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by Bill Gibron

3 Apr 2009

When a novice becomes enamored with the post-modern preamble known as exploitation, their usual route in begins with a group of seminal figures. Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, Kroger Babb, Doris Wishman, Barry Mahon, Bryon Mabe, and Andy Milligan took the genre and ran with it, introducing subjects and storylines to the motion picture artform that mainstream Hollywood wouldn’t touch with a ten foot, well greased and dipped in antibiotic pole. One of the most prolific was producer Harry Novak. Not only did he make his own mark in the realm of sin and skin, but he introduced hundreds of foreign and underground titles to the market as well. One of his most notorious remains Danish import Dværgen. Retitled The Sinful Dwarf, Novak hoped this completely corrupt tale would become a classic. In some ways - he got his wish. Unreleased for decades, it’s become the stuff of lewd legend.

Young newlyweds Peter and Mary are desperate for a place to stay. Unfortunately, they have very little money. Luckily, former nightclub chanteuse Lili Lash as a boarding house that’s cheap, cheap, cheap. Unfortunately, it’s a front for a diabolic scheme involving kidnapping, drug smuggling, heroin addiction, prostitution, and other immoral acts. Overseen by her undersized dwarf son Olaf, Lash spends her days in a drunken stupor, entertaining her equally inebriated friend Winnie. At night, men visit the various victims they have chained up in the attic, these naked, nubile girls forced into unspeakable acts of white slavery to keep the Lashes in the lap of…well, near poverty. When Peter is forced to find work to supplement his failing writing career, he leaves Mary alone with the crazed clan. Sure enough, she becomes the next target of the Lash business model, a piece of meat to be traded like any other available whore.

There’s a moldy old maxim in exploitation that goes a little something like this - if you’re going to give potential audiences a title so titillating it overwhelms the entire notion of grindhouse gratuity, you better deliver on your implied debauchery. On the plus side, The Sinful Dwarf tries to live up to its lurid moniker. We get several shots of star Torben doing his best little person perversions, and the rest of the film offers nothing but nonstop nastiness. If you’ve never seen a raincoat crowd-pleaser before, get ready. This movie makes the basement pit sequences in Pink Flamingoes seem tame by example. Thanks to Harry Novak, that notorious cinematic entrepreneur of excess and erotica, worldwide audiences got a chance to appreciate this unhinged Danish dementia - and now, finally, it finds its way onto home video. The digital format is ill-prepared for such salaciousness.

Granted, The Sinful Dwarf will seem very familiar to anyone with a previous knowledge of the genre. It follows the exploitation recipe to a form-fitting (and breast enhancing) “T”. There’s so much nudity here that male members of the demographic get little time to reload, and the blatant misogynist tone is take to extremes in both the edited hardcore sequences as well as the moments when drunken old dames Lili and Winnie get their gin-juiced groove on. Director Vidal Raski certainly knows how to satisfy his proposed audience’s prurient needs. There are so many shots of star Anne Sparrow in clingy, mammary enhancing garments that he could be working for Maidenform - and that’s just when she’s dressed. The rest of the time, the camera never leaves her swollen, heaving ‘talents’.

As for the rest of the cast, they are caught somewhere between porn and implausibility. Since they are kept drugged up most of the time, their character’s escape appears impossible. Yet anyone with common sense can see that a group of semi-conscious sex slaves can easily beat up one crippled, cane-reliant dwarf. Even better, when Lili shows up to put the smack down, she’s usually so lubed up on Beefeaters that she can barely walk erect. Yet these women simply lay there, full frontals giving the camera the performance of a lifetime. When Raski gets down to the diddling, it’s borderline offensive in its realism. Those in the know understand that this XXX feature was carved down to get a more commercial release. Yet there’s enough blatant innuendo to keep censors up at night.

In fact, the most horrific thing about The Sinful Dwarf is how “tame” it is compared to other offerings from the era. At this point in exploitation, the Findlays were heading over to Snuff-ville, David Friedman was working on the soft to hardcore transition, and Deep Throat was making smut socially acceptable. Here, all we have is bargain basement depravity dressed up in human oddity histrionics. Critics have mentioned that the movie suffers from a lack of Torben, and it’s true. He’s by far the most intriguing character (elderly female winos aside) and he offers a unique and rather disturbing onscreen presence. The fact that he was the host of children’s shows in his native Denmark speaks a lot about his acting prowess. Still, we could tolerate much more ‘midget’ in this out of bounds effort.

There will be some who find this all too tacky and filthy to endure, a wretched experience without a speck of redeeming value or validity. Others will view it all through a cynical gaze that comes from decades of being desensitized to such seedy, slimy sleaze. Though it could probably never live up to its notorious nomenclature, The Sinful Dwarf is an excellent example of the extremes some filmmakers would go to in achieving a kind of kink immortality. Similar to the myth surrounding such previously unknown quantities as A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine and Year of the Yahoo, we once again find ourselves adjusting our expectations in light of reality. Come to this film expecting the worst and you’ll be gravely disappointed. Enter with a knowledge of all things grindhouse, and you’ll discover a genuine junk joy.

by Jason Gross

3 Apr 2009

With album sales continually tanking, artists are getting more and more creative about how to get fans to shell out for their releases and it’s not just the Radiohead/NIN freebie-or-pay-what-you-want models. It’s a bunch of new models where fans get extra for paying extra.

Here’s how iTunes made the announcement of the exclusive goodies that they were giving away with the new Depeche Mode album:

“Get new music and special bonus content from your favorite artists delivered as soon as it’s available with the purchase of an iTunes Pass. The first iTunes Pass includes Sounds of the Universe, the upcoming new album from Depeche Mode, plus extended singles, remixes, videos, and more, which will be released over the next few months. Buy an iTunes Pass today and the band’s new single “Wrong” plus the Black Light Odyssey dub remix of “Oh Well” will begin to download immediately.”

Sounds good, right?  But then comes the fine print. “Pass contents are subject to change without notice.”  Ouch. So, what does that mean?  Well, you probably find out after the fact. Also, you’re told “This pass is active and it is scheduled to end on June 16, 2009.”  What happens on that date?  Is all the material still available to you after that date if you’ve paid up before then?

Even with these caveats, it’s still enticing to fans, even if the material has already started leaking out. What will be interesting to see is the sales figures that Apple logs for this promotion.

This kind of bonus idea to give the fans a little more for their purchase is definitely catching on. No Doubt is offering a deal where if you buy premiere seats to their shows, you get to download their whole catalog. It’s a nice idea but wouldn’t the fans who were paying for the top dollar seats already have their whole catalog?  Maybe some other nice little extras would have been in order. Again, the proof will be in the sales figures that they’ll see for these primo seats.

Even indie heroes Sonic Youth are getting in on the deal. If you pre-order their upcoming Matador debut, you get a bunch of goodies from Rough Trade shops, Other Music and additional outlets, including: “stream of the album before release date, a limited edition live lp from a sonic youth gig in battery park nyc, an exclusive poster contained inside the vinyl and additional exclusive mp3’s.” 

For purchase bonuses though, good luck trying to beat drummer Josh Freese (Devo, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails). His extensive list of bonuses come with various prices, including $10,000 for his car, $20,000 for a round of golf and $75,000 which gets JF joining your band, a limo ride, five songs about you, lasagna and more! Gwen and Thurston aren’t offering that up now, are they? (P.S. JF sold the golf date)

And just think of the future possibilities with other releases and bonuses offered. Bono waxing your car. Springsteen fixing your roof. Neil Young unclogging your john. Jay Z mowing your lawn. Lil Wayne delivering you a pizza. Kenny Chesney getting leaves outta your rain gutter. Taylor Swift running errands for you. Finally, our favorite superstars can make a real impact in our lives and all we gotta do is buy their albums or show up to their shows. Seems like a fair trade off, doesn’t it?

by Sean Murphy

3 Apr 2009

As T.S. Eliot portentously opined: April is the cruelest month.

Apparently someone once pulled an April Fools’ Day joke on him too.

What’s really sad is I saw this one coming almost before I finished reading it, so my burgeoning excitement was tempered by the lesser but wiser angels of my cynicism. A quick Google check confirmed the farce: there is no Captain Beefheart reunion in the making. Stuff like this is, alas, way too good to ever be true:

by Mike Deane

3 Apr 2009

Back in February, I expressed how anxious I was for The-Dream’s follow-up to Love/Hate. So with that type of anticipation, when it came out, how could I be anything but disappointed?

Sure, there were some big tunes, but “Rockin’ That Shit” and “Walkin On The Moon” were released before the album, so I had played them out by the time Love Vs. Money was released. There were some other strong efforts too - his weird two-part song cycle (can two songs be a song cycle?) of “Love Vs. Money Part 1” and “Part 2” was good, and though they didn’t say what I suspect he hoped they would, they were catchy with some fairly hard and interesting production. There was really only one truly weak song, “Fancy”, but even it was weird and ambitious. So, the album was only disappointing when compared to the mastery displayed on his debut, and wasn’t weak when compared to other R&B albums.

by Randy Haecker

3 Apr 2009

Black Lips

Crowd at Stubb’s during Black Lips’ performance at Friday’s Spin magazine party

Kicks and Steve E. Nix of The Cute Lepers perform at Red 7

Travis Criscola and Kicks of The Cute Lepers

Ebony Bones

Echo & the Bunnymen perform during Friday afternoon’s Spin magazine party at Stubb’s

Flatstock, SXSW’s annual poster art show, is held in the Cesar Chavez Convention Center.  Pictured is artist Lindsey Kuhn.

Glasvegas performed during Friday afternoon’s Spin magazine party at Stubb’s.

Hot Leg, the new band featuring Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, performed at Stubb’s.

British dance sensation Little Boots performed at the Emo’s Annex.

Stage diving at the Red 7 punk showcase featuring The Queers, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Cute Lepers, and more.

Zac Pennington of Parenthetical Girls at Beauty Bar.

Flyer for Devil Dolls Booking punk rock showcase at Red 7.

Johnny Borrell of Razorlight performs at Stubb’s.

Shannon Brown of The Girls performed during the punk showcase at Red 7.

Welcome to SXSW.  Now get in line!

Teenage Bottlerocket brought the punk rock to Red 7

That Petrol Emotion performed their second show in 15 years at the Dog & Duck Pub.

Vivian Girls got gnarly at Aces Lounge.

Wild Beasts performed at the Yorkshire showcase at Lattitude 30.

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