A mysterious figure digs up the shattered remains of an android in the desert wastes of a very grim, polluted future. The man brings the head and hand in for barter, and they are picked by Hard Moe Baxter (Dylan McDermott, in a role that nicely deconstructs Mad Max). Moe takes the hardware back to the flat of his artist girlfriend (Stacey Travis), who incorporates the pieces into a sculpture. Unfortunately, these remains are part of the M.A.R.K. 13 military droid, and when Moe absents himself, the robot reactivates and goes on the rampage.
Richard Stanley’s debut was a great treat for those of us lucky enough to catch its theatrical run back in 1990 (and audiences north of the 49th parallel were even luckier in that it was the uncut version that played up here). It has lost none of its appeal. The FX have a gritty, gory reality all-too-often absent in the CG age, and the M.A.R.K. 13 is a compellingly nasty villain, clearly enjoying its sadistic, bloody killings waaaaay too much. The thorough evisceration of traditional masculine heroics (indeed, of traditional masculinity full stop) is pretty incisive, giving the viewer something to think about along with the bouts of mayhem. Stylish, gritty, hallucinatory, looking far more expansive than its modest budget should permit, this is a first-rate slice of SF terror, and it’s about damn time that it turn up on disc.
The theatrical experience of the film is beautifully preserved in the transfer. In fact, things are so sharp that dirt on the lens in the opening scene becomes visible. Much of the film is a wash of black and red, precisely the mix of colours that can so easily become blocky and pixellated, but that never happens here. The contrasts are profound, so not only is the image never murky (dark though the majority of the film is), but as the story approaches its strobing climax, where one character expires while experiencing hallucinations set to Stabat Mater, any viewers prone to seizures would be well advised to look away. Great stuff.
While it isn’t reasonable to expect a low-budget film almost 20 years old to sound as good as today’s triple-A releases, Hardware comes remarkably close to pulling that off. The pounding rock soundtrack (where pride of place is given to Public Image Ltd.’s “The Order of Death” and Ministry’s “Stigmata”) has a great, driving, big sound. The environmental effects are strong, and all in all the track is both expansive and immersive. More great stuff.
Commentary Track: Richard Stanley is our entertaining host here, and he is as articulate as he is informative and engaging.
No Flesh Shall Be Spared: (53:59) This is an extensive making-of look back, and is a nice supplement to the commentary track. The fact that Stanley is still so youthful is a stark reminder of the fact that he was only 24 at the time of the film’s release.
Incidents in an Expanding Universe: (44:30) Hardware‘s embryonic Super 8 incarnation.
Rites of Passage: (9:50) Another early short.
The Sea of Perdition: (8:33) Yet another short by Stanley, only much more recent (2006).
Richard Stanley on Hardware 2: (7:40) Don’t get excited: this is about how that never came to pass, due to the legal battles that surrounded the original.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (25:02).
This release was a long time coming, but Severin has definitely made it worth the wait. A terrific packaging of a terrific little film, and a wonderful Halloween treat.