*Reviewers Note: This review is for the softcore version of the film.
“There’s more toys…upstairs”
The first line spoken in The Sinful Dwarf, uttered by a 3-foot tall demented dwarf as he leads a 20-something woman portraying a young girl into his house pretty much shows you all you'll need to know about what you’re about to witness. It certainly seems like people can make an exploitation film out of anything; just take out the “e” (and sometimes swap the “x” for an “s”), slap on the type of film it is ahead of “ploitation”, and you have yourself an all-new genre of degenerate filmmaking! Blaxploitation, Sexploitation, Nazisploitation, Nunsploitation, Brucesploitation, Hixploitation, Teensploitation, and the dreaded Dwarfsploitation, which is the genre The Sinful Dwarf unabashedly finds itself a part of. To my knowledge, I’ve only seen two of these types of films in my journeys through the world of cinema: Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small, and Eddie Nicart’s phenomenal For Your Height Only. If you want a bunch of sleaze in your Dwarfsploitation however, look no further than this.
Olaf isn’t a nice dwarf; he has a habit of luring young girls into his house with the promise of toys and candy and then locking them in the attic, getting them addicted to heroin, and turning them into sex slaves for a profit. This is all the brainchild of his mother, a former cabaret starlet who has been reduced to a delusional drunk, who sends Olaf out to do all of the dirty work. They also sell heroin on the side, smuggling it in plush teddy bears, and occasionally rent a room in their house to make even more money.
Mary and Peter, a young couple travelling Denmark in search of work, decide to take the room as it’s among the cheapest they can find. Olaf quickly takes a liking to Mary, and begins spying on her and Peter’s intimate moments through a trap door in the wall outside of their room. When one of the sex slaves locked in the attic gets so strung out on heroin that she begins to lose her profitability, Mary looks to be the perfect replacement. But how exactly will they be able to steal her away from under Peter’s nose? Oh, that crafty midget will figure something out!
Fortunately, The Sinful Dwarf for the most part delivers on the madness that the name and synopsis implies. Seeing Olaf’s maniacal, toothy grin while laughing psychotically is something you won’t experience anywhere else, and whether that’s a good thing or not is up for debate. Little people in no way creep me out like they oddly do some people (I just don’t understand why some people have that reaction), but I just can’t deny that I felt uncomfortable anytime Olaf waddled onto the screen, as actor Torben Bille creates a hell of a convincing lunatic. I suppose the fact that he is a dwarf plays into why the performance comes off as so disturbing, as I’ve seen a lot of flicks with nutty people in my time, and they rarely come off as unsettling as this.
That isn’t to say everything will unnerve you however. To be honest, while Torben turns in a wonderfully believable spectacle, everything that goes on around him is rather hokey and trashy. At its core, The Sinful Dwarf is a sleaze flick, and its main avenue in making you feel uneasy and gross isn’t by putting something forth that’s unsettling in a frightening way, but more-so through things that are just downright seedy and sordid that push the boundaries of good taste. The scenes with Olaf’s mother where she sings strange opera songs, with Olaf playing piano and her drunken friend clapping and singing along are just straight-up weird and distressing to watch, but at the same time so bizarre you can’t help but laugh. The scenes that take place in the attic where all of the girls are chained up and fiending for heroin have an air about them that almost feels real, and will certainly have you feeling a touch uncomfortable. But amidst all of this, the exaggerated performances and absolutely absurd nature of every single thing transpiring on screen will have you gawking in disbelief.
As I noted at the beginning of the review, this is the softcore version of the film and not the XXX hardcore cut. Unlike the hardcore scenes found in the XXX forms of films such as They Call Her One Eye and Malabimba: The Malicious Whore, where it definitely appears that the scenes were filmed with different actors (as the backgrounds and lighting generally look completely different), The Sinful Dwarf was filmed as a XXX flick, with the actors and actresses taking part in the sex scenes. As such, the edited sex scenes surprisingly don’t look very choppy with the penetration shots excised. To be quite honest, I’m more than happy with this version of the film; while I’m usually against any form of edits being done to a director’s original vision, the sex scenes in the film are so awkward and inept-looking that I’m glad I didn’t have to see anything more explicit. I was just fine with the nudity on display, especially that of Anne Sparrow, who has to be one of the sexiest women I’ve seen on film in some time. It’s too bad that she hasn’t appeared in a film since, as I’d love to ogle her some more if I had the ability to. It sort of makes me wonder if the experience making the film traumatized her or turned her off to filmmaking, as she’s a decent actress that could have surely found more work on her looks alone.
If I had one complaint about the film, it’s that it could have probably gone a bit further with the premise of a “sinful dwarf”. Sure, Olaf shoots the girls up with heroin, spies on Mary and Peter having sex, and eventually has his own fun with the girls, but seeing as he’s without question the star of the show, he could have been given more to do. His mother is just as depraved as he is, but then again a twisted old lady is nowhere near as interesting as a perverted midget! As good as Torben Bille plays the role, he should have had more screen time. I also wanted to quickly touch on the soundtrack of the flick, which is mostly made up of beatnik-inspired music and ambient noises that really help elevate the oddball feel of the film.
Surprisingly enough, before taking on the role of Olaf, Torben Bille hosted a kiddy show in Denmark. To put it into some perspective, it would be like Steve from Blue’s Clues taking a role as one of the rapists in a remake of I Spit on Your Grave. This “wrongness” pretty much sums up everything you need to know about The Sinful Dwarf, and it’s a delightfully sleazy trip down the road of seriously unhinged cinema. It unquestionably won’t make you feel like a good person, but everyone needs to wallow in the depravity of The Sinful Dwarf at least once before they die. Make sure to add it to your exploitation Bucket List.
It probably comes as no surprise that Severin Films are the culprits behind the release of this monstrosity, and while it may bother some that it’s the softcore version of the flick, it’s a pretty solid release. The film is presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and for the most part looks pretty good, especially since something tells me a film like this was never treated with the utmost care when it came to storage. The picture looks really soft and some of the later scenes look a little washed-out for whatever reason, and there’s hairs and print damage here and there, but for weird shit like this, I’ll take what I can get. The Dolby Digital Mono track sounds just fine, although there is a very low hum present, but luckily it doesn’t impede the proceedings at all.
While some extras with the cast and crew would have been magnificent, the one extra we do get, “The Severin Controversy”, is one of the most entertaining extras I’ve seen in a while. It’s an interview with two guys who were emotionally scarred after discovering the film in the early 90’s and are attempting to talk Severin out of releasing the flick. I have no clue as to whether it’s a gag or its complete reality, but either way, it’s full of laughs; you just don’t hear lines like “It was all fun until the dwarf” every day. The disc is rounded out with the US release trailer of the film (under the alternate title The Abducted Bride), and two quick radio spots.
I’d also like to note that for those disappointed about this being the softcore version, Severin is indeed releasing the XXX cut down the line. So all of you looking for some hardcore goodies, they're on the way!!
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