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Hardware Wars (1978)
Tonight's Short Presentation


Starring: Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale, Cindy Furgatch, Bob Knickebocker, Paul Frees

Written and Directed By: Ernie Fosselius

The Story

Meanwhile… In another part of the galaxy… Later that same day…

And, lest we forget… coming soon to a theatre near you!

Are you ready to experience the thrill of the latest space adventure, wherein good guys clash with bad guys in a battle of household appliances?  Then you need to see Hardware Wars!  Join Fluke Starbucker, Auggie “Ben” Doggie, Ham Salad, Chewchilla, Artie Deco, and 4-Q-2 as they fight to rescue Princess Anne Droid from the evil Darph Nader!  What?  They never actually made a feature film out of this?  Oh, well… the thirteen minute trailer kinda gives away the whole story anyway…

The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Just spread it on a cracker and enjoy it already.

Pairs Well With...


Retro beer party!

“You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  You’ll kiss three bucks goodbye!”


Thanks to the modern Internet, the popularity and availability of live action short films has exploded.  But long before the Age of Ubiquitous Internet Video, back when three bucks really could buy a first run movie ticket, there was one short that would achieve the status of “legend,” and which would indeed become generally recognized as the single most successful picture of its kind ever made.  Even now, it remains one of the most revered short subject spoofs of all time.  It is the one, the only… Hardware Wars, perhaps the original Star Wars parody.

The original Hardware Wars (hold that thought) can seem a bit dated to modern eyes, but that’s half the fun, especially given the deliberately cheap presentation.  Yeah, some of the names are rather uninspired (with the notable exceptions of 4-Q-2, a joke I didn’t manage to pick up on as a kid but which, of course, stands out now, and the “Wookiee Monster” Chewchilla), but the transformation of as many Star Wars elements into hardware, appliances, and other household implements as possible is inspired.  Turning “Artie Deco” (R2-D2) into a 1960s canister vac is more amusing than it has any right to be, and flying toaster fighters are cool, especially when they launch weaponized toast.  Too many different vehicles – including the Millennium Falcon – find themselves transformed into irons, but that’s okay, because they’re funny to look at anyway.

(I wonder if, back when screensavers were being invented for those newfangled “home computers” years later, someone looked at those flying toasters and said… hmm…)

The extended trailer format works well for Hardware Wars, allowing filmmaker Ernie Fosselius to pick and choose his moments without bogging things down.  (It also allows him to employ Paul Frees – the voice behind the real Star Wars trailer – as his narrator.)  Most of the essentials are hit, of course.  The Mos Eisley cantina is here instead a late 1970s American honkytonk.  The annihilation of Alderaan becomes the popping of the planet Basketball, made more explosive by having the TV monitor on which the destruction is being shown blow out.  (This, to me, is the film’s most creative effect.)  The tractor beam… come on, you know the joke had to be made, right?  (Go ahead and groan when you see it; I know I did.)  But that forgivably obvious brick is quickly redeemed by the “martyr” thing, which I’ll let you see for yourself, along with the rest of the jokes.

Overall, the original Hardware Wars lands squarely in the “amusing” zone on the funny scale.  If you saw it as a kid, perhaps during the years when HBO found it convenient to use as filler material between feature length movies, you may find that it’s not quite as laugh-out-loud hilarious as it used to be… but really, what is?  It’s still creative, it’s still enjoyable, and it’s still more than worth thirteen minutes of any Star Wars fan’s time.

But, wait!  There’s more!

When George Lucas decided to give the Star Wars trilogy a CGI-retouched re-release in 1997, Ernie Fosselius proved that he was just as committed to his comedic art as he was twenty years before, and produced his own CGI-retouched re-release of Hardware Wars, officially known, of course, as the Hardware Wars Special Edition.  I must say that I very much admire the spirit shown there, extending the joke to cover something that truly deserved to be made fun of.  (That something being Lucas retouching his movies.)  This is one instance wherein the results of the retouch hardly matter; the simple fact that the new effects were done at all is the big laugh.  With that said, I think Fosselius and his crew show their best hand with their last big effect: a shot of “Rebel fighters” – which is to say, eggbeaters – forming up for the final battle in a manner that exactly mirrors Lucas’ own CGI shot of X-Wings getting ready to take on the Death Star.  That, my friends, is attention to detail.

Okay, so I still prefer the original cut, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?

And yeah, fine; neither version of Hardware Wars stands as my favorite short Star Wars spoof, but so what?  It may not be as hysterically funny to me now as it was back in the day, but it is still amusing.  Besides, who knows how many others – including the makers of those spoofs that still do make me laugh out loud – were inspired to get their own funny on by watching this renowned pioneer?  Hardware Wars has earned its place in the short film pantheon, and remains worthy of our respect…

…and a few chuckles from a fresh viewing.  So go on.  You’ll snicker.  You probably won’t cry.  You’ll kiss thirteen minutes goodbye.  But those minutes will be well spent.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, April, 2014

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