Hardware (1990)

Director Richard Stanley expands his early short production into a unique cyber-punk horror film. Severin region free Blu-ray release.

The Film

In a bleak, desolate future a scavenger in a post-nuclear desert finds a droid's head. He sells the part to the ex-soldier Moses who gives it as a present to his girlfriend Jill. She is scraping together a living making sculptures out of metal scraps and uses the head as the centrepiece of a new work. Rather than the maintenance droid that Moses expected it to be, the head is part of an experimental military robot that manages to rebuilt itself in the apartment and tries to kill Jill in her sleep...

The feature length Hardware is a continuation of the post-apocalyptic atmosphere that Richard Stanley created in his early short film Incidents in an Expanding Universe (1985) and it retains that short film feel throughout, with its tiny cast, limited locations and perhaps more than anything a completely unique storyline and direction for which it is very hard to imagine commerical funding could be forthcoming.

Writen down, the storyline is an incredibly basic affair, with the vast majority of the film consisting of the droid's rampage through the apartment (a large portion of its inspiration was the mere seven page Shok published in the British 2000AD comic book). While short stories are often adapted to the screen by interpolating new stories around the key themes, Stanely refrains from adding too much background detail to this script - in particular, we never find out what has happened to the globe to leave it so desolate, nor do we learn more about the mysterious 'zone' or about the war that is mentioned occasionaly in background radio programmes - surprisingly though the film works well for this, any more information would be unnecessary chrome and would have taken away from the nightmarish and unreal atmosphere that underscores the whole storyline.

What keeps the film moving is Stanley's distinctive direction and design. Bathing the film with reds and blues, while employing an eccentric array of camera angels he provides a uniquely artistic visual experience, enhanced by the stunning 'cyberpunk' set design - the few exteriors make good use of matte-work. The gory effects are very visceral and realistic, although the film does not dwell on these. Although it is only glimpsed for much of the running time, the droid itself is incredibly good looking and it is hard to imagine that it could have looked any better even with modern CG techniques. A music is a particularly ecclectic mix, ranging from punk to classical, that all suits the film well.

Undoubtedly the most challenging role is that played by the beautiful Stacey Travis in the lead. She is on-screen for the vast majority of the production and spends the good majority of this having to run screaming from the droid - fortunately she performs superbly here, always convincing and managing to effectively balance the role between a strong and able woman able to fight back and someone who is simply terrified. Dylan McDermott as Moses is not particular emotive, but it suits his 'strong silent type' character well. The rest of the cast are solid, including cameos from musicians Lemmy (Motörhead) as a taxi driver and Iggy Pop who provides the voice of a radio announcer.

A world away from generic commercial sci-fi fodder, Richard Stanley's Hardware has the uncompromised storyline and visuals of a short film, that despite its simple premise, survives the extension to feature film format without dragging or unnecessary padding. Highly recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one particulary well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Richard Stanley - a South African director who later helmed the hitch-hiker horror film Dust Devil (1992) and later worked on the documentary The Secret Glory (2001)
Any gore or violence ? Several very bloody and gory sequences, although these are not dwelt on.
Any sex or nudity? A short sex scene with some brief nudity.
Who is it for? One for all fans of cult cinema.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. 1080p HD
The print looks very good, with the all important colours and detail coming through clearly. It retains the original, sometimes quite noticable film grain.
Audio English stereo and 5.1 surround sound.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary from director Richard Stanley, discussing the film and its production in great detail.
  • 'No Flesh shall be spared' - a very detailed documentary about the making of the film including director Richard Stanley, leading actress Stacey Travis, star/musician Lemmy as well as the producer and other contributors. (54 minutes - HD)
  • A further section of the interview from the documentary with Stanley discussing his plans for a Hardware sequel. (7 minutes - HD)
  • Deleted and extended scenes - several lengthier versions of scenes from the film including an extended sex scene and some more gory deaths that were cut from the print to secure an R-rating. Taken from a VHS print and in very poor condition - no chapters or options to see individual deleted scenes. (26 minutes - HD)
  • Incidents in an Expanding Universe (1985) - Stanley's original short film that Hardware followed. Filmed with no budget it has an interesting storyline and does show a lot of talent. Filmed on Super-8 the print is very blurred. (45 minutes - HD)
  • Rites of Passage (1983) - Stanley's first short film, a strange but artistic creation showing some able production skills. Also a Super-8 print, the quality is surprisingly good. (10 minutes - HD)
  • The Sea of Perdition (2006) - a recent short film from Stanley about a Cosmonaut stranded on Mars. A strange curio but showing a emphasis on visuals to his earler work. Filmed on digital, looks very good. (8 minutes - HD).
  • German trailer (2 minutes - HD)
  • Promotional video - a trailer/interview piece featuring some contemporary interviews with the cast and director. Sourced from a VHS tape (3 minutes - HD)
Region Region ABC (ALL)
Other regions? Also available on a two-disc DVD from Severin with the same features. Available from Optimum in the UK on Blu-ray (region B locked) and DVD - includes an audio commentary (different to the one on the Severin discs) as well as the same short films (plus the extra Voice of the Moon (1990) which was included on the Subversive Cinema Dust Devil DVD in the US) and deleted scenes.
Cuts? The film is uncut as per the cinema release, some scenes were cut out to permit a US R-rating, some of these are included as extra features on the DVD. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 30th December 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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