Directed by: Vidal Raski
Written by: William Mayo
Starring: Torben Bille, Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades & Clara Keller
Reviewed by: Brett H.
"I have more toys upstairs."
While I was sitting at work last night, I muttered, mostly to myself, “I want to go home.” Knowing my love for all forms of media, a co-worker replied, “Why, what did you get now?” I stopped for a moment, smirked and nonchalantly (as nonchalant as one can act while sporting the biggest grin since Cool Hand Luke) replied that I didn’t get anything. Of course, that was entirely untrue. That morning I opened the mailbox and licked my lips, knowing full well what this glowing envelope contained. I’ve seen a lot of exploitation, loved some nunsploitation and, hell, bought (way more than) my share of chop socky Bruceploitation. But, this was to be my first dwarfsploitation flick. Ahh, Severin. Is there anywhere they won’t go? I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I was anticipating a night with this new disc, entitled, The Sinful Dwarf, that’s just not my style. But, I swear on Torben Bille’s (we’ll get to him soon enough) soul that the guy who asked me what I got that day was a little person. It was as priceless as the idea of a creepy, limping dwarf that lives with his mother in an old nightclub turned rooming house, luring young girls into his attic with the promise of toys. Then, gets these young ladies hooked on smack and pimps them out for cash until their junk addictions become too much of a financial burden. At this point, I would usually encourage the reader to read on, but after that, how could one not?
It’s not easy making a living in the arts, and Peter (Tony Eades) is finding this out first-hand. Unable to make ends meet, he moves his lovely wife Mary (Anne Sparrow) into a ram-shackled complex run by Lila (Clara Keller) and her hobbling, height-challenged son, Olaf (Torben Bille) to save a few bucks. While Peter is out looking for work, Mary begins to hear strange things coming from the attic and as per horror rules, curiosity kills the cat and she goes to have a look. It won’t be the first time she wanders off the beaten hallways, and it won’t be the last… but eventually she will discover the home’s haunting secrets. Will Mary make it out of this tomb of torture and degradation alive, or will she succumb to the cackling snarls and flagitious eyes of Olaf, The Sinful Dwarf?!
The real shame of The Sinful Dwarf is the fact that the film’s vertically challenged star, Torben Bille, isn’t given enough screen time. Although far from a saint, Olaf the angry heroin-pushing dwarf commits few crimes throughout the film. Sure, he shoots up unsuspecting ladies with heroin and does some treacherous kidnapping, but it’s all for the money made from prostitution. In other words, you’re not going to see frantic S&M themed dwarf rape here. The movie is without a doubt warped, but it’s not nearly as visceral as one expects going in. Bille totally steals the show with his self-assuring and maniacally chortling character. It looks like he’s having a great time in front of the camera, and we’re always having a great time when he’s onscreen. But, when he limps out of sight, the film quickly begins to drag, despite ample amounts of nudity that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Like many Severin films, there is a lot of sex (well, softcore rape mostly) in The Sinful Dwarf, but the scenes are uninspired and off-putting. Unlike other Severin treasures like Malabimba and Mansion of the Living Dead that feature artistic eroticism, Dwarf comes across completely limp. The plot is rather dull and could be best equated to Groundhog Day in the sense that the same things happen day in and day out. Peter goes to work, Mary wanders from her room to investigate, something weird happens, and she is forced back to her room. And, repeat. The film is really low budget (unless the catering bill was massive, because it sure doesn’t show on the screen) sporting mainly one location and mostly likely every actress they could find willing to get raped in a heroin-induced stupor. As far as cinematography goes, the film looks rather bland, but there are at least three shots that were sleazy candy for the eye. The music is catchy in the weirdest possible way and the film manages to win my award for the queerest score I’ve witnessed. A sort of African tribal drum beat mixed with blaxploitation vibes and odd effects along with someone playing the spoons in the foreground. Don’t ask me why, but I dug it.
So, it should be to no one’s surprise that the flick isn’t a masterpiece, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that the film is still batshit crazy. It would have all the makings of a smelly cheesefest should the dwarf have been given more screentime and put at the center of the devious deeds (as was marketed) rather than in the background. Alas, he’s more like the frogs from, well, Frogs in the sense that he remains the selling-point of the title, but really doesn’t do all that much. When Torben is mugging it up, he’s incredibly effective and there are a few generally creepy scenes before the film hits climax and you finally stop twiddling your thumbs. Hairy-pitted Eurobabes, silly softcore love-making (featuring a long close-up of a guy’s ass while he sensually says to his wife, “I love you darling”), a whipping and eventually some bloodshed make this one worth sitting through. It’s incredibly amusing seeing well-dressed johns being led by a demented dwarf to a depraved junkie-hooker rape ring set in a decrepit attic. It’s just too bad Torben wasn’t more like Ralphus from Bloodsucking Freaks. The backbone of the plot is pure, immoral exploitation gold, and it must be appreciated as such. The contents of the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction could very well be the CliffsNotes of this film.
The Criterion of Smut, Severin Films releases The Sinful Dwarf on DVD with a full frame transfer that appears to be in the original aspect ratio. The soft transfer is coated with grain from start to finish and it truly looks like the best print available was found in a janitor’s closet at the Danish Film Institute or something. Actually, according to Severin, that is where it was found. The audio fares better, although a simple mono track, it is loud, clear and free of hiss. Severin includes a theatrical trailer and a TV spot Easter egg to round out the disc, along with a 10 minute featurette entitled The Severin Controversy. The featurette is played for kicks and covers the “true” stories of a couple of non-fans of the movie and how their life was forever changed by the deranged dwarf known as Olaf, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. It should be noted that a hardcore version of Dwarf exists, but is not featured here. I am not sure why, but my educated guess is the fact that XXX material is incredibly hard to distribute commercially, as shown with the recent Malabimba re-release that axes the hardcore inserts, due to Ryko no longer distributing pornographic materials and stores in general refusing to carry them. All in all, I enjoyed The Sinful Dwarf enough to definitely recommend it, if only because the cornerstones of the plot are pretty much cemented in exploitation infamy as being damn near untouchable in lewdness and debauchery. I just wish we’d have seen dirty deeds with a more gritty, in-your-face grindhouse style. To hark back onto the opening paragraph, after seeing this, I know firmly know that there is definitely no place Severin will not go. Thankfully. Rent it!
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