CC: Hardware (1990)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

CC: Hardware (1990)

2000 AD is a weekly British science fiction-orientated comic.  As a comics anthology it serializes various separate stories in each issue (known as "progs") and was first published by IPC Magazines in 1977, the first issue dated 26 February.  IPC then shifted the title to its Fleetway comics subsidiary which was sold to Robert Maxwell in 1987 then Egmont UK in 1991.  Fleetway continued to produce the title until 2000, when it was bought by Rebellion Developments.

It is most noted for its Judge Dredd stories, and has been contributed to by a number of artists and writers who became renowned in the field internationally, such as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon.  Other characters in 2000 AD include Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog and the ABC Warriors.

The story "Shok!" (created for Judge Dredd Annual 1981) was involved in controversy when it was realized that it was the basis of Richard Stanley's 1990 film Hardware.  Only after a court case, which Stanley lost, were the two given writing credits on the film.  Hardware is now considered the first 2000 AD stories to be adapted into film.  Other influences include Soylent Green, Damnation Alley, and the works of Philip K. Dick.  Writer-director Richard Stanley had previously made a post-apocalyptic short film when he was a teenager, and Hardware grew out of that film and responses he got from other, unproduced scripts.  Stanley had recently joined a guerrilla Muslim faction in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, where he shot a documentary.  After he left there, started pre-production of Hardware almost immediately afterward.  Psychic TV1 was an inspiration for the exaggerated television broadcasts.  Stanley says that the robot does not know that it is committing evil, and it only obeys its programming, which could be likened to a spiritual quest.  The opening scene was shot in Morocco, and the rest of the film was shot in east London.  The film was originally more specifically British, but Miramax insisted on American leads.  Stanley then added a multinational cast to muddy the setting.  Stanley wanted to emphasize themes of fascism and passive acceptance of authoritarianism, as he had recently come from the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Hardware is a 1990 British-American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film directed by Richard Stanley and starring Dylan McDermott.  Inspired by a short story in 2000AD, the film depicts the rampage of a self-repairing robot in a post-apocalyptic slum.


Hardware (1990)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Thriller
  • Directed: Richard Stanley
  • Produced:
    • Ray Corbett 
    • Elizabeth Karlsen 
    • Nik Powell 
    • JoAnne Sellar 
    • Paul Trijbits 
    • Bob Weinstein 
    • Harvey Weinstein 
    • Stephen Woolley 
    • Trix Worrell
  • Written:
    • Steve MacManus (Story "SHOK!") 
    • Kevin O'Neill (Story "SHOK!") 
    • Richard Stanley 
    • Michael Fallon
  • Starring: Carl McCoy, Iggy Pop, Dylan McDermott, John Lynch, Mark Northover, Stacey Travis, Paul McKenzie, Lemmy, William Hootkins, Mac McDonald, Chris McHallem, Barbara Yu Ling
  • Music: Simon Boswell
  • Cinematography: Steven Chivers
  • Editing: Derek Trigg
  • Studio:
    • Palace Pictures  
    • British Screen Productions  
    • British Satellite Broadcasting  
    • Wicked Films
  • Distributed:
    • Millimeter Films  
    • Palace Pictures  
    • New Vision Films  
    • Buena Vista Home Video  
    • CBS/Fox Home Video  
    • Cineplex-Odeon Home Video  
    • Home Box Office Home Video  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • MCA  
    • Optimum Releasing  
    • Palace Video  
    • Severin Films  
    • Umbrella Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 14 September 1990 (USA) 
    • 5 October 1990 (UK)
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country:
    • United Kingdom 
    • USA
  • Language: English

A nomad scavenger treks through an irradiated wasteland and discovers a buried robot.  He collects the pieces and takes them to junk dealer Alvy, who is talking with 'Hard Mo' Baxter, a former soldier, and Mo's friend Shades.  When Alvy steps away, Mo buys the robot parts from the nomad and sells all but the head to Alvy.  Intrigued by the technology, Alvy begins to research its background.  Mo and Shades visit Jill, Mo's reclusive girlfriend, and, after an initially distant welcome where Jill checks them with a Geiger counter, Mo presents the robot head as a Christmas gift.  Jill, a metal sculptor, eagerly accepts the head.  After Shades leaves, Mo and Jill argue about a government sterilization plan and the morality of having children.  Later, they have sex, while being unknowingly watched by their foul-mouthed, perverted, voyeuristic neighbor Lincoln Weinberg via telescope.

