With the revamped "Star Wars" trilogy making such an impact at the box office during the past few months, "Hardware Wars: The Special Edition" just had to happen.
For the uninitiated, "Hardware Wars" is a 20-minute sendup of "Star Wars," created on the cheap as a mock theatrical preview some 20 years ago.Written and directed by Ernie Fosselius and produced and photographed by Michael Wiese, the spoof is quite specific as it lampoons the first "Star Wars" movie, with household appliances as space ships, wild parodies of the characters and the cheesiest special effects you've ever seen.
Steam irons zoom through space, a toaster fires lethal bread, a waffle iron opens in a sinister manner, etc.
Meanwhile, whiny Fluke Star-bucker teams up with cocky Ham Salad, all-knowing Auggie "Ben" Doggie, arrogant Princess Anne-Droid (with huge breakfast rolls on the sides of her head) and the Wookie Monster (a cross-eyed Muppet) to battle evil Darph Nader (whom no one can understand).
And we mustn't forget those lovable robots Artie Deco (a compact vacuum cleaner) and 4-Q-2 (the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz").
"May the farce be with you," as they say.
The film had a brief theatrical run, played internationally on the film festival circuit and was shown (in an abbreviated form) on one of Dick Clark's "Bloopers & Practical Jokes" television programs before going to video in 1983, packaged with three other short spoofs. That tape, " `Hardware Wars' and Other Film Farces" has long since gone out of print.
But now, "Hardware Wars" is back on video in this new "Special Edition" release, which has added a few digital special effects and boasts packaging that spoofs the new "Star Wars: The Special Edition" poster art.
Basically, however, "Hardware Wars: The Special Edition" is the same short film - and it's still 10 times funnier than Mel Brooks' much more expensive "Spaceballs."
"This (`Special Edition' version) is kind of a parody on a parody," Wiese said by telephone from his Los Angeles office. "The special effects we added were more spaceships, a whole squadron of corkscrews moving slightly differently, we added a new character at the front of the cantina scene and there's a parody of the THX logo.
"And we went to great lengths to be sure shots don't match!"
Wiese is still a filmmaker, and he's been producing videos and documentary programs for two decades, including "An American Band" - the Beach Boys "rockumentary" - and "Shirley MacLaine's Inner Workout."
But Fosselius, whom Wiese credits with the creativity behind "Hardware Wars," is a busy wood sculpture artist.
"Originally, this was Ernie's idea, and he's really the satirist and genius behind the whole premise. I'm good at marketing, I got it out into the world."
There's also a comic book version due in May. "World comics is doing it," said Wiese. "They had always wanted to do the original `Star Wars' comic, but they lost it to Marvel. What sweet revenge it is for them to parody the Marvel comic."
"Hardware Wars: The Special Edition," which costs $9.95, can be obtained through retail distributors - if those stores will order it. "We haven't had any big sales yet - Musicland and Blockbuster have put in small orders. But people can go and request it anywhere."
The tape can also be ordered by phone, at 1-800-833-5738.
- A NEW CHILDREN'S video out on the market has been developed in the tradition of Barney, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers.
Meet Wilbur the Cow.
Unlike those other TV personalities - or, in some cases, animalities - who are aimed at the toddler set, Wilbur the Cow is aimed at the so-called "diaper set," 6 months to 4 years old, according to co-creator Jill Ludke.
"I looked at all the educational programs on PBS and noticed that there weren't any that were made for my 1-year-old daughter," Ludke said during a phone interview from her office in San Diego, Calif.
"I got together with my neighbors - we all have children that are around the same age - and we decided to do something about this problem."
Ludke, Tracey Hornbuckle and Kim Anton brainstormed "a character the children could relate to."
"We decided on a black-and-white calf. But the trick was how to bring it to life. Originally we had a costume, like Barney, but decided it was too big and could be, at times, a little scary for our audience. And animation wasn't quite as personal as we wanted it to be.
"We finally came up with the idea of Wilbur being a puppet."
While Barney is modeled after a creature that lived on the Earth millions of years ago, Wilbur is modeled after one that lives on Earth now. In fact, the puppet's namesake lives up in Park City.
"About a year ago, I visited a friend at the Equine Pavilion in Park City and met Wilbur, who was a newborn calf," Ludke said. "I came up with the idea of making a picture book and video. The idea was to have children on the video making animal sounds and encouraging the viewers to do the same and identifying what animal said what."
Ludke, Hornbuckle and Anton pitched the idea to a video producer who liked the concept.
"We returned to Park City and filmed barn animal footage and the kids imitating them," Ludke said.
The result - a 30-minute video called "Learn and Play With Wilbur and Friends, Volume 1: Learn Farm Animals and Their Sounds."
"We have ideas for other videos as well, but for now, we're seeing how this one does," Ludke said.
Wilbur's video is available at Deseret Book and Nordstrom, or you can order it directly from EKA Productions by calling 1-800-WILBUR5.
- Scott Iwasaki