Friday, March 13, 2009

REVIEW: The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

When a gimpy, creepy-looking dwarf lures a bra-less waif back to his filthy lair with the promise of “more toyth upschtairs” – and then whacks her over the head with his cane – you can be pretty sure that director Vidal Raski’s notorious 1973 sleazer THE SINFUL DWARF is not going to champion the plight of little people.

In fact, this pre-credit moment with Olaf (former kiddie show host Torben Bille, billed simply as Torben) may be the lightest in this notorious sleazer’s 95-minute running time. Recently unearthed in a janitor’s closet at the Danish Film Institute and foisted upon us by the folks at Severin, DWARF may not be – as the box touts – “the mother of all dwarfsploitation films”, but it’s in the running. (I currently give that title to Baron Corvo’s notorious BEING CAPTURED, which I was introduced to by TOUGH TO KILL scribe David Zuzelo.)

Played agonizingly straight, THE SINFUL DWARF is the flip side of Joel Reed’s BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (aka THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW). While Reed’s contribution to the evil dwarf genre starring the unforgettable Louis DeJesus as Ralphus cushions the dual blows of crude Grand Guignol splatter and light bondage with a knowing wink and high camp, THE SINFUL DWARF refuses to soften the edges or offer the viewer any (intentional) comic relief.

When a young couple comes calling at the boarding house run by former cabaret performer Lila Lashe (Clara Keller), she initially tells the husband that there are no rooms available. After all, who wants Peter (the vaguely Christian Bale-ish Tony Eades) hanging about while she and her son Olaf are trafficking in young gals?

But when the boozy, scarred Lila gets a gander at Peter’s wife Mary (Anne Sparrow in her lone film credit according to IMDB) her story changes and the couple is soon being given a jaw-dropping tour from Olaf that leaves them speechless as they try to “set up home” in the gross-looking, grease-caked room. And, as any viewer of exploitation cinema is well aware, most of these boarding houses come equipped with convenient peep holes so the Olafs of the world can eavesdrop on the love-making of couples like Peter and Mary.

Speaking of Mary, it’s a shame that Sparrow doesn’t have a lengthy, sexploitation-filled filmography to explore ala Christina Lindberg. First glimpsed in a frumpy dress and overcoat ensemble that hides her considerable charms, Sparrow’s um, unveiling, is just one of the flick’s spectacular selling points. Decked out in a pair of form-fitting jeans and a shape-hugging stretch sweater Sparrow looks like the gal the word “curvy” was invented for. Unfortunately, her acting consists entirely of opening her eyes wide and looking on in apparent disbelief. Oh, and showing her boobs.

But back to DWARF where we learn that Lila and Olaf are keeping a bevy of busty gals drugged-up in an attic cell so that men can have sex with the barely resistant victims. And what sex it is! Raski fills the frame with lots of close-ups of gyrating butts, clenched fingers and toes, and mountains of 70s Euroboosh, creating some of the most spectacularly unpleasant on-screen sex I’ve ever witnessed. (I’ve heard that a hardcore version of DWARF’s sexcapades exists so we’ll have to wait and see if an even more complete version turns up down the line.)

Peter, a struggling writer, is frequently out trying to land jobs which leaves poor Mary home alone to deal with Lila and her boozy pal shouting and singing show tunes, not to mention the muffled cries from the sex-slaves who are hooked on heroin brought in by a drug dealer named Santa Claus. Convinced there’s something sinister afoot in the dark, depressing, greasy, gross rooming house, Mary creeps about hoping to prove to the increasingly-frustrated Peter that she’s not crazy.

Written by William Mayo from a story by Harlan Asquith, THE SINFUL DWARF would probably be a mere footnote in Eurosleaze history were it not for the demented performance from Torben Bille as Olaf. Widely – and accurately described – as resembling Jack Black after a run-in with a trash compactor, he lurches about in a cloud of sweat and spittle, uncomfortably leering at the attic-ful of chained beauties, peering down the pants of toy store dollies, and choking out his lines in a raspy approximation of English that is sure to make your skin crawl.

I can’t imagine THE SINFUL DWARF becoming a repeat favorite like BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, but it’s a classic example of out there exploitation cinema that must be seen to be believed.

THE SINFUL DWARF is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

2 comments:

Phantom of Pulp said...

Very fair review of THE SINFUL DWARF.

Torben Bille is definitely Jack Black compacted.

Olaf's deviance gives him a strong edge.

BEING CAPTURED does lurk above DWARF.

Wings said...

I haven't seen either of these movies, so more to add to my Netflix queue. Sounds creepy!