Hardware Wars (1978)


Introduction

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”.

Outline

The film begins with a Parody of the 20th Century Fox 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.

Cast

  • Actors:
    • Frank Robertson as 4-Q-2.
    • Artie Deco as Himself.
    • Scott Mathews as Fluke Starbucker.
    • Jeff Hale as Augie “Ben” Doggie.
    • Cindy Furgatch as Princess Anne-Droid.
    • Bob Knickerbocker as Ham Salad.
    • Ernie Fosselius in miscellaneous roles.
  • Narration:
    • Paul Frees.
  • Voices:
    • Sonny Buddy Jr.
    • Cindy Furgatch.
    • Walt Kraemer.
    • Ernie Fosselius.

Production

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”.

Trivia

  • On a budget of $8,000 the film made $1 million at the box office.

Star Wars Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Narrator(s): Paul Frees.
  • Director(s): Ernie Fosselius.
  • Producer(s): Ernie Fosselius and Michael Wiese.
  • Writer(s): Ernie Fosselius.
  • Music: Richard Wagner.
  • Cinematography: John V. Fante and Michael Wiese.
  • Editor(s):
  • Production:
  • Distributor(s): Pyramid Films.
  • Release Date: 16 October 1978.
  • Running Time: 13 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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