There must be dozens of Star Wars parodies out there. Everyone has made fun of Star Wars at some point, from Mel Brooks to Steve Oedekerk. But probably my favorite Star Wars parody of all time has to be an obscure little film called Hardware Wars. Ever heard of it?
The Hunt for Hardware Wars
The way I heard about this film is an adventure by itself. My parents owned a Sony Betamax tape player back when it was competing with VHS to become the dominant form of home entertainment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. VHS won, of course, but that didn’t stop Sony from fighting years after they lost.
My parents recorded all sorts of movies off TV onto Betamax tapes, including Star Trek II-IV, Tootsie, Oh God! and a quirky little film called Hardware Wars. Actually, they only managed to get the last two-thirds of it, so I always wondered what happened at the very beginning. What I did see was absolutely hilarious, so I was pretty satisfied, but my parents were not.
Way back in the days before eBay and Amazon, consumers had to scour the yellow pages, newspapers and Nickel Ads to find collector items. It took them more than 10 years, but my parents finally managed to track down a VHS copy of Hardware Wars. The title was Hardware Wars and Other Film Farces. My mom gleefully showed it to me one day when I was a young teenager, and I was excited to watch it.
Bambi, Godzilla and Friendly Aliens
She asked me to preview all the films on the tape before showing it to the family because even then I was known as a bit of an eclectic film buff. I happily agreed. In addition to Hardware Wars, the tape featured a strange short called Bambi Meets Godzilla. I found it hilarious. The opening credits roll as we’re introduced to a black-and-white version of Bambi eating grass and kicking its leg every now and then while classical music plays in the background. The credits go on for an absurdly long amount of time and they eventually run out of people to credit so they actually say, “Marv Newland produced by Mr. & Mrs. Newland.” I have to admire such profound absurdity.
There were two other short films on the tape – one that lampooned Close Encounters of the Third Kind and another that parodied Apocalypse Now. I had never seen those two movies, so I didn’t think their parodies were all that great. But Hardware Wars more than made up for their mediocrity.
A Long Time Ago…
Back in 1978, Star Wars was still a new phenomenon and no filmmakers had been ambitious enough to lampoon it. But all that changed when two Hollywood outsiders named Michael Wiese and Ernie Fosselius came up with a great idea. The resulting film, Hardware Wars, looks like it literally had a shoestring budget. I say literally because it appears the filmmakers actually tied shoestrings onto props. Hardware Wars is just about everything you could hope for in a Star Wars parody. It has delightful overacting, lots of funny in-jokes and several winks to the audience. Let’s dive into what makes this movie so good.
Hardware Wars is fittingly told in the format of an overblown movie trailer rather than as an actual film. An announcer comes on every now and then to tell us that what we’re watching is a grand spectacle full of “expensive special effects,” which makes what we’re actually seeing on the screen even funnier. Instead of seeing futuristic spaceships flying in space, we’re treated to irons and egg beaters dangling on strings and shooting negative scratches at each other. Instead of the huge Death Star, we see a fearsome-looking waffle maker. Maybe it only has one diabolical setting – burnt to a crisp! Oh, this movie is fun.
This movie is a little hit and miss when it comes to coming up with creative names for the characters. Some of the characters’ names are ingenious: Ham Salad, Artie Deco, Auggie Ben DAuggie and Darph Nader. Other characters got names that felt a little lazy: Fluke Starbucker, 4-Q-2 and Princess Anne-Droid. Even the bad ones are still okay. I just think they could have been better.
I quickly realized I didn’t miss much in the first two minutes. It just faithfully follows the events of Star Wars and finally leads us to the home of Auggie Ben Doggie. I have to admit it’s pretty funny when he hands an ordinary flashlight to Fluke, who acts astounded at how cool it looks when it beams through a mist. Auggie even gives the audience a knowing glance. Genius!
Where It Gets Good
Right after this scene is where my old Beta tape had started. Auggie and Fluke run into an Imperial Steamtrooper, who Auggie is able to use his Jedi mind trick on. The Steamtroopers are delightfully absurd. They don’t seem to be capable of doing anything. In one scene, Ham Salad kicks one over after shooting it with his blaster dozens of times. That was easy!
Instead of finding Han Solo and Chewbacca in a Cantina like Obi-Wan and Luke did, Auggie and Fluke find Ham Salad and Chewchilla in a very ‘70s-looking bar. There’s even a quasi-country song playing in the background in which a singer drawls, “I’m proud to be old Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Chewchilla is my favorite part of the movie. He looks like a red version of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, which makes him instantly lovable. Toward the end of the film, he does something every kid must have been thinking the first time they saw Star Wars. He takes one look at Princess Anne-Droid’s hair buns and hungrily takes a bite out of one of them. Delicious!
My Favorite Part
The best part of the movie is when Darph Nader threatens Princess Anne-Droid, but she can’t figure out what he’s saying because his voice is muffled under his mask. “I can’t understand you. Are you talking to me?” she says, exasperated. Finally he gets down to business, threatening to blow up her home planet of Basketball. The fact that they didn’t even try to come up with a creative name for Alderaan but simply called it by the prop’s name is absolutely hilarious. So he flips the switch and blows up Basketball. Suddenly we see Auggie fall back and writhe in pain while sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Iron. Fluke earnestly asks him, “Jeepers, what is it, Auggie Ben Doggie? Did you feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?” And Auggie responds nonchalantly, “No, just a little headache.”
The movie peters out after the heroes escape the Death Waffle Maker. The end battle is anticlimactic, but that’s understandable given the film’s low budget and its movie trailer format. Besides, what trailer would ever give away the ending? All in all, Hardware Wars is a way-above-average parody in the same vein as Airplane. I would say this is a strong contender for best Star Wars parody, right up there with Thumb Wars. Curse you, Steve Oedekerk, for making such a perfect movie, so I can’t get too annoyed with you for making so many lame movies!
I reported back to my mom that Hardware Wars and Other Film Farces is very funny and only mildly inappropriate in a few places. So we all enjoyed it as a family. But just a couple of years later the whole search for the video lost all of its meaning because a Special Edition of Hardware Wars came out on video to coincide with the Special Edition releases of the original Star Wars trilogy. My parents were dumbfounded that after all their hard work, if they had just waited a few more years they wouldn’t have had to work at all to find a copy of Hardware Wars. Life sure is funny.
Hardware Wars was definitely worth the wait. It’s a great way to spend 13 minutes of your life. I highly recommend it. You can see the whole thing on YouTube if you can’t wait to buy it or get it on Netflix.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
Hardware Wars is the copyright of its respective owners.