Jill works the robot head into a sculpture, and Mo says that he likes the work, but he does not understand what it represents.  Frustrated, Jill says it represents nothing and resents Mo's suggestion that she make more commercial art to sell.  They are interrupted by Alvy, who urges Mo to return to the shop, as he has important news about the robot, which he says is a M.A.R.K. 13.  Before he leaves, Mo checks his Bible, where he finds the phrase "No flesh shall be spared" under Mark 13:20, and he becomes suspicious that the robot is part of a government plot for human genocide.  Mo finds Alvy dead of a cytotoxin (capable of being toxic to cells) and evidence that the robot is an experimental combat model capable of self-repair; Alvy's notes also indicate a defect, a weakness to humidity.  Worried, Mo contacts Shades and asks him to check on Jill, but Shades is in the middle of a drug trip and barely coherent.

Back at the apartment, the robot has reassembled itself using pieces of Jill's metal sculptures and recharged by draining her apartment's power network.  It attempts to kill Jill, but she traps it in a room after the apartment's doors lock.  Lincoln sees the robot close the blinds while trying to peep on Jill, and, after he briefly manages to open the apartment door and sexually harasses her, offers to override the emergency lock that traps them in her apartment.  Lincoln dismisses her warnings of a killer robot, and, when he attempts to open Jill's blinds so that he can more easily peep on her, the M.A.R.K. 13 brutally kills him.  Jill flees into her kitchen, where she reasons that her refrigerator will hide her from the robot's infrared vision.  She damages the robot before Mo, Shades, and the apartment's security team arrive and open fire on it, apparently destroying it.

As Jill and Mo embrace, the M.A.R.K. 13 drags her out a window, and she crashes into her neighbor's apartment.  Jill races back upstairs to help Mo, who is alone with the M.A.R.K. 13.  Overconfident, Mo engages the robot in battle, and it injects him with the same toxin that killed Alvy.  Mo experiences euphoria and a series of hallucinations as he dies.  After Jill reenters her apartment, the M.A.R.K. 13 sets her apartment doors to rapidly open and close; the security team die when they attempt to enter, and Shades is trapped outside.  Jill hacks into the M.A.R.K. 13's CPU and unsuccessfully attempts to communicate with it; however, she discovers the robot's weakness and lures the M.A.R.K. 13 into the bathroom.  Shades, who has managed to quickly jump through the doors, gives her time to turn on the shower.  The M.A.R.K. 13 short circuits and is finally deactivated.  The next morning, a radio broadcast announces that the M.A.R.K. 13 has been approved by the government, and it will be mass manufactured.

Despite mixed reviews during original release, Hardware managed to become a cult film.  Ian Berriman of SFX wrote, "It's one of those lovingly crafted movies where ingenuity and enthusiasm overcome the budgetary limitations."  Matt Serafini of Dread Central rated it 4/5 stars and wrote, "Hardware isn't quite the masterpiece that some its most ardent fans have claimed, but it's an excellent piece of low-budget filmmaking from an era when low-budget wasn't synonymous with camcorder crap."  Bloody Disgusting rated it 3.5/5 stars and called it "an austere and trippy film" with a narrative that is "a disjointed mess"; however, the film's excesses make it a cult film.  Todd Brown of Twitch Film called it "essentially a lower budget, more intentionally punk take on The Terminator" that has an "undeniable ... sense of style".  At DVD Verdict, Daryl Loomis called it slow-paced but stylistic and atmospheric, and Gordon Sullivan called it "a hallucinatory and violent film" that has an overly detailed, slow-paced beginning.  Writing for DVD Talk, Kurt Dahlke rated it 3/5 stars and called it a "forgotten gem" that "is overwhelmed by style and gore", and Brian Orndorf called it "an art-house, sci-fi gorefest" that is moody and atmospheric without buckling under its own weight.  Michael Gingold of Fangoria rated it 3/4 stars and wrote, "If the ingredients of HARDWARE are familiar, Stanley cooks them to a boil with a relentless pace and imagery that makes his future a tactile place".  Personally, it’s not a bad sci-fi/horror film but just doesn’t live up to the possibilities of “forgotten thing found in desert is bad idea to rediscover and take home” that the blurb on the back cover teases.

Even by 1990s British Post-Apocalyptic Techno-Punk Standards this is a weird movie.

 

Notes:

1.  Psychic TV (sometimes spelled Psychick TV) or PTV, is a video art and music group that primarily performs psychedelic, punk, electronic and experimental music.  The band was formed by performance artist Genesis P-Orridge and video director Peter Christopherson (after the breakup of Throbbing Gristle) with Alex Fergusson, musician and producer (a key member of Alternative TV for whom P-Orridge had played percussion).

The band began publishing a monthly series of 23 live albums in 1986, but stopped without explanation after only 17.  The tenth, a picture disk most commonly referred to as Album 10, could only be obtained by submitting tokens contained in each of the previous nine releases.  The band subsequently earned an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for most records released in one year.

 

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