Saturday, 25 September 2010

Hardware

Hardware, Richard Stanley's 1990 debut film could have came fresh from the pages of the long-running British sci-fi comic 2000AD, (and it almost did, but more about that in a minute). Set in a poisonous post-apocalyptic radioactive future, the remains of a prototype android finds its way into the hands of metal supltress Jill, who fashions the head as a centrepiece of her latest metallic creation. However, the android, a killing machine designed to curb population growth is not so obsolete, and after recharging itself from the power supply and rebuilding its body from various bits of metal, recommences its mission...

Anyone seeing Hardware for the first time after experiencing Richard Stanley' strange and enigmatic Dust Devil may be be surprised by the flat-out commercialism of Hardware, a film that makes no bones about being a rollicking sci-fi actioner. Stanley was probably saving his Tarkovsky influences for his next film, as Hardware sees the director riffing, (quite expertly it must be said) on the kinetic thrills of The Terminator, Blade Runner, and The Thing, (which like Carpenter's alien monster, Hardware's android is a shapeless bastardization of various forms). And if that wasn't enough, added to the mix is the hallucinatory weirdness of Dario Argento and outrageous splatter of Italian Post-Apocalypse Cinema.

Hardware is a heady brew, but the film is not without its shortcomings - the script is often clumsy and too busy with awkward exposition, the performances are variable, some of Stanley's ideas are a bit too broad (does the film really need Iggy Pop's irritating radio shock-jock?) and Goblin member Simon Boswel's score sounds terribly dated nowadays. Still, a far better film than much of the independent sci-fi fare that came in the early 90's (Split Second, Liquid Dreams anyone ?), and that a talent like Stanley has still only made two full features films to date is lamentable.Hardware was a considerable hit for Palace Pictures and Miramax on its release, but attracted some unwanted heat from the folks at 2000AD, who claimed that the film bore some striking similarities to SHOK! Walter's Robo-Tale, a comic strip which appeared in the 1981 Judge Dredd annual. Perhaps, but ironically, Hardware is a much superior film than the official 2000AD spin-off Judge Dredd.



Severin's US Blu-Ray edition of Hardware is quite simply a stunner. I had the Palace VHS edition in the 90's and home video just wasn't robust enough to do justice to Stanley's blazing color schemes. The high definition transfer is nothing short of miraculous, truly the film has never looked this good. Audio is equally strong so crank this one up, after the neighbours have gone out, and there's quite a treasure trove of extras - deleted scenes (from a scuzzy looking workprint), trailers, featuretes, some short films, a lengthy documentary about the film, and an informative, interesting commentary from the director (which differs from the commentary on the UK Optimum Blu-Ray, another fine disc (which completists may want to pick up). This is what you want, this is what you get...

3 comments:

  1. Goddamn man, that sounds totally fuckin rad! Almost like the bastard cyberpunk son of Terminator & Bladerunner.

    And hell yea, that Commodore Amiga has my name on it bitches.

    Sweet-ass review dude.

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  2. I think it was over at The Nostalgic Attic that I admitted I HATE this movie. Not only does it apparently rip off that 2000AD story up there - but also a Marvel comics storyline using a villain who will be appearing in a major release in 2015...his name's even in the subtitle there... the claustrophobic nature of the movie and the final solution in the film - turned me completely off to it. I didn't like Dust Devil either. Richard Stanley's filmmaking is not compatible with my operating system.

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  3. You're not the first person I know who dislikes Richard Stanley's films... I must say I'm really looking forward to seeing the recent documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau, about the 1996 film which Stanley was fired from and replaced by John Frankenheimer. I remember the film magazines were buzzing at the time with wild rumors that Stanley was hanging around the set trying to sabotage the production and so on, none of which were true but there was a considerable fall-out from that film...

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