The hilarity of Hardware Wars

There’s a big blacklist in Hollywood, and no, it’s not one ruining people’s careers. Rather, this blacklist includes the hottest unproduced screenplays of the year, and in 2011, Wookie made the list.

Wookie, written by Even Sussser and Van Robichaux, tells the story of the making of Star Wars from the point of view of Chewbacca. It’s definitely a funny idea for a movie, and perhaps it can even become the best Star Wars spoof, a position that IMHO is still held by Hardware Wars.

Back in the day, they used to show “short subjects,” or short little movies and cartoons before features along with coming attractions. Hardware Wars was often showed before movies, and on cable, and it played well into the early eighties. At the dawn of the video boom, you could even rent Hardware Wars, even though it’s only 13 minutes long.

Directed by Ernie Ford Fosselius, Hardware Wars was George Lucas’s favorite Star Wars spoof, and it’s still funny and clever today. Just the character names alone are funny: Fluke Starbucker, Ham Salad, Cuchilla the Wookie Monster (a Cookie Monster puppet with brown fur), 4Q2 (Get it? 4-Q-2 man!), and Augie Ben Doogie.

It’s narrated by Paul Frees, whose famous, booming voice also guided you through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, and in the days of much cheaper theater tickets, he promised, “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll kidd three bucks goodbye!” And of course, the film’s tag-line was: May the Farce Be With You.

The space ships are steam irons, the Death Star is a waffle iron, Princes Leia’s home planet is a basketball where you can clearly see the wire suspending it in space, and the cheapness of it all adds to the hilarity.

Funny enough, just like Lucas, Fossius did some tinkering on his own masterpiece with a Hardware Wars special edition, giving it slightly better effects, but again, the cheaper effects were much funnier. 

It’s also ironic to note that Hardware Wars featured the Ride of the Valkyries music a year before it gained cinematic immortality in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. (And as all Lucasphiles know, George was originally going to direct Apocalypse).

As Shock Cinema magazine writes, Hardware Wars “laid the groundwork for every DIY movie send up that now pops up on YouTube… Premiering when George Lucas’ cash cow was still filling the theaters, it quickly became a pre-VCR, word-of-mouth phenomenon.” 

Again, it was still playing before movies in the theaters into the early eighties, and it played regularly in the early days of cable, so many people were able to catch it regularly back in the day, myself included. (I taped a copy off ON TV, an early cable channel we had in the house). 

Going back to it today, it’s still a lot of fun, although I certainly welcome more Star Wars parodies hoping to match the homemade hilarity of Hardware Wars.