The Sinful Dwarf (1973)
The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: December 7th, 1973 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Vidal Raski Actors: Torben Bille, Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades, Clara Keller, Werner Hedmann, Jeannette Marsden, Lisbeth Olsen, Jane Cutter




omantic harp-like music opens “The Sinful Dwarf,” an instantly odd film, featuring little person Olaf (Torben Bille), who lures a young woman into his upstairs apartment through the use of a battery-operated, walking dog toy. When the unfortunate victim makes her way into the disheveled room, she’s treated to a smack on the head by a cane. And then the credit sequence appears, highlighted by a montage of stuffed figurines, dancing or bouncing around, like wind-up curios, such as a monkey that feverishly clashes cymbals together.

A woman’s scream cuts to the arrival of struggling writer Peter Davis (Tony Eades) and his wife Mary (Anne Sparrow), a youthful yet broke couple in need of a place to stay for a short time. Although they’re initially turned down by the horribly scarred woman, Lila Lashe (Clara Keller), in charge of the hotel they visit, Olaf, posing as Lila’s son, soon shows them to the only available room at the top of the building. Mary is understandably unnerved, especially when Olaf jumps on the bed, chuckling, to demonstrate its softness.

“I think we can use her.” The matriarch realizes Mary’s attractiveness, determining that the new tenant could prove useful in the brothel she maintains in the hotel, formerly known as Club Lido, now populated by kidnapped women. Meanwhile, as an abduction is plotted, Peter and Mary break in their temporary home with some vigorous sex, which provides quite the show for Olaf, who spies on them through a peephole in the wall. When they’re finished, Olaf returns to his regularly scheduled chores, which include plunging heroin needles into the sex slaves chained up in the barricaded attic.

The locations are thoroughly disconcerting, revealing chipped paint, discarded refuse, cobwebs, and general grubbiness, providing a spectacularly convincing haunted house. The lighting, however, is unable to impart appropriate creepiness, instead basking everything in bright yellowish glows. But this is nothing compared to the dialogue, which is exceptionally dreadful, even when it’s delivered in a stilted, unpracticed way that makes it strangely funny. Likewise, the acting is pitiful, save for Bille, who doesn’t have to work too hard at being grotesquely eerie, what with his deep growl and ghastly grin. For a schlocky exploitation picture (or dwarfsploitation, as it’s known), it doesn’t even possess enough of a story to avoid awkward song-and-dance sequences complete with costume changes (attempting to copy the insanity of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”), screechy conversations between drunks, and plenty of lulls in the action for Peter to gaze thoughtfully at his screenplays or for Mary to talk to herself to reiterate obvious plans.

To spice things up, “The Sinful Dwarf” was alternately released in an unrated cut called “The Abducted Bride,” as well as a Danish XXX version simply titled “The Dwarf,” which features added hardcore footage (a gimmick that would famously plague “Caligula” some years later). The sleaziness is upped with these additives, but none of the cuts fix the abundance of problems with storytelling, continuity, and good sense; the purposeful poor taste is no excuse for filmmaking laziness. But this project is clearly meant as an opportunity for sordid sex and nudity rather than as a legitimate horror endeavor, made cringingly apparent in the rape scenes, which are done in an outlandish way – utilizing twanging porno music and squeaking stuffed animals as if for comedy routines. There’s also naked whipping for no reason; Mary insisting that she’ll go straight to the police, yet inexplicably heading back to the upstairs torture chamber first; Olaf repeatedly hobbling up several flights of stairs with a needle in his hand; and Peter accidentally becoming a drug mule. Despite the depraved trashiness of it all, the most unforgivable aspect is the repetition; there’s not enough differing material here to fill a feature film.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10