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The Sinful Dwarf (1973)
11th Aug 09
Dwarf and mum keep girls as sex slaves in the attic and feed them heroin. Mum drinks much gin and sings annoyingly.
It's so easy to postpone viewing a film that The Daily Grindhouse labelled 'the mother of all dwarfsploitation films' for obvious reasons. Firstly, I'm not really into dwarfs, and second, there was something so wrong about this movie...one could simply sense it from the images that adorn the DVD cover art. It's also Danish, and from 1973 - a time and location that one could conceive of getting away with filming anything imaginable. How bad could it be anyway? Have Severin outdone themselves with this outrageous addition to their sleaze canon?
Meet Olaf the dwarf. He lives with his mother, Lila Lash - a washed up old lush who now runs a boarding house. Except that this dilapidated building is less of a boarding house and more of a sex slavery racket, where young naked women are chained up in the attic and fed heroin by the same slimy little toad who lures them into the building with the promise of showing them his toy collection ("I have more toys upstairs"). Male customers come and go on a daily basis, paying for sessions with the girls, while Olaf and mum take the dough.
Their domestic bliss is somewhat unsettled by the arrival of new tenants Mary and Peter, a couple on hard times who have little option but to stay somewhere so nasty, at £6 per week. Understandably perturbed by the almost constant comings and goings upstairs she hears while Peter is out looking for work, Mary decides to investigate what exactly is going on in the attic. Unluckily for her, Olaf and Lila are in need of a fresh girl as the others have been "used too much", and focus their sights on Mary while Peter is out of town one weekend.
Every now and again something goes into the DVD player that knocks you for six. The Sinful Dwarf is a good example of such a movie. It's a gruelling experience in the sick and downright depraved and although very challenging to watch, there is something disarmingly endearing about it - although that won't be the case for every viewer. The title sequence at the beginning will get you first, and you would be right to worry at this point. Along with crazed theme 'music' which sounds like Goblin on LSD, we are presented with images of the creepy wind up toys and glove puppets Olaf loves too much...and it's quite unlike any title sequence you've ever seen. It's scary shit.
Olaf's technique for luring women into the house may be very questionable, though. The pre-credits sequence depicts him distracting a young woman from her game of hopscotch (wait a minute, just how old is this girl anyway?) with his wind up-toy poodle. She accompanies him back to the boarding house, presumably to see more toys, but this pretext seems completely absurd because no-one, especially young, attractive women, would want to accompany Olaf anywhere - he is so much more than a sinful dwarf. On a side note, Olaf is played by one Torben Bille, who once earned his crust as a children's TV presenter in Denmark. Once you've seen his demented portrayal in this movie, such a concept seems utterly implausible.
Olaf's face may stay with you for hours, even days after your viewing experience. Think Jack Black squashed up a bit and youíre pretty much there. His grimacing and squirming are the darkest stuff of nightmares, and disgusting though he may be, he is a large part of what makes The Sinful Dwarf work so well Ė Torben really acts his little arse off here. The remainder of the cast may not be quite so effective, in particular Tony Eades and the gorgeous Anne Sparrow as the unfortunate lodgers (although they appear to be dubbed while Olaf isn't), but Clara Keller throws herself into the role of scheming Lila with aplomb. She's always getting pissed up on Beefeater gin with her mate Winnie, but you'll be despairing every time she starts dressing up to perform one of her songs, accompanied by Olaf, who fiendishly tinkers along on the piano. Itís probably fair to say that a lot of the dialogue here has got that Herschel Gordon Lewis quality about it, i.e. Sloppy, unrehearsed, a bit awkward, but for some reason it doesn't really matter.
This isnít just a dwarfsploitation picture - itís also sexploitation. Which means thereís lots of sex. Dirty sex. Unattractive sex. The kind of sex that doesnít turn you on (a bit like that repugnant coitus in Fulci's Touch of Death). These sex scenes, while not hardcore, are quite authentic-looking and pretty full-on, as we witness the paying clientele fuck the poor, smacked-up girls like crazy. Instead of titillating us with the admittedly sexy girls, director Vidal Raski opts to aim his camera at the menís arses as they pump furiously up and down until you begin to feel nauseous. No, itís not very nice. Not very nice at all.
As for the story itself, it is fairly straightforward premise which is handled fairly well with some genuine tension, aided by a quirky twist halfway through that will make you sit up straight again, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself to endure what the next 30 minutes have in store. It involves Olaf and Lilaís heroin dealer who goes by the name of Santa Claus, but if you want to find out any more details then youíll have to sit through this ordeal for yourself.
Itís not pint-sized fun like Weng-Wengís special agent shenanigans (For Y'ur Height Only or The Impossible Kid). Nor is it backwards midget dialogue gibberish like Lynch's Twin Peaks. And itís certainly as far removed from Ozís munchkins as you could ever imagine. See it with someone who can be there for you, someone you can laugh with nervously. You will most probably require a shower directly afterwards.
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