I’m minding my own business when the young guy at work asks me if I’ve seen this movie ‘Hardware’ made way back in 1990. He was probably three when this movie came out while I was a struggling college student. Apparently he remembers it quite fondly, probably having seen it when he was around eight while siphoning off his parents cable TV, but I don’t remember this movie even though I have a copy of it. I let him borrow it, he has a great time with it, he gives it back to me and tells me I should watch it. Whatever young dude. Over the next week young dude will ask me every day, three times day, if I’ve watched it yet. Jesus. My choices were either watch ‘Hardware’ or quit my job.
It might look like the Red Planet but this is the planet Earth. I don’t know what went down but whatever it is this thing has left the skies scorched, the air damn near un-breathable, and a bunch of our cities are in complete ruins. We happen upon a scavenger who finds the remains of a robot in the middle of the desert. We will learn this robot was buried in the middle of nowhere for a reason.
Simply because he loves his girl Jill (Stacy Travis) so much, our hero Moses (Dylan McDermott) buys a bunch of this defunct robot off of this crazy looking dude so Jill can use it in her artwork. He offsets his purchase a little by palming one of the robot hands to undoubtedly the freakiest, soggiest, most disturbing looking dwarf you would ever want to see, his good friend Alvy (Mark Northover). That will not be good looking out.
So Moses and his bizarre English buddy Shades (John Lynch) make their way through the savage terrain and the freaks, and the unconscious women with babies tied them and eventually up to Jill’s fortress. Jill tries to act all tough like she didn’t miss Moses while he was away doing whatever it is he does for our government, but after a quick shower it’s time for some inspirational reunion sex under the watchful eye of the Linc (William Hootkins), the peeping tom next door. This cat looks a lot like the midget, soggy and freaky looking, only he’s not a dwarf.
After the lovin’ is done, Jill has to get to work to create some art with the artifacts that her man has brought her. Alvy has discovered this robot is the remnant of the flawed Mark 13 series of drones which know nothing about anything except murder. They buried that thing out in the desert so it couldn’t get to electricity because it has its own little power plant which allows it to refuel on just about anything electronic. Just so you won’t think that this particular government is benevolent or anything like that, they buried it out there because it had a flaw and didn’t work right, not because they care about their people.
Sure enough Jill’s little art work has come back to life and is setting about the task of doing what it was designed to do. By this time Moses has figured this out and is busting his ass to get back to Jill’s fortress to save his woman. He tries to call his boy Shades to help since he lives in the same building but he’s stoned. Jill is locked in with this thing and there is no way out. And she’s stoned too. And Jake is still a mile or two away. And there are two black guys downstairs. We only mention them because, you know, they are going to out of their way to find a way to die in this movie.
I don’t remember ‘Hardware’ in 1990. I don’t know why I didn’t see it because I don’t believe I was doing anything particular at that time outside of worrying where my next meal was going to come from, but I should’ve seen this movie at some point in the last twenty years. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much back then as this movie was truly out there, psychedelically speaking, but Richard Stanley’s mini-masterpiece of the bizarre is one movie that has rightfully earned its cult status standing. One of the good things about Hardware is that it isn’t weird just for the sake of being weird. Well, some of it is, I mean a killer robot singing opera is pretty damned weird but even that bit of oddness has some kind of basis for what is actually going on in the movie.
This isn’t to say that ‘Hardware’ is the greatest movie ever because it does drag itself along as we wait for it to get started, and the moment when the robot powered up and the first time it tried to kill Jill seemed to take freaking forever, but once it does get started this is where Richard Stanley’s skill as filmmaker takes over with this films tense pacing, stellar visuals, incredible makeup and robotics effects take center stage without one byte of CG to be found. Stanley uses this films one location and gives us a film that makes the most use of this location to give us a movie that is incredibly taut and tense as Jill tries to think her way out of this mess. Good thing she thinks well while on that junk.
Sure, when Moses finally busts up in the crib and blows the Mark 13 away we knew it wasn’t over, we’ve seen this scenario before. Mainly we knew it wasn’t over because the black guys were still alive, but we knew it wasn’t over. And yes, when Moses took that needle full of drugs that might’ve been the longest most drawn-out psychedelic trip in the history of movies. Well actually… I just saw Roger Corman’s ‘The Trip’ and that whole movie was about an LSD psychedelic trip so maybe not. But regardless, ‘Hardware’ was wild, bloody, trippy, ride.