In 1990 writer/director Richard Stanley's masterpiece Hardware was unleashed on an unsuspecting (and largely uninterested) public. This gripping film has finally been released on DVD and proves to be more than worth the wait. Hardware is a unique post-apocalyptic movie that blends the vibrant colour scheme of Italian giallo thrillers with an 80's cyber-punk sensibility (both Iggy Pop and Lemmy have cameos).
Dylan McDermott plays "Moses", a desert scavenger who presents his shut-in girlfriend Jill with some discarded robotic parts that she incorporates into her ongoing metal sculpture work. Turns out the scraps he found were part of a proto-type robot soldier able to reassemble itself. Jill's fortress-like apartment becomes the setting for a brutal cat and mouse game between the young woman and the M.A.R.K. 13 unit which has resumed its primary function of destruction.
In Hardware, Stanley takes the aesthetic values of Blade Runner then runs it through a Cronenbergian thought process.
Previous VHS releases of Hardware were cut and poorly re-edited (don't get me started, it wasn't a fun time to collect cult films...) but not only is this new 2-disc set completely uncut, it's loaded with great bonus material. It includes a generous and detailed making-of documentary, a couple of Stanley's excellent short films, deleted and extended scenes, and best of all, the rare Super 8 early version of Hardware entitled Incidents In An Expanding Universe that is absolutely essential viewing for insatiable fans of the feature.
During Stanley's informative commentary track, he mentions that he considers Hardware more of a horror film than a sci-fi movie. Regardless of genre, this is a spectacular film-going experience that deserves a much wider audience. Hopefully with the new 2 disc special edition that audience will finally find it.
For it's 2009 blu-ray release of Hardware, Severin Films put together an impressive package of bonus material on a dual layer 50gb disc. "No Flesh Shall Be Spared" is a terrific making of doc running fifty-four minutes and featuring interviews with Stanley, Stacey Travis, Lemmy and more. A real treat is seeing composer Simon Boswell play a bit of the score on the actual guitar he used for the original recording.
The early Super-8 version of Hardware titled Incidents In An Expanding Universe betrays it's low-budget source with an extremely dark picture quality. The forty-five minute film is important for students of the feature who will be rewarded for sticking with it despite the shape of the piece.
Rites Of Passage is a ten minute short film also shot on Super-8 with similar results. Stanley's 2006 nine minute short film The Sea Of Perdition is a sci-fi exercise with the expectedly excellent visuals.
An eight minute segment "Richard Stanley On Hardware 2" has the director outlining his original plans for the never produced sequel that he had planned on doing all along. Stanley's disappointment at not being able to complete his storyline is clearly apparent.
Next is twenty-five minutes of deleted and extended scenes with varying degrees of quality but all of great interest. Finally we have a German trailer for the film under the title Mark 13 - Hardware and a four minute vintage promo video for the movie.
The Severin release also has a very informative commentary track with Richard Stanley being interviewed by journalist Norman Hill. Stanley begins the discussion by stating "normally I don't really believe in commentary tracks but here goes..."
The same year as Severin's release saw Optimum Home Entertainment in the U.K. produce their own blu-ray version. This 50gb disc also has
Incidents In An Expanding Universe, Rites Of Passage and The Sea Of Perdition but adds The Voice Of The Moon a poignant thirty-two minute documentary by Richard Stanley from 1990 about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
Optimum's release has a twenty-two minute selection of deleted and extended scenes some different than those seen on the Severin blu-ray disc.
There is also a new commentary track recorded in March 2009 featuring producer Paul Trybits and Stanley (I thought he didn't believe in these!) detailing the making of the film and decisions made during the production. Although there is some information repeated from the Severin commentary track, there's enough fresh information presented to make this track just as essential listening as the previous one.
The 2011 Australian blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment repeats all the same bonus material found on the U.K. Optimum edition but on a single layer 25gb disc.
Regarding playback, the Severin release is region free while both the Optimum and Umbrella discs are locked to region B. None of them have subtitles in any language.
Robert Lawson 2014
Please note: an earlier version of this piece appeared in the January 2010 issue of Needle Magazine.