No jokes, folks. All three of these titles are available to rent on Amazon.
The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)
The Terror of Tiny Town — Tiny Hold Up
I’m betting that most viewers won’t be able to venture past more than a reel without lunging for the scan function on the remote control. Even so: while the novelty is quickly beaten to death by director-cum-prolific-schlockmeister Sam Newfield, there are still more laughs to be harvested in the first fifteen minutes of the world’s only musical Western with a cast comprised entirely of little people (sixty or so, several of whom would earn enduring fame as Munchkins) than there are in most feature length comedies. Watching the Lilliputian players ride Shetland ponies and walk under hitching posts and barroom doors is exploitation paradise. But the inevitable gag repetition, chased by a glut of unendurable musical numbers, is enough to molder even the most hardened cinephile. The acting wrested the following understatement from the critic at “Boxoffice”: “The thespic efforts of the (players) are amateurish and stilted.”
Under the Rainbow (1981)
Under The Rainbow (1981) Official Trailer
Follow this yellow brick load to the Culver Hotel, the actual site where the Munchkins bunked during the making of The Wizard of Oz, and the setting for one of cinemas great missed opportunities. With Steve Rash (The Buddy Holly Story, Can’t Buy Me Love) at the helm, up-and-comers Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher as the romantic leads, and the promise of a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a cinematic universe as familiar to all of us as our mother’s voice, how could it go wrong? Here’s how: there came a point in the late 70’s-early 80’s when drugs were practically written into the budget of many a major Hollywood release. Ever imagine what a film would look like if just about everyone involved in the production was buzzing on cocaine and quaaludes? According to Chase biographer Rena Fruchter, thanks to drugs, “The film took much longer to finish that originally allotted.” Worth seeing for Peter Wooley’s exemplary period recreation and dwarfism rights activist (and giant of a man) Billy Barty as Nazi envoy Otto Kriegling.
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1971)
Even Dwarfs Started Small trailer
Set somewhere in a Bizzaro Universe, a group of institutionalized dwarves held captive on a remote island revolt against their jailers. After only two viewings — the first on the bottom half of a midnight double-bill with Greaser’s Palace, the second during my tenure as MoPA’s film curator — there are images and moments from Werner Herzog’s second narrative feature that have taken up permanent residence in my anamnesis. A pair of minor injuries that occurred during the shoot prompted Herzog to promise that if no more accidents happened on his watch, upon completion of the production he would roll around in a bed of cacti. In the book “Herzog on Herzog,” the director admits, "Getting out was a lot more difficult than jumping in." Eternally ahead of its