DVD REVIEW: HARDWARE (1990)
Starring Stacey Travis, Dylan McDermott and John Lynch
Written and directed by Richard Stanley
The plot: In a near-future dystopia, ex-soldier Mo (McDermott) brings a deactivated cyborg skull home to his sculptress girlfriend Jill (Travis). Little does either of them know that the cyborg just happens to be a M.A.R.K. 13 – a cunning combat droid with the ability to reassemble itself and the desire to kill.
The verdict: Hardware was an oddity when I first saw it at a suburban Canadian theatre back in 1990. A low-budget, British-made sci-fi/horror hybrid, I was expecting something grander, something bigger, something more Hollywood. (In fact, the film’s ending seemed like a great place to start for a bigger, more realized production.) Years later, having met oddball director Richard Stanley at Montreal’s Fantasia film fest, immersed myself in the industrial/cyberpunk culture of the ‘90s and developed a fondness for indie filmmaking, I can appreciate Hardware for what it is – a scrappy, fiercely independent, savagely intelligent film whose ambitious scope was curtailed by a deficit of money and time.
The film itself is almost secondary in regard to Severin’s top-notch “2-Disc Special Edition.” The extensive documentary ‘No Flesh Shall Be Spared’ is the set’s highlight, gathering together cast and crew to discuss the frenzied making of this underrated gem. Stanley proves to be the most intriguing figure – a contrary auteur up against time and money concerns who still managed to deliver a relatively commercial product which turned a profit for his so-called benefactors, the Weinstein brothers. Notable by his absence is ‘star’ Dylan McDermott, while Stacey Travis, still gorgeous and vibrant 19 years after filming, fondly recalls her near-death experiences on set.
Severin also include some of Stanley’s short films, including the Super-8 masterpiece ‘Incidents In An Expanding Universe’ (which inspired the Hardware feature) and 2006’s ‘Sea of Perdition’. The director’s commentary, reluctant as it is on Stanley’s part, reveals many intriguing production stories, including plans for a fascinating sounding sequel (as yet unrealized) and the film’s artistic antecedents.