Hardware Wars: The Mother of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Profitable Short Film Ever Made)

Back in 1977, San Fran­cis­co film­mak­er Ernie Fos­selius had the brain­wave to make a spoof of a movie that had just come out. It was a risky move. Nobody had any sense that Star Wars would become the world­wide cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non that it did. And just as George Lucas’s space opera earned stag­ger­ing amounts of mon­ey, so did Fosselius’s par­o­dy, Hard­ware Wars. You can watch it above. Made for a mere eight grand, the 13-minute movie became a pre-inter­net viral hit and a sta­ple on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, ulti­mate­ly earn­ing over $1,000,000 – an unheard of haul for a short film. In fact, in terms of mon­ey spent ver­sus mon­ey earned, Hard­ware Wars end­ed up being far more prof­itable than Star Wars. And it’s con­sid­ered the most prof­itable short film ever made.

“I think a lot of the charm of that movie is the fact that we didn’t real­ly know what we were doing,” said Scott Math­ews, who donned a blonde wig to play the movie’s lead, Fluke Star­buck­er. The movie’s pro­duc­tion is so glee­ful­ly cheap and half-assed that you can’t help but be charmed by it. Irons, toast­ers, and tape play­ers are used in place of space­ships.

A can­is­ter vac­u­um clean­er stands in for R2D2, and Chew­bac­ca appears to be a Cook­ie Mon­ster pup­pet dyed brown. At one point, while on a desert plan­et of Tatooine, you see a beach-goer saun­ter­ing in the back­ground. And Star Wars’s famous can­ti­na scene is in this movie sim­ply a stroll through a crowd­ed tav­ern. If you know any­thing about the bar scene in 1970s San Fran­cis­co, you know that it was at least as weird as any­thing George Lucas man­aged to put up on the screen.

The often liti­gious Lucas report­ed­ly real­ly liked the movie, called it “cute.” He even invit­ed Fos­selius to voice the incon­solable sobs of Jab­ba the Hut­t’s ani­mal train­er after his beloved Ran­cor gets killed by Luke Sky­walk­er in Return of the Jedi.

Hard­ware Wars end­ed up launch­ing an entire sub­genre of movie – the Star Wars fan film. And with the advent of Youtube and dig­i­tal film­mak­ing tech­nol­o­gy, the abil­i­ty of nerds and mavens to make increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed takes on Lucas’s uni­verse became eas­i­er and eas­i­er. One of the bet­ter, and old­er, ones is Troops. A mash up of Star Wars and the real­i­ty TV series Cops, the short shows the chal­lenges and the strug­gles of being an Impe­r­i­al Stormtroop­er. Check it out below.

via Film­mak­erIQ

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Star Wars Bor­rowed From Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Great Samu­rai Films

Frei­heit, George Lucas’ Short Stu­dent Film About a Fatal Run from Com­mu­nism (1966)

Watch the Very First Trail­ers for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi (1976–83)

Joseph Camp­bell and Bill Moy­ers Break Down Star Wars as an Epic, Uni­ver­sal Myth

Hun­dreds of Fans Col­lec­tive­ly Remade Star Wars; Now They Remake The Empire Strikes Back

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.


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