Monday, 8 May 2023

The Sinful Dwarf (1974)

The Sinful Dwarf is a movie that will redefine your whole understanding of sleaze. But if sleaze is your thing then this is your movie.

There are several things that need to be cleared up first. This movie has been released under multiple titles. The original Danish title was Dværgen. It’s been released as The Sinful Dwarf, The Dwarf and also as The Abducted Bride. And each title seems to represent a slightly different cut of the movie.

The second point relates to the hardcore content. There’s a softcore cut and a hardcore cut and Severin’s Blu-Ray release includes both. It was common at the time for softcore movies and horror movies to have hardcore inserts added by producers or distributors. The hardcore inserts were usually shot by a different director using different actors, often on different sets. The director of the original movie was often not informed. That does not appear to be the case here. This film was apparently shot hardcore. So in this case the hardcore version is probably the one closest to the original intentions of the film-makers. But so little is known about the production of the film that’s it’s impossible to know for sure.

Don’t panic about the hardcore scenes. They’re quite brief and only amount to a few penetration shots. And the hardcore scenes are not what makes this movie so sleazy. Without the hardcore scenes the movie is still every bit as sleazy!

The third point is that there’s no such person as the credited director, Vidal Raski. The movie was probably directed by Eduardo Fuller, about whom almost nothing is known.

This movie was distributed in the U.S. by the legendary Harry Novak. Novak produced a lot of sexploitation features including the rather wonderful nudie-cutie Kiss Me Quick! (1964).

It’s basically a white slavery movie. A young couple, Mary and Peter, move into a scummy flat in a scummy building. But at least it’s cheap. The landlady, Lila Lash, is just a bit odd. The landlady’s son is a dwarf named Olaf (played by Torben Bille).

Mary keeps hearing strange noises from the attic. She investigates and discovers that Lila Lash and her son have three nude girls locked there. The girls are pumped full of heroin and act as sex slaves.

Mary is going to be in a lot of trouble if she’s discovered nosing around the attic, and sure enough she gets herself into very deep water. Meanwhile Peter has been conned into acting as an unwitting drug courier.

Peter soon has a missing wife to worry about. He thinks Mary has left him and whether he will realise what has really happened in time to save her is an open question. Mary has much more urgent worries.

That brief plot rundown makes this sound like a pretty sleazy movie. In fact it’s sleazy and grimy and nasty to a quite extraordinary degree. This is an exploitation movie in the truest sense of the term. On one level it’s about evil people doing evil things of a sexual nature and on another level it is of course a movie made to cash in on those very things.

So does this movie offer anything more than wallowing in sleaze?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes. There are some genuinely creepy moments, especially with Olaf’s collection of wind-up toys. Lila Lash used to be a star night-club performer until her career ended after a fire. She still lives in the past. She dresses up in her old costumes and sings her old songs. It’s pathetic and sad and creepy but also oddly moving. She’s an evil woman but this helps us understand how she became evil. These scenes are strange and slightly surreal and very unsettling.

There’s also the behaviour of the captive girls. If they were sobbing or trying to escape it would be disturbing but they’re totally resigned to their fate, which is much more disturbing. Olaf is not just a dwarf but a cripple. It’s difficult to believe the three girls would be unable to overpower him. But they don’t even try. That level of despair is the movie’s biggest gut punch.

The strange disturbing elements make the movie just a bit more than a sleazefest.

Severin’s Blu-Ray includes not just two versions of The Sinful Dwarf but a bonus feature film, The Blue Balloon (which I haven’t yet had time to watch). There are several short docos, one on the movie and the other covering the career of Harry Novak. The transfer of the main feature isn’t great but apparently the source materials were in very poor shape.

So which version of the movie should you watch? I’d say it doesn’t matter. If brief fairly mild hardcore scenes bother you watch the softcore version. If they don’t bother you watch the hardcore version because it adds an extra level of scuzziness.

The Sinful Dwarf glories in its sleaziness and trashiness but it’s oddly fascinating. I’m going to give it a highly recommend rating.

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