The 1990 killer cyborg movie Hardware, now available as a 2-disc DVD, is important for various reasons: the low budget film’s successful release in the U.S. helped bankroll a then-fledgling company called Miramax; it made a semi-star out of the largely unknown Dylan McDermott; and it also features a cameo from Carl McCoy, lead singer with U.K. goth-rockers Fields of the Nephilim, whose unearthing of a robot head in some post-apocalyptic desert wasteland at the start of the flick ultimately proves bad news for pretty much every other character.
Okay, maybe McCoy’s cameo isn’t all that “important” an event in the rich tapestry of cinematic history. But it does hint at the fact that this debut movie from South Africa-born writer-director Richard Stanley is not your run-of-the-mill futuristic actioner. Stanley made the film shortly after a spell in Afghanistan, which was then at war with Russia, and where, according to his director’s commentary on this set, he “joined a fundamentalist guerrilla party.” That experience, combined with Stanley barely sleeping during the Hardware shoot, seems to have amped up his already-left-field cinematic sensibilities. I would wager this is the only film ever made in which a lead character dies while having a Mandelbrot fractal-filled hallucination as imaginary insects crawl all over his blood-soaked arm. The movie also features a scene in which perpetually stoned heroine Jill, played with half-crazed spunkishness by Stacey Travis, is almost raped by what Stanley refers to at one point in this set as a “power drill penis.” While the less-than-lithe movements of the actual robot betrays the film’s low budget the result remains a lunatic hoot.
The extras are no less impressive and include a new, if McDermott-free, making-of doc and a 2006 short film by Stanley called The Sea of Perdition, which somewhat resembles the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with more naked breasts and Bugsy Malone music (yes, you read that right). In addition, Stanley’s commentary is hugely entertaining, even if it ends on a rather downbeat note as the director expresses “rage” that so few of the film’s principal cast and crew went on to have substantial careers. In fact, Stanley’s own subsequent career pretty much redefines the concept of “disastrous”. His next movie, 1993’s Dust Devil, was little seen, and after recruiting Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer for 1996’s The Island Of Dr Moreau, he was fired a few days into the shoot for reasons that remain rather murky. (Stanley later returned incognito to the set of the movie to work as one of the film’s many “beast people” extras). I spent a day with the director in his East London apartment just before the U.K. release of Moreau and he told me that he kept getting checks after being fired from the film, and when he protested that he didn’t want additional Moreau monies, the checks just got bigger. (Note: this negotiating tactic may not work for you.)
Stanley hasn’t directed a feature film since the Moreau debacle. However, earlier this year it was announced that he was in pre-production on Vacation, a movie he was planning to make with Dean Cain and which he has described thusly: “Jewish coke addict New York stockbroker with an ex-lapdancer girlfriend in a Muslim part of the world when World War Three breaks out.” Alas, things seem to have gone rather quiet on that front of late. Mr Stanley, if you read this, please drop us a line, and tell us what’s going on! Everyone else, please feel free to check out the trailers for Hardware and Dust Devil below.