Counterclockwise from top left: Fluke Starbucker, Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster, Ham Salad, and Augie "Ben" Doggie.
|Directed by||Ernie Fosselius|
|Produced by||Ernie Fosselius|
|Written by||Ernie Fosselius|
|Narrated by||Paul Frees|
|Music by||Richard Wagner|
|Cinematography||John V. Fante|
|Distributed by||Pyramid Films|
|October 16, 1978|
|Box office||$1 million|
Hardware Wars is a 1978 short film parody of a teaser trailer for the science fiction film Star Wars. The thirteen-minute film, which was released almost 18 months after Star Wars, mainly consisted of inside jokes and visual puns that heavily depended upon audience familiarity with the original. The theme song is Richard Wagner's famous "Ride of the Valkyries".
The film begins with a parody of the 20th Century Fox logo with "Fox" being replaced with "Foss". Then the text "Meanwhile — in another part of the galaxy — later that same day". A household steam iron flies through space, fleeing a toaster, which fires toast at it. Two robots named 4-Q-2 (who looks like the Tin Man from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz) and Arty-Deco (a canister vacuum cleaner), escape from the evil Empire. After launching from the ship (a cassette player) in an escape pod (a cassette tape), they land on a desert planet (a watermelon). They are found by young Fluke Starbucker (played by future multi-platinum award-winning music producer Scott Mathews) who finds a video message saved on Arty-Deco. It is a loop of Princess Anne-Droid saying "Help me, Augie Ben Doggie, you're my only hope." Upon meeting Augie "Ben" Doggie (of the venerable Red-Eye Knights), Fluke receives his father's lightsaber (a flashlight). After tricking the Imperial Steam Trooper guards (steam cabinets) to let them into the city, they reach a cantina, which Fluke describes as "too weird". The cantina is a country-and-western bar, where they meet space renegade Ham Salad and Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster (a puppet that resembles Cookie Monster from Sesame Street). Meanwhile, the villainous Darph Nader is interrogating the princess. When she refuses to talk (mainly because she can't understand him; his speech is muffled by his welder's mask), he destroys her peaceful home planet, Basketball.
After a light-speed chase, Fluke, Ham, Augie, and the rest are sucked into the enemy base (a waffle iron) by a tractor beam. While the rest of the crew attempt to rescue the princess from the base, Augie tries to shut off the tractor beam, which requires going to an exposed pylon and lowering a switch next to an animated picture of a farm tractor. After they rescue the Princess, Augie Ben Doggie chooses to stay behind to battle Darph Nader, and the rest of the group dismiss him as a "martyr". Their spaceship is assaulted by bits of tin-foil trash, which makes Chewchilla jittery until he spies Princess Anne-Droid's hair whorls, which are cinnamon rolls worn on the sides of her head. He eats one as the princess looks on in disgust.
Fluke joins a squad of spaceships (corkscrews). He is told to "trust your feelings" by the ghostly voice of Augie. The climactic destruction of the enemy base is not shown. The film ends with the voiceover, "May the Farce be with you". The very end of the credits state that the production was "filmed on location in space", followed by a statement beginning "All scenes depicting violence towards animals were deleted from the film.", reflecting the legal statement that was beginning to appear in film credits at that time.
- Frank Robertson as 4-Q-2
- Artie Deco as Himself
- Scott Mathews as Fluke Starbucker
- Jeff Hale as Augie "Ben" Doggie
- Cindy Furgatch (Freeling) as Princess Anne-Droid
- Bob Knickerbocker as Ham Salad
- Ernie Fosselius in miscellaneous roles
- Sonny Buddy Jr.
- Cindy Furgatch
- Walt Kraemer
- Ernie Fosselius
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Hardware Wars was written and directed by San Francisco native Ernie Fosselius and produced by Michael Wiese. It was structured as a mock movie trailer, and Fosselius even secured narration from veteran voice-over artist Paul Frees. Fosselius capitalised on his budget limitations by using deliberately ridiculous household objects as props; spaceships were represented with such items as steam irons, toasters and cassette recorders, and the lightsaber of "Fluke Starbucker" was a flashlight. The characters, played by actors who were just as low-budget as the props, were also parodied in name and appearance; for example, Chewbacca the Wookiee was replaced by "Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster," an obvious Cookie Monster puppet, dyed brown, and Darth Vader's counterpart, "Darph Nader" (also a parody of consumer protection advocate Ralph Nader), wore a welding helmet that distorted his voice so much that no one could understand anything he said. Other notable characters include "Ham Salad," "Augie Ben Doggie," "Princess Anne-Droid," and the drones, 4-Q-2 (who resembles the Tin Woodman from The Wizard of Oz) and "Arty Deco" (an antique canister vacuum cleaner). Upon completion, Scott Mathews vowed to never act in another film again, saying, "I'm goin' out on top, baby!"
Although Hardware Wars was a spoof, the creators found a very talented post-production crew. The visual effects department consisted of John Allardice, Andy Lesniak, Glen David Miller, and Fred Tepper. John Allardice has since gone on to work on huge films such as $100 million grossing film Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Andy Lesniak went on to work on many films most notably Man of Steel. Glen David Miller and Fred Tepper would go on to work on Titanic together. Along with writing and directing the film Ernie Fosselius did puppet work, served as lead animator, and lead editor. Although Ernie did not have much success in these areas he did end up having a good career as a sound recordist and editor and has credits on Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story and, ironically, Spaceballs.
