Friday, November 27, 2015

THE SINFUL DWARF (1974)



How can you make drugging young women, locking them in an attic and prostituting them out to horny men more repulsive that it already is? Make the protagonist a sadistic dwarf who lures unsuspecting ladies into his home with toys. Even better, ensure that the actor playing the dwarf is the host of a Danish kiddie-show.
     In 2009, Severin Films unleased the 1974 film The Sinful Dwarf onto American audiences in both its softcore and hardcore versions (this review concerns the softcore version). The DVD cover is littered with blurbs such as “Best. Plot. Ever. Weird, demented and amazing… The whole movie delivers the goods” (Cinema is King), and “Over the top with nudity, sex and disturbing images. It just doesn’t get any sleazier, folks!” (The Daily Grindhouse). Indeed, I’d heard from several sources that this film was as sleazy as they come, as demented as it gets. So, did the film live up to its reputation?
     Well…
     Mary (Anne Sparrow) and her husband Peter (Tony Eades) move into the boarding house run by Olaf (Torben Bille) and his mother, ex-nightclub singer Lila Lash (Clara Keller). Unbeknownst to the young couple, Olaf and Lila have a secret hidden away in their attic: several young women who are kept drugged up on heroin and prostituted out to men! Frequently hearing the noises made by the women, and the men who come to get their rocks off, Anne begins to investigate. At the same time, Olaf has grown bored with his current batch of beauties and has set his sights on Anne with the intention of adding her to the collection.
     Let’s just say that this film’s reputation promises more than the actual product delivers, which is standard practice in the exploitation world. While, yes, the film does deliver the sleaze, it all feels as though the filmmakers were following a How-To manual on sleaze, piling it on until it’s just boring, and it all lacks the energy found in other sleaze flicks. Even a whipping scene feels tacked on—and is pulled off with such ineptitude that it manages to make the whipping scene in Blood Feast look entirely convincing. Olaf could certainly compete with other sleazy characters for the Sleazeball of the Century award but the rest of the film contains nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

     And given that the characters this movie lures to their doom are as bland and uninteresting as cigarette ash, the audience doesn’t care what type of perversions they are subjected to. The only characters who really stand out are Lila, Olaf, and Santa Clause (Wener Hedman), a drug dealer who smuggles drugs in teddy bears. Unfortunately they are relegated to supporting roles—Olaf! Given a supporting role in his own movie! That was a big mistake on the part of the writers because the other characters are not worth spending more than five minutes with—and that’s being generous. Mary is your stereotypical exploitation blonde, i.e. nice body, no talent or brains; Peter is a struggling writer (whom we don’t really see doing much writing—no wonder he’s struggling!) who seems to just be there because Mary needs a husband. Plus, their sex scene would give Olaf a chance to spy on something, and smile that devious little smile of his.
     Of course, this being an exploitation film, complaining about the presence of boring, stock characters is kind of like complaining about your teeth when you accidentally bite your lip: such is to be expected.
     However, stock characters wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the story and plot were interesting. Sadly, this is where the movie really fails. The softcore version is 95 minutes long. The first hour or so is basically comprised of Anne playing Nancy Drew, Anne being Peter’s wife, Lila engaging in a few drunken musical numbers to entertain her friend, Peter walking around trying to sell his “writing” and looking for a job, Olaf shuffling around and being sleazy, and a few sex scenes along with the aforementioned whipping scene. The plot doesn’t get moving until the last 25 minutes or so, but by then it’s too little, too late. We do get the infamous “walking stick” scene—which involves Olaf’s walking stick and Anne’s vagina, you do the math—but the scene is hardly shocking or disturbing and is just getting in the way of the film’s closing credits. Or, maybe we’ve just been numbed by the snail-in-molasses pace of the film’s first hour. You figure it out.
     Overall, The Sinful Dwarf is worth checking out as an object of curiosity as well as for Olaf who, as I mentioned earlier, makes the film worth sitting through. Just don’t expect to be pimping this film out to your friends—unless you hate them.
Olaf is peeking in on a better movie.

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