The Sinful Dwarf (1973)
By: Joe Lewis on April 19, 2009  | 
Severin (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 92 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Vidal Raski
Starring: Torben Bille, Tony Eades, Anne Sparrow
Screenplay: William Mayo
Country: Denmark
External Links
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I'll be honest with you, dear reader: I couldn't resist. Perusing the list of films that needed a write-up, one title jumped out at me and begged to be lovingly watched and made sweet review to: The Sinful Dwarf. Even if the director had filmed paint drying for an hour and a half, The Sinful Dwarf would ride on the coattails of its titles sheer brilliance and unadulterated promise. Sadly, the film ain't up to snuff. It commits the cardinal sin of exploitation filmmaking – it's boring. Sure, it has a pretty sleazy, vile tone to it but that doesn't excuse the fact that, for about an hour and ten minutes, nothing happens. Titled Dværgen in its native Denmark, The Sinful Dwarf owes a lot of its formidable reputation to a solid cult following and is said to have helped kick-start the "dwarfsploitation" genre of trash film.

The titular bastard is Olaf (Torben Bille, an occasional face on the Danish exploitation circuit and, more hilariously, a former kid show host), a "little man" who lives with his mother Lila in their boarding house. It's here that Olaf makes a bit of cash on the side, kidnapping his beautiful young customers and tying them up in the attic to be prostituted. His incentive for the girls to stick around (when they aren't shackled) is the heroin he has gotten them cripplingly addicted to.

Two newlyweds Peter and Mary get a room at Olaf's boarding house as Peter attempts to successfully ply his trade as a writer. While he goes out during the day searching for work, Mary is left in the hotel at the mercy of Olaf and Lila. Even though they can't wait to make her the newest addition to their harem, the duo bide their time (with Olaf making good use of a strategically situated peephole) while Mary explores the building and becomes increasingly suspicious.

The Sinful Dwarf is one of those movies that's far greater to have on your DVD shelf to point out to friends and say you've watched it than it is to actually watch. It seems impossible that a movie like The Sinful Dwarf should fail as an exploitation film if it has anything remotely to do with its title, but two criteria must be fulfilled in a successful exploitation movie: 1) depravity at break-neck speed, and 2) an out-there – but vaguely cogent – plot. No doubting that the plot of this flick is way out-there (and watch how the Swedes carbon-copied the heroin addicted hooker thing with Thriller: A Cruel Picture a year later), but it doesn't hit the mark on any of the other fronts. It's not terribly explicit, with a few remedial softcore scenes between johns and Olaf's prostitutes, and very little action. What it does have, and what elevates the film from totally irredeemable dreck to vaguely interesting dreck, is a super-grimy atmosphere. While the plot is too detached and confused for us to feel the girls' (especially Mary's) pain, director Vidal Raski does do a very good job evoking a really, really seedy feel.

A lot of The Sinful Dwarf's legend has come down from limited availability, a cult following on the bootleg circuit and a truly barmy plot. On paper, it's exploitation in its most deliriously pure form – a dwarf who pimps out young, enslaved women he's gotten addicted to smack to prohibit their escape - but it fails abysmally in execution, which is a tremendous shame.
The Sinful Dwarf was released on DVD-R by Something Weird Video some time ago, but – apparently – this release was sourced from a 35mm print found in a janitor's cupboard at the Danish Film Institute. The picture is presented in the 4:3 ratio. It's not terribly good, with a lot of grain and occasional print damage, but it's better than the SWV print and I suppose as good as what you could expect.
One English Dolby 2.0 audio track. It's fine, a bit uneven, but again as good as you'd expect.
Extra Features
It's obvious that Severin didn't have too much to work with here but they did include an absolute gem – a 10-minute parody featurette titled "The Severin Controversy". A Severin exec interviews two blokes who have written a heartfelt letter to the company pleading they not release The Sinful Dwarf. They recount the day they fished a VHS copy off a shelf, completely ignorant as to its content, and were both left intensely psychologically scarred by the experience. It was Severin's attempt at a viral video (it was released before the film was, and is complete with an end titlecard giving an email address for those to contact if they too wanted the release to be canned), and a very funny one. A theatrical trailer and two radio spots are also included.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Find the bastard cheap, then display it for your friends to gawk at. I did get a kick out of some scenes, like the final ten minutes and the cabaret sequences with Lila and her deranged alcoholic friend, but otherwise The Sinful Dwarf is, and it pains me to say it, disposable.

It's worth noting that there's an R2 Danish release that includes a version of The Sinful Dwarf with hardcore inserts. It seems the hardcore version was the one released domestically in Denmark, with the softcore version (this one) released for the international market. I haven't seen the hardcore cut, but my understanding of it is that it's the same sort of thing as the hardcore Thriller was – a worthless attempt to pander to the porn market.

The disc is Region 1, not region-free as the cover slick suggests.

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