Runtime: 13 min (USA)
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Negative Format: 16 mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Printed Film Format: 16 mm
The soundtrack for "Hardware Wars" was performed by the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jonel Perlea, and only featured one song, Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". This song from Wagner's epic opera "Der Ring des Nibelungen" appears in famous films such as "Apocalypse Now", which is quite ironic as this film is a spoof trailer while Wagner's music is world renowned as a marvel of opera.
When Hardware Wars premiered in 1978 it was the first ever Star Wars parody. As noted in Shock Cinema Magazine, Hardware Wars "laid the groundwork for every DIY movie send up that now pops up on YouTube… Premiering when George Lucas's cash cow was still filling the theaters, it quickly became a pre-VCR, word-of-mouth phenomenon." In 1978, the idea of a spoof movie was quite a new approach. The idea of a Star Wars spoof became very popular and countless more parodies were created notably including the Family Guy feature length episode "Blue Harvest", George Lucas In Love, and Spaceballs. The creators of Hardware Wars, Ernie Fosselius and Michael Wiese, seemed to realize their influence on future Star Wars spoofs, particularly on Spaceballs. As noted by Salon, "After the success of "Hardware Wars," Wiese and Fosselius resisted the temptation to produce more sci-fi spoofs. "At one time, someone did offer to finance a full-length feature of 'Hardware Wars,' but we passed," Wiese says. "We always knew it was a one-joke movie and wouldn't sustain that length. Of course that didn't stop Mel Brooks from 'quoting' us—some might say ripping us off—with 'Spaceballs.'"
According to Tested.com, Hardware Wars "was the first parody of Lucas' space opera (Star Wars"--and reportedly one he (George Lucas) enjoyed."[dead link] According to the book "Hollywood's Copyright Wars" by Peter Decherney, Hardware Wars created an environment where "George Lucas and his company have acknowledged and embraced fans of their franchise" and have often showcased fan made films, including Hardware Wars.
Hardware Wars won over 15 first-place film festival awards, including the award for Most Popular Short Film at the Chicago Film Festival. It is considered to be the most profitable short film of all time, grossing US$1,000,000; considering its paltry US$8,000 budget, its profit ratio was much better than Star Wars. George Lucas said in a 1999 interview on the UK's The Big Breakfast television show that Hardware Wars was his favorite Star Wars parody.
In 2003, the film was honored by Lucasfilm when it was given the Pioneer Award at that year's Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. In August 2010, Time magazine listed it as one of the Top 10 Star Wars fan films.
In 2017, Rian Johnson paid tribute to it by referencing it in the Star Wars film The Last Jedi in a scene in which a robotic steam iron is briefly framed to resemble a landing spaceship. Johnson said that John Williams had enjoyed creating a bombastic music cue to match the iron descending on a uniform.
The fact that Hardware Wars has been received by George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise in general is sure to have made Hardware Wars creators Michael Wise and Ernie Fosselius very happy as the main purpose for creating this film was to meet George Lucas as Michael Wise stated in the book "Producers on Producing: The Making of Film and Television" by Irv Broughton. In the book Michael Wiese states "When Ernie Fosselius and I originally made the film we had no idea what to do with it. We just wanted to meet George Lucas, who had made Star Wars. That would have been fine."
In Time Out New York, critic Andrew Johnston wrote: "Thanks to Digital Domain, Hardware Wars now includes a fleet of Corkscrew Fighters as well as effects that parody Lucas's additions to the Tatooine sequence in the first film. The contrast between the slick new effects and the bargain-basement old ones adds a new level of satire to the film and nicely spoofs some of Lucas's less-than-seamless changes to his own film."
Hardware Wars had originally been available on film from Pyramid Films. It was first made available commercially on home video with the Warner Home Video release Hardware Wars, and Other Film Farces, which also included another Fosselius parody, Porklips Now. The tape also included Closet Cases of the Nerd Kind and the animation classic Bambi Meets Godzilla.
To spoof the "Special Edition" re-release of Star Wars in 1997, which included additional scenes and more advanced digital special effects, Hardware Wars was re-released on VHS as a twenty-minute "Special Edition," with new digital "special defects." Fosselius did not participate or approve of this release, as noted in a disclaimer on the packaging.
The film was released on DVD in 2002 in its original form, with commentary tracks and other special features.
It was later released on DVD again by Apprehensive Films for its 30th Anniversary. This release is approved and licensed from Ernie Fosselius.
- "Weimar Cinema on DVD", Shell Shock Cinema, Princeton University Press, pp. 251–266, 2009-12-31, doi:10.1515/9781400831197-011, ISBN 978-1-4008-3119-7
- ""Hardware Wars": The movie, the legend, the household appliances". Salon.com. 2002-05-22. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
- "May the Farce Be with You - Tested.com". Tested. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
- Decherney, Peter (2013-09-01). Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-15947-0.
- Calhoun, Bob (May 21, 2002). "Hardware Wars: The movie, the legend, the household appliances". Salon. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- The Top 10 Star Wars Fan Films, Time.com, August 24, 2010, retrieved September 15, 2010
- Ryan, Mike. "Rian Johnson Confirms The Dorkiest Reference In 'The Last Jedi'". Uproxx. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
- Broughton, Irv (2001-09-04). Producers on Producing: The Making of Film and Television. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1207-5.
- Johnston, Andrew (April 10, 1997). "Tooling Around". Time Out New York.