight, complete with a killer robot delivering a lethal dose of neurotoxin that lulls you to sleep by way of lysergic dreaming and smelling like apple pie. There aren’t many movies that embrace and encapsulate that period of early 90’s industrial music quite like Hardware. This is what Bill Leeb is always yelling about in his songs.
This new Hardware release from Severin Films, presented across 2 discs, is a thing of beauty. The movie, unavailable on region 1 since the inception of the medium has existed in foreign formats, bearing different titles, like Mark 13, but the picture never looked much better than it did on factory prerecords of the VHS tape. The Severin release is sourced from Stanley’s personal print and has never looked sharper. Details stand out where I had missed them before. To boot, this is uncut and the death scenes go on a little longer, giving you a better look at the grisly fate that Lincoln Weinberg Jr. so richly deserved. You also get Stanley’s original 8mm short that would eventually become Hardware, deleted scenes, an hour-long documentary, etc., etc. – Make no mistake, this is the total package, a cult movie presentation that all cult movie releases should strive to be.
I’ve been waiting for so long to finally have a quality release of this movie that I feared my hopes would be dashed and that years of separation from this flick would have my hopes high as fond memories tend to be. Fortunately, this release was so deeply satisfying that I feel like I’m downplaying the positive aspects of Hardware. It takes the dystopian gauge and cranks it up to full blast. It’s a film so thoroughly soaked in bad vibes that it’s definitely not for everyone but fans of science fiction and horror will find high adventure when discovering this beauty. Hardware, one of my must-have titles delivers in every way.