THE SINFUL DWARF (1973) Blu-ray
Director: Vidal Raski
Severin Films

THE SINFUL DWARF is even more depraved in high definition with Severin Film's Blu-ray of this mystery-shrouded exploitation classic.

Penniless newlyweds Peter (Tony Eades) and Mary (Anne Sparrow) take a room in the former nightclub turned dive boarding house of scarred chanteuse Lila Lashe (Clara Keller) despite being creeped out by dwarf son Olaf (Torbin Bille, NO ONE WILL NOTICE YOU'RE NAKED). Little do they know that Olaf lures young girls with toys and then abducts and drugs them to keep as sex slaves in the attic dungeon for paying customers. While Peter spends the days going from editor to editor looking for a job as a writer, Mary is unnerved by the sounds from the attic and all of the mysterious comings and goings. In between getting sloshed with her old friend Winnie (Gerda Madsen, HAXAN) and singing sub-Marlene Dietrich numbers to Olaf's piano accompaniment, Lila muses that Mary might make a good addition to their stable of sex slaves (some of whom are becoming too dependent on heroin to be profitable). The perfect opportunity comes when Peter gives up looking for a writing gig and takes a job with toymaker "Santa Claus" (Werner Hedman, THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE) who transports heroine inside stuffed teddy bears and sends Peter on an immediate trip to Paris as an unsuspecting drug mule. While Peter is away on a business trip to Paris, snooping Mary gets abducted, drugged, and subjected to the depravities of Olaf and his customers.

With a title like THE SINFUL DWARF and Harry Novak's Box Office International as distributor, you know you are in for singularly sleazy experience. A Danish pick-up set in a London slum, the film revels in its grimy setting and characters, delivering explicit sex between fit extras while hinting at dwarf sex, the sexual exploitation of the underage and/or the mentally disabled (either the girl in the opening is an unconvincing youngster or supposed to be simple-minded), and even bestiality (with Bille's perverted manchild arranging a mechanical toy dog and a girl doll in suggestive positions at the dinner table while Lila and Winnie recall the good old days). The Danish original featured hardcore inserts during the dungeon scenes (although they were shot with the same performers on the same sets, they are jarringly incorporated into the hardcore version on Severin's composite but they may have played more smoothly on the original print used for the overseas disc's XXX version). The film is sleazy enough without the inserts, so the hardcore bits may not phase viewers familiar with the standard version of the film (perhaps those who saw the hardcore version first may find something lacking). Much of the film's notoriety comes from its star Torben Bille who was a well-known children's entertainer (purportedly even after the domestic release of THE SINFUL DWARF) and essays the role of sex-crazed dwarf with total abandon (making it rather unfortunate that he did not live to be a fixture on one of the recent reality shows fetishizing little people). The film will not fail to make an impression on even the most jaded exploitation fans if just for its audaciousness.

Released by Novak at different points as THE SINFUL DWARF and ABDUCTED BRIDE, the film reached its cult audience first on VHS from Something Weird Video. Severin Films debuted its high definition transfer on DVD in 2009 in two flavors: the softcore domestic version (later released in a three-disc set with THE SISTER OF URSULA and HANNA D. THE GIRL FROM VONDEL PARK) and a reconstruction of the Danish hardcore version using the HD master for the body of the film and inserts from the PAL master prepared by the Danish Film Institute and released in Scandinavian territories by Another World Entertainment in a two-disc release that also included the softcore version (presumably using the Novak master). The inserts occur at three points in the film, with the last not being hardcore but an extension of Mary's non-explicit rape by Olaf's cane (some incidental footage present in the softcore version does not appear in the hardcore). The Danish version was an English-language print with burnt-in Danish subtitles, but the inserted scenes had no dialogue.

Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed Blu-ray utilizes the same HD master for both the softcore version using the title card ABDUCTED BRIDE (92:20) and the reconstruction of the hardcore version using the title card THE DWARF (95:18) with THE SINFUL DRARF title card only appearing in one of the featurettes. While the HD encode does reveal more detail, it looks somewhat too bright with the somewhat dull contrast evident in Severin's HD masters of THE BABY and BLOODY BIRTHDAY suggesting that the telecine was not properly graded (the hardcore SD inserts are less detailed but otherwise present how the film probably should look minus the scratches). ABDUCTED BRIDE features a clean DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track in which Bille seems to be the only person not dubbed and the score really jabs at the eardrums. THE DWARF features a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.

In addition to carrying over the spoof video "Friend or Foe: The Severin Controversy" (9:59) – in which two customers of Alexandria, Virginia's Video Vault reveal how watching THE SINFUL DWARF ruined their lives – Severin has produced two new featurettes. In "Trail of Torben" (7:38), we learn of Severin's meagre findings in the effort to trace anyone involved with the production. Novak's widow provided a photograph of the distributor with the film's British financier Jim Stevens who sold Novak the rights. The "teenage" slave girl billed as Jane Cutter was Jette Koplev who appeared in a number of Color Climax loops, and composer Ole Orsted reveals that he was the film's sound engineer and only composed one short piece of music while the rest was royalty free music he selected. We also learn that Bille worked behind the scenes on a number of films including the German AGENT 69 hardcore series. In "Novak: Sultan of Sinema" (5:58), Elijah Drenner eloquently discusses the impact Novak had as producer and distributor upon American exploitation from nudie cuties to very explicit softcore films that targeted theaters that could not show X-rated films (with Novak coining the "Restricted Admission" tag to get around it in the advertising), as well as foreign imports and regional American horror films. Carried over from the DVD are the ABDUCTED BRIDE theatrical trailer (3:08), the Severin DVD trailer (1:05), and radio Spots (1:29).

Severin Films has Vinegar Syndrome to thank for providing an HD master of an ultra-rare 16mm print of THE BLUE BALLOON (71:32) from the same producers and also starring DWARF's Lisbeth Olsen (the red-headed slave) as "plain Jane" Cynthia who meets Kevin (Richard Miles) at a club and begins a whirlwind romance with him in the days before he joins the army. She fends off his more carnal advances until he proposes and they get it on under the spying eyes of wealthy lesbian Colleen. In lieu of a honeymoon, Kevin bids Cynthia adieu at the bus station and Cynthia bumps into sympathetic Colleen who drugs her, violates her with a vibrator, and then invites a series of men over to have their way with her. Colleen documents the encounters photographically to ensure Cynthia's silence when she releases her; but Cynthia is too ashamed to return to Kevin and instead chooses a life of prostitution. Made the year before THE SINFUL DWARF, THE BLUE BALLOON is a straight up sex film in which every position is explored after getting the setup out of the way. The cinematography is amateurish and dialogue sync is loose and the film was either dubbed stateside or the Danish filmmakers listened to a lot of American hardcore (and possibly some Doris Wishman with the way it attempts to slip in dialogue whenever an actor's face is averted). VS have also provided a scene from THE HOTTEST SHOW IN TOWN featuring Bille getting in on the hardcore action with a dwarf woman. Yes, Severin (in association with Vinegar Syndrome) has brought dwarf sex to the United States in high definition. (Eric Cotenas)