- "You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll kiss three bucks goodbye!"
Hardware Wars (1977) is a short film spoof of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The thirteen-minute film, which premiered in theatres only seven months after Star Wars, consisted of little more than inside jokes and visual puns that heavily depended upon audience familiarity with the original.
Hardware Wars was written and directed by San Francisco native Ernie Fosselius. It was structured as a mock-movie trailer, and Fosselius even secured a voice-over from Paul Frees, the same voice talent who had narrated the original Star Wars teaser trailer. Deliberately low-budget effects and props were used, most notably ordinary household appliances such as toasters and irons as spaceships (hence the title), and an exploding basketball in place of a planet. The characters, played by actors who were just as low-budget as the props, were also parodied in name and appearance; for example, Chewbacca the Wookiee was replaced by "Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster," an obvious Cookie Monster puppet with a brown dye-job, and Darth Vader's counterpart, "Darph Nader," wore a welding helmet that distorted his voice so much that no one could understand anything he said.
Hardware Wars won the award for Most Popular Short Film at the Chicago Film Festival. It is considered to be the most profitable short film of all time, grossing $500,000 as compared to its paltry $8,000 budget (a much better profit ratio than Star Wars itself had). George Lucas said in a 1999 interview that Hardware Wars was his favorite Star Wars parody.
To spoof the "Special Edition" re-release of Star Wars in 1997, which included additional scenes and more advanced digital special effects, Hardware Wars was re-released as a twenty-minute "Special Edition," with new digital "special defects."
In 2009, Apprehensive Films re-released the film on DVD for its 30th anniversary. Hardware Wars also appeared alongside Plan 9 from Outer Space on the horror hosted television series Cinema Insomnia. The episode included the director Ernie Fosselius and its stars Artie-Deco and Chewchilla as well as interview with horror host Mr. Lobo.
Interestingly, the film incorporates inside jokes such as 1138 and the line "I have a bad feeling about this" that reappeared in subsequent Star Wars works after A New Hope, despite not being well-known or noticeable after the first movie.