Friday, March 4, 2016

THE SINFUL DWARF (1973) Limited Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Review)

THE SINFUL DWARF (1973) 
Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p Full Screen (1.33:1)
Director: Vidal Raski
Cast: Anne Sparrow, Tont Eadies, Clara Keller, Torben Bille, Lisbeth Olsten

In this nasty slice of '70s Dwarfsploitation cinema the pint-sized Olaf (Torbin Belle) lives with his former nightclub singer mom (Clara Keller) - the nicely named Lila Lash. Together they run a seedy boarding house, offering cheap lodging to a pair of newlyweds, the lovely Mary (Anne Sparrow) who can definitely rock a tight-fit sweater, and husband Peter (Tony Eades) who is struggling to find steady work. The price of room is right but it will cost these newlyweds more than they could have possibly imagined. 

Unbeknownst to the couple the deviant dwarf and his slightly mad mother run a sex slavery dungeon in the basement of the boardinghouse, with Olaf kidnapping young women and shooting them up with heroin before pimping them out to the local lowlifes. If you had trouble with the sexual politics of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs be prepared to be challenged ten fold with how easily these doped-up sex-slaves give in to being raped - after a few seconds of resistance they just cannot get enough of it. 

The movie is seedy and depraved to say the least with copious amounts of nudity, a dingy sex dungeon, and a strange array of mechanical toys, even the diminutive Olaf gets in on the rape action by way of his wooden walking cane, which he crams up a poor young girl's ... well, I am sure you can figure it out. 

The movie has the look of low-grade porn movie and the acting is slightly worse than that, but the movie does have a certain scuzzy charm about it, mostly by way of actor Torbin Belle, a man who has one of the most deviously expressive faces in all of cinema, a demonic dwarf that is truly stuff of nightmares. 

Aside from the straight-up exploitation shockers of this weird Danish-American production we have some moments of pure oddity that keep you glued to the screen. Olaf's mother Lila Lash loves to dress up as 

Marlene Dietrich

 and the fruit-adorned Carmen Miranda and bursts into drunken song, there's a local toy shop owner named Santa who smuggles heroin, and then there's that  surreal mechanical toy themed opening credit sequence, there's a lot of strange happening in The Sinful Dwarf. 

Audio/Video: The Sinful Dwarf arrives on Blu-ray looking sort of awful, not having watched previous standard-definition versions of the movie I can only judge it on the merit of this Blu-ray and it is not a pretty sight. The Blu-ray box art proclaims it has been "remastered from materials recently seized in a Roskilde vice raid!", which sounds like some fun Severin hyperbole, but whatever the source, it is just as seedy and dingy as the movie , the image is ugly, soft and the contrast is a mess. In fairness The Sinful Dwarf has probably always looked like crap, from the day it was shot to the present day, so I don't fault Severin for the shoddy appearance. When watching the strong international version - the porn version - you can easily spot the additional footage which stands apart from the rest of the movie, I actually preferred the color grading of the hardcore insert shots. 

Audio on the Blu-ray comes by way of English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 and it does the job just fine, the audio seems slightly muted and there is some audio throughout, but the English dialogue is discernible and the strange score comes through fine. There are no subtitles options on this one. 

For a movie with such a sordid past shrouded in mystery Severin have done an exceptional job lacing this Blu-ray with awesome bonus content, beginning with the hardcore version of the movie, which looks only slightly worse than the softcore version. It should be noted that in contrast to most movies the hardcore sex was part of the original film, and not just random insert shots of sex. New to this release is a seven-minute narrated mini-doc detailing Severin's exhaustive search for information about the movie and those who made it, it doesn't turn up much but it does give us some insight into career of actor Torbin Belle, who at one time was a children's TV star!

Also new is the  six-minute interview with documentarian/historian Elijah Drenner who speaks about the movie's U.S. distributor, Harry Novak, making a case for Novak as one of the most influential distributors of not just his era but of the twentieth century. The piece features clips from Novak's repertoire, with Dreener singling out 'Kiss Me Quick' as his more notable productions, a kinky Universal monsters inspired erotic romp. 

Carried over from the previous Severin DVD release is a ten-minute mockumentary 'The Severin Controversey' a fun spoof with a pair of cult-cinema fans recounting how the movie scarred them for life back in the days of VHS. There are also a selection of trailers and radio spots for the movie. 

Since there is so little known about the participants who made the movie Severin have gone outside the box and brought us two cool features in conjunction with HD smut-peddlers Vinegar Syndrome, by way of a 16mm Danish-porn film 'The Blue Balloon' from 1973, which was apparently made by the same producers who made The Sinful Dwarf, and starring one of the sex-slaves from Olaf's sex-dungeon. This is another weird one involving a woman who has been sold into sex slavery.  

Also added onto the sinful menu is an excerpt from the movie 'The Hottest Show in Town', a slice of Danish porn purportedly starring Torbin Belle, only appearing much slimmer than he did in The Sinful Dwarf. The five-minute except features two pint-sized fornicators having at it, which is always a good time. 

Special Features: 
- THE DWARF – Strong International Version (95 Minutes) HD
- THE ABDUCTED BRIDE – Alternate US Release Version (94 Mins) HD
- The Harry Novak Story – Featurette On The Sultan Of Sexploitation With American Grindhouse Director Elijah Drenner (6 Mins)
- THE BLUE BALLOON – 1973 Feature Film, Never Before Released On Any Home Video Format (72 Minutes) HD
- THE HOTTEST SHOW IN TOWN – Excerpt From Torben Bille Sex Film (5 Mins) HD
- The Search For Torben – Featurette On Effort To Find Cast/Crew From THE SINFUL DWARF (8 Mins)
- The Severin Controversy – Featurette On The Lasting Effects Of THE SINFUL DWARF (10 Mins)
- Trailers (3 Mins) HD 
- Severin DVD Trailer (1 Mins) 
- TV Spots 
- Radio Spot (2 Mins)

Severin Films have really packed a ton of cool bonus content into this pint-sized slice of dwarfspoiltation, not only to you get the soft and hard versions of the main feature, but a bonus dirty movie in addition to some fun extras. This release is strictly limited to 3000 copies, so get this classic slice of naughty awfulness while you can. 

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