"A young bride left alone to the lewd passions of an evil dwarf!" So read the American release ads for the 1973 Danish horror flick The Sinful Dwarf. It was truth in advertising, because if you like your dwarfs sinful, this one wrote the book on such behavior. Variety called the film "repulsive" and that was one of the more complimentary reviews. Universally despised by those who saw it, the movie also sparked an outcry from Little People's organizations. The titular character is played by an actor known only as Torben in the credits. 'Lest you think he might have enjoyed Liberace-like status among the sinful dwarf set that allowed him to use only one name, in reality he was more widely known as Torben Bille, and was primarily employed in Denmark as the host of a children's TV show! In the film, Torben plays Olaf, an ugly, leering little man who runs a tenement-like boarding house with his equally perverted mother, Lila (Clara Keller).They lure pretty young women to take rooms as tenants, then kidnap them, forcibly turn them into heroin addicts and chain them up naked in a hidden attic prison where they are ritually abused by men who are happy to pay Olaf and his mother for the privilege.The story follows a young couple, Ann and Peter (Anne Sparrow and Tony Eades) who are unemployed and who have very reluctantly accepted a room at the house, which is the only lodging they can afford.Both mom and Olaf size up Ann as being worthy of their stable of captive girls, an opinion reinforced when Olaf uses a peephole to spy on Ann and Peter having sex.Ultimately, Ann is knocked unconscious and forced to join her fellow hapless captives, while her disbelieving husband is told she has simply run away.
The Sinful Dwarf was banned in Sweden and even in territories where it was released, it did minimal business as few theaters would be associated with the subject matter. Severin Films, which specializes in DVD releases of controversial movies orphaned by other distributors, has released the movie in an uncut edition that comes very close to crossing from softcore to hardcore porn. No opportunity is lost to focus on the naked, nubile victims of the sinister dwarf- and even his mother, a flamboyant one-time cabaret singer, gets to doff her top. It's all as sinister as you can get, with even childhood toys becoming symbols of perversion. (Olaf likes to collect them and pose them in obscene positions.He also uses the toys to beckon women into his web of sin.) The film relies on the tried-and-true haunted house movie formula of having the heroine decide to investigate things that go bump in the night by sneaking alone into a dark attic. This does result in some sequences that approach genuine suspense, even if director Vidal Raski doesn't quite know how to maximize the impact. He does, however, make ample use of Tober Bille's bizarre look and has him twist his features into grotesque contortions that make for an unnerving experience to view.
Watching The Sinful Dwarf is like encountering a horrendous accident on the highway. You feel guilty staring at it, but there is something so compelling about the sight that you can't resist. Despite the protests of Little People, the film is not a broad indictment of dwarfs or anyone else. It focuses on one specific dwarf who happens to be, well, sinister. Regardless of what you may think of the overall film, Torben Bille makes an unforgettable physical impression in the title role. The acting is also somewhat above par for these types of D- list horror films (i.e: bad, but not laughable), though a search of the IMDB web site indicates that the professional careers of virtually everyone involved seems to have begun and ended with this film.Apparently associations with sinister dwarfs aren't considered to be an asset on job interviews.
The DVD presentation is first-rate, with the print used surprisingly good for a movie that has been available only in bootleg versions. The ball is dropped, however, on the extras, which consist of some over-the-top radio spots and an American trailer bearing the title Abducted Bride. As the trailer shows full nudity, one wonders if it was shown beyond the porn house circuit. One wishes there had been some discussion of the controversy surrounding this film and it's bizarre history, but the only other extra is a tongue-in-cheek interview with two movie fans who profess to be offended by the film and beg interviewer John Severin (owner of the DVD label) not to release the movie onto the home video market. The joke wears thin pretty quickly, though Severin does get off a good line by saying he will not be deterred from releasing the movie because he's already sunk "six or seven hundred dollars into it."
The Sinful Dwarf is an oddity, to be sure, though a strangely compelling one. There's also a valuable lesson for all attractive young women: the next time a leering, cackling, ugly creep tries to induce you back to his apartment by showing you a cute mechanical toy, you might want to think twice about it.