Believe it or not, Torben Bille, the diminutive star of this Swedish sickie, was best known as a kiddie TV show host. He also appeared in films like EMMANUELLE IN DENMARK and AGENT 69. That makes him among the few principals of THE SINFUL DWARF (DVAERGEN; 1973) to have any sort of moviemaking career, as nearly everyone else involved in the production—including director Vidal Raski, producer Nicolas Poole, co-writer Harlan Asquith and co-stars Anne Sparrow and Clara Keller—evinces (according to the imdb) no other film credits before or since.
Unsurprisingly, THE SINFUL DWARF was banned in its native Sweden, and released in the U.S. by trash mogul Harry Novak (of PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER, KISS ME QUICK, MANTIS IN LACE and many other “classic” sickies).
Mary and Peter, a young, happy-go-lucky couple, turn up at a secluded boarding house, unaware the place is a den of illicit drugs and white slavery. It’s run by Olaf, a malicious dwarf, and his schizophrenic mother. Olaf keeps several naked women chained up in the attic, hooking them on heroin so they won’t escape. Olaf takes a liking to Mary, and, when Peter is called away on a business trip, adds her to his collection of chained-up victims. As such she suffers beatings, sexual assaults and unwanted shots of heroin.
But Peter arrives home and becomes suspicious when he can’t find his wife (a fake note planted by Olaf fails to convince him). He calls the cops, leading to a raid on the house, a freeing of the captive women and a shocking suicide by Olaf.
The narrative is painfully thin and simplistic, which makes for a slow-moving and uneventful film. None of the performances add up to much, even that of Torben Bille in the title role (although his constant leering does put one on edge).
What really sets THE SINFUL DWARF apart is its overwhelming atmosphere of sordid despair. There’s plenty of full frontal nudity and some surprisingly graphic sex, but none of it is erotic in the slightest. The most memorable scenes involve the sinful dwarf committing some depraved act upon his captives (i.e. jamming the end of a cane into an unwilling orifice and twisting it around), which are so ugly they linger throughout. Also noteworthy is the dwarf‘s final leap to his death; like everything else in the film, it’s presented in frank, unblinking fashion (via a dummy thrown off a building), with nothing in the way of cutaways or subtext, and certainly not subtlety.
THE SINFUL DWARF (a.k.a. DVAERGEN)
Boxoffice International Pictures
Director: Vidal Raski
Producer: Nicolas Poole
Screenplay: William Mayo, Harlan Asquith
Cinematography: Lasse Bjorne
Cast: Torben Bille, Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades, Clara Keller, Werner Hedman, Gerda Madsen, Jeanette Marsden, Lisbeth Olsen, Jane Cutter, Dale Robinson