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The She-Beast and The Sinful Dwarf among DVD reviews

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THE SHE-BEAST (1966). Also known under the titles Revenge of the Blood Beast and Sister of Satan, The She-Beast is a horror cheapie that's aided immeasurably by the presence of Michael Reeves behind the camera – the young British filmmaker can't quite pull the picture into the "win" column, but it's an admirable try nonetheless. Ian Ogilvy and cult star Barbara Steele play Philip and Veronica, newlyweds who have elected to honeymoon in Transylvania (Transylvania?). There, they meet Count Von Helsing (John Karlsen), whose ancestors include the person who famously killed Dracula and, for the purpose of this story, the nobleman who tried to protect the village from a witch murdering small children. But things went wrong (as they invariably do), the witch placed a curse on the villagers, and, 200 years later, she has managed to return to exact her revenge on her tormentors' descendants. Veronica falls prey to her evil designs, and it's up to Philip and Van Helsing to rescue her while simultaneously sending the hag back to her watery grave. Reeves shows no small measure of style in his direction, and his script includes swatches of humor that run hot-and-cold (although the visual gag involving the sickle is priceless). It's just too bad the latter part of the picture gets bogged down in an endless car chase more suited to a Keystone Kops romp than to an atmospheric horror yarn. This was Reeves' first credited film as a writer-director; he would go on to make the 1967 Boris Karloff thriller The Sorcerers and the excellent 1968 Vincent Price cult classic The Witchfinder General before dying of a prescription drug overdose (whether suicide or accident, no one knows for sure) in 1969, at the age of 25.

DVD extras include audio commentary by Ogilvy, Steele and producer Paul Maslansky; and a photo gallery.

Movie: **

Extras: **

THE SINFUL DWARF (1974). Hardcore fans of exploitation cinema will beg to differ, but most of the entertainment value related to this DVD release of a Euro-sleaze staple can be found on the packaging itself. The text on the back of the case claims that "this towering achievement in graphic depravity" was restored from a print "discovered hidden in a janitor's closet at the Danish Film Institute." Hard to prove that one, but it appears to be true that star Torben Bille, who "looks disturbingly like Jack Black in a trash compactor," was a "former kiddie-show host" back in Denmark. As for the critical blurbs gracing the package, my favorite is "Best. Plot. Ever." – even landmark pictures like Citizen Kane and The Godfather failed to nab that quote for their respective DVD releases. The aforementioned plot, incidentally, centers on the diminutive Olaf, who lives with his alcoholic mother (Clara Keller); together, they manage to kidnap young girls, get them hooked on heroin, and keep them chained up naked in the attic, where they're pimped out to anonymous johns seeking sex. Into this house come shapely Mary (Anne Sparrow) and her doltish husband Peter (Tony Eades), and it isn't long before Olaf is eavesdropping on their lovemaking sessions and figuring out how to add Mary to his collection of doped-up beauties. The Sinful Dwarf is such a wallow in depravity that even the name of Santa Claus gets tarnished (that's the nickname given to the local drug dealer), yet there's no denying that Bille is suitably demented in the title role, and director Vidal Raski actually displays flashes of imagination behind the camera (the opening title sequence, solely focusing on Olaf's vintage toys, is memorably creepy). Incidentally, a XXX cut of this film also exists; this is the softcore version, although it still manages to pack plenty of nudity and (simulated?) sex into its 95-minute running time.

DVD extras include a tongue-in-cheek featurette in which two guys discuss the lasting damage that the film has had on their psyches since they first saw it in the 1980s; the theatrical trailer produced for the U.S. grindhouse circuit (the film's moniker on the trailer is Abducted Bride); and radio spots.

Movie: *1/2

Extras: **

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