Dværgen (1973) October 24th, 2020
Dværgen or Abducted Bride is a Dutch dwarfsploitation/sexsploitation film most commonly known as The Sinful Dwarf. You may be wondering “Why is he reviewing a 70’s porno in the middle of the October 2020 horror movie review series?” Great question… Allow me to explain.
As I’ve said many times before in this blog I try to stay as spoiler free as possible. Sometimes that means not watching trailers, not looking up synopsis, and it definitely means the occasional awkwardly abrupt exit from conversations. And sometimes it means buying a blu-ray as a gift for my wife because the cover looks outrageous and fun. See?
Just look at that guy! He’s like a Buffalo Bill Funko POP! figure complete with Precious standing in front of a wall length poster of the Criterion Collection’s cover of Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom! Why say no to that? The fun in watching bizarre movies you’ve never heard of is the thrill of exploration. “How weird could this be?” I asked myself before yeeting $20+ at Severin for this work of depravity.
It looked more like a horror movie than anything else and I think an entrepreneurial screenwriter could make a compelling mass market adaptation in the style of Don’t Breathe or The Invisible Man (2020) and make a solid profit from the morbidly curious like me. We saved this movie, looked forward to it, we didn’t watch it till late October when we had already blown through a number of movies with far less enticing covers/posters (Looking at you Cutting Class), and by the time it was all said and done we couldn’t really talk to anyone about it because its… well… pornography. That means you dear reader are the first person I’ve been able to share this experience with since it happened. Lucky you.
The Sinful Dwarf begins with the titular character played by Torben Bille using a stuffed animal and his nonthreatening appearance (the cover makes this hard to believe, I know) to lure a young woman to his mother’s dumpy hotel. Once there they drug and abduct the girl before locking her in a room with three other women all chained to the walls and lying on dirty mattresses in various stages of undress. That’s our introduction to Torben.
The film’s focus shifts to a newlywed couple who’ve set out on their own and are nearly out of money, otherwise they’d never stoop to staying in such a seedy hotel. Torben helps them find their room, all the while ogling the bride before leaving the room and running to his private peephole where he watches them in secret. The groom spends days ungainfully seeking employment while his wife is left bored and alone in their extended stay hotel with only Torben to keep her company.
I’m not going to walk you through the rest of the plot blow by blow but suffice it to say there’s numerous ‘sex’ scenes that are undeniably rapes throughout the film. An even more bizarre film takes place between them. A movie about a slobbery frenetic dwarf whose extreme performance launched some of the best reaction GIFs in history and his aged mother yearning for her days as a cabaret performer. No joke, The Sinful Dwarf intercuts its graphic sex trafficking scenes with geriatric tabletop musical numbers and Torben accompanies on piano. I know it goes without saying but it’s fucking weird.
Then comes another twist, if being a sex trafficking ring wasn’t sinful enough, Torben and his mother employ a toymaker to help them traffic heroin or some other highly addictive opioid through their hotel. They need the drug to keep the girls sedated see? If they run out the girls might get their wits enough to fight back or call for help and Torben can’t have that!
All’s well that ends as quickly as possible when the new husband assists the police in apprehending the criminals and saving his wife and the other girls from further torture and rape. Sometimes movies are ‘feel good’, sometimes movies are ‘feel bad’, and I’d expect a sexploitation film to be exceptionally ‘feel good’ but The Sinful Dwarf is more like a ‘feel like I need to scrape my soul with a Brillo pad’ movie.
It’s difficult to comprehend the cultural gulf between me watching this novel exploitation film at home with my wife and the people who paid to watch it in a 1973 porno theater in Copenhagen. Without the amazing blu-ray cover and the context of the anachronistic cultural reference imagery it contains I can only imagine The Sinful Dwarf ‘s audience was mostly made up of people who had sincere interest in the film.
I liked Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom a lot and I’m prepared to eat those words because that movie had a point. In a way The Sinful Dwarf is the artistic inverse of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film. Where Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom is about the fascist guiding hand of capitalism inherent in all art that turns commercial art into pornography, The Sinful Dwarf is a perfect example of his point. It’s the basest use of the crew and performers and their skills as artists exploited for whatever meager profits this film made for its producers and eventually is distributers. I wonder what Pasolini’s perspective on The Sinful Dwarf would be. Perhaps there’s a deep message about humanity hidden in plain sight within The Sinful Dwarf‘s total run time but that seems like a tall order. That one made me feel cheap, but so did the movie, so I guess we’re even.
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