Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vertically Challenged, Morally Bereft

1982’s big budget adaptation of Annie is a fairly disturbing kid film. Daddy Warbucks jokes aside (“I never thought I’d get used to a girl!”) it could have been a brilliant Lynchian surrealist fantasty had the marvelous Carol Burnett been replaced with the maniacal Clara Keller of 1973’s The Sinful Dwarf. Singing out of tune and dancing half clothed, Kelly’s Lila Lash may very well have been the chief inspiration for the eccentric, back alley orphanage mama Miss Hannigan...

except without the nudity, brothel, and son that happens to be a mischieveous little person who enjoys sodomy and the piano.

So that was kind of my way of not starting my review of The Sinful Dwarf by addressing the fact that it’s about a sinful dwarf. And a lot of sex, nearly all of it forced onto drugged up naked women. But hey, at least there’s two gleefully tone deaf musical numbers! (This is turning out to be much more like Annie the more I think about it.)

Quick Plot: While playing hopscotch like any twentysomething dressed like a little girl, a young woman meets the lecherously limping Orlaf (child actor-turned-porn star Torbin Billie). With promises of a toy collection and a Jack Nicholson smile, the hobbling dwarf lures her into heroin-addled white slavery run out of a the shabby hotel he runs with Lila Lash, his boozy floozy of a mother. Meanwhile, a comely young couple arrives to rent a room. While Peter, the husband, spends his day trying to peddle a few manuscripts, his daft wife (Anne Sparrow) lounges around and complains about everything. Occasionally, they have sex and we (and Orlaf) get to watch.

The bra & brainless Sparrow is clearly a temptation for Orlaf and of use to Lila, who’s in need of a pretty blond to replace a fair-haired prostitute that’s become a tad too reliant on the heroin Orlaf administers to dull the pain of, you know, being held captive by a flannel-wearing dwarf and forced to have rough sex with S&M enthusiastic johns. Needless to say, Orlaf gets his alone time with his houseguest. The results are just wrong.

High Points
A strong credit sequence features an array of strange little toys, setting an eerie and surreal mood early on

If an Oscar was ever given for Best Performance By a Mechanical Poodle, the final shot should have clinched it

There is a cheerfully macabre Bette Davis feel to Clara Keller’s weird and wonderful (and yet not very good) performance. Some may find it grating and tacky; as a person whose favorite Halloween of all time was spent dressed as Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford, it made me smile

Low Points
You know how, if you’re in a particularly sour, cynical, and airhead-hating mood, Mia Farrow’s Rosemary is kind of a drag? Sparrow’s Mary makes Mrs. Woodhouse look like Sarah Connnor

A heroin dealer named Santa Claus smuggles drugs with the help of a dwarf and homemade teddy bears. Which is awesome. You know what’s not? He’s not an interesting character

Lessons Learned
Toy police cars are great reminders about who to go to when you fear for your wife’s life

When you’re fairly poor and have nothing to do all day but investigate strange noises in a creepy hotel that makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably time to just get a fucking job

Danish police officers trust the general public to do the dirty work for them

If you feel like you’re being watched, perhaps you should wear a bra under a tight white sweater

The Sinful Dwarf is exploitation at its wackiest, rich in gratuitous nudity, graphic rapes, and scored to a porn-rock soundtrack. Whether that’s a good thing depends on your filmgoing tastes. Let’s face it: you know, based on the title, if you want to watch this film. As far as ownership goes, the newly released DVD is fairly scant on extras, but does include a very entertaining short about two video nerds being mentally abused by Orlaf’s adventures. If you’ve ever wanted to watch a bizarre little pervert sodomize a Tori Spelling lookalike, then this is, in all probability, the only movie for you.

For now.

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