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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/10/00

Even Dwarfs Started Small
1999 (1969) - Anchor Bay

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Even Dwarfs Started Small Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/B+

Specs and Features

96 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with director Werner Herzog, actor Crispin Glover and Norman Hill), film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (17 chapters), languages: German (DD mono), subtitles: English

Well, uhm... I don't quite know what to make of this one. Even Dwarfs Started Small is a very odd little flick. But for everything it is, it's immensely watchable. Told in flashback, the film shows a surrealistic snapshot of a world (town, village, island -- whatever) ruled over by little people. There are no average-sized humans anywhere to be seen, and when the film begins, we are at the interrogation of a little person named Hombre. His captors want to know "what happened", but he refuses to tell them anything. Eventually, we cut to a flashback showing what happened (sort of) when a bunch of inmates take over an asylum -- literally. This is a black and white (again a literal as well as figurative observation) view of human nature run wildly amok. As we watch, this mad group of little people ransack their home, wanting their friend (who is mysteriously "arrested") released from inside the institute. Why is any of this going on? It's anyone's guess. But the film is wide open to all sorts of dissection, and it's a fun ride while trying to figure everything out. In the end, it makes little sense. But it's not supposed to. It's a curiosity piece of sorts, and one that will hold your attention up to its very last frame.

The grainy black and white picture both fits the film and looks pretty damn good. Anchor Bay has put out a few good-looking discs in the last year (as well as some crappy ones) but you really can't screw up black and white. Strangely, the disc's packaging claims the film is enhanced for 16x9 displays -- it isn't. And why you'd want to enhance a full frame film for 16x9 beats me. The audio is Dolby Digital mono (in German), and it sounds pretty good. There's a surprisingly active sound field here, with atmospheric stuff going on at all times. It's as strange and haunting as the film itself. On the extras side, none of the film's questions are answered by the commentary track featuring director/writer Werner Herzog, wild-child actor Crispin Glover and mediator Norman Hill. We find out how and where the film was shot, directed and sound designed... but that's about it. Glover and Hill are clearly in awe of Herzog, and Herzog doesn't really lift his curtain of mystery. Fans will enjoy listening to what Herzog has to say, but no one will gain all that much new knowledge about the artist behind this film.

If you're looking to spin a disc that's different from the rest, Even Dwarfs Started Small is just the ticket. This is one odd little flick...

Todd Doogan
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