Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Good, The Bad, & the Tiny

Ahh, long-term expectation. Bundles and bundles of gleeful hope just waiting to be crushed into a sandwich topping and choked on by some dull but physically superior bully. Such is the sad truth of our lives.
The Terror of Tiny Town is a film that’s been on my radar since, at the rosy-cheeked acned age of 13, I read about its existence in one of many books I owned detailing the making of The Wizard of Oz. An all midget (as they were then called, and also, apparently owned) Western, with SONGS? Heaven, I never knew you could exist on earth!

Because you can’t, of course, and no amount of future Munchkins riding Shetland ponies and singing “I’m gonna make love to you/ you’d better look out” could prove otherwise. Still, may I extend a bigger-than-a-bunch-of-little-people-stacked-in-a-pyramid thanks to the one, the only, the T.L. Bugg of The Lightning Bug's Lair for recommending The Terror of Tiny Town for our monthly swap. Head over to his site for my pick, the bizarre and killer-toy-featuring Brotherhood of Satan.
Quick Plot: There’s an endless feud brewing between two families out in Tiny Town, where for no explained reason, everybody is of mixed nationality and under 5’ tall. Buck Lawson (the White Hat clad Billy Curtis) attempts to mediate between his pops and longterm foe Tex Preston, but the situation gets complicated with the arrival of Tex’s lovely niece and the increasingly surly Black Hattedness of “The Villain” Bat Haines.

Or something. Really it’s not that important, because really, it’s the plot of just about any Western made between 1930 and 1965. The bad guy is bad. The good guy is good (and has an inexplicable, but entertaining New York accent). The good girl is plucky.  A bar wench is bitchy. And Russian. Shots are fired. Horses run. So it goes, so it goes.
In case you hadn’t caught on, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the American Western. The Terror of Tiny Town was clearly not made to break any cinematic barriers, but the complete void of a single interesting plot point doesn’t help its case in the least. Sure, it’s chuckleworthy to watch two little guys wrestle and a petite bartender guzzle a beer, but I guess I just prefer my little people western musicals with more...I don’t know...anything.

High Points
Though the acting mostly comes off as stiff and/or just barely being audible, the romantic leads played by Curtis and Yvonne Moray are actually quite likable and charming

I ain’t gonna argue with a little person barbershop quartet!
Low Points
There’s absolutely no visual style whatsoever going on in Sam Newfield’s camera. Sure, this was early filmmaking, but considering a mere 365 days later would yield The Wizard of Oz, you’d think Newfield could at least try to summon some form of energy in composition or art direction. Sometimes the set is bigger than the cast. Most times it’s adjusted with steps and small furniture. None of which makes it interesting. Heck, at a certain point, you might even forget you’re watching “The only Western with an All-Midget Cast!” which in today’s PC world, might be appropriate. But it’s also more boring
Lessons Learned (of Little People Dynamics)
Little people dynamite takes about 31 minutes to explode
It’s incredibly easy to frame an innocent man for murder: simply accuse him, then proceed to drop gigantic hints that you’re lying about his guilt in front of all forms of law officials
The populace of Tiny Town is of Eastern European or New Yawkian descent

Low down kai-oats are responsible for most problems in the world
The Winning Line
“Maybe you’d rather ride on top with me?”
Ladies, this is spoken by a man who cares about YOU
You know those Happy Little Elves characters Maggie Simpson finds incredibly amusing? Think of The Terror of Tiny Town as them, but with squeakier voices, worse direction, and more camp value. This is, without any qualms about it, not a good movie, but at about 60 minutes long, at least you can get through it in less time than it will take to do your laundry. And hey, it’s a cult classic coated in pungent cheese, so many a fan will owe it to him or herself to take the plunge. Just don’t expect, say, the joyous badness of Matthew McConoughy shouting “He’s a dwarf!” over and over again as found in the Gary Oldman Oscar bid, Tiptoes.

And now I send you on your Shetland pony to head on over to The Lightning Bugg's Lair for old people, sacrificed children, face melting dolls and more!


  1. I'm right with you in disappointment regarding this film. A one-note concept remains one-note throughout. What a waste of good midgets!

  2. I KNOW! The idea will always make me smile, but I just wish they did more with it. Ho. Hum!

  3. I haven't seen this, but it sounds like a gratuitous waste of midgetry..

    how is that even possible.

  4. A bad film can't be saved by midgets no matter how many. It needed a better writer or more precisely a WRITER. Oh well, if they ever decide to remake it I can supply the reason for everyone being small: The local mine saves costs by having the tunnels at only half the height.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  5. I *suppose* you're right Lazarus. I just always like to believe that sometimes all it takes is some spontaneous combustion, musical numbers, talking animals, Brad Dourif, or yes, midgets to make an otherwise not good movie into something special. Sadly the world isn't so simple a place, is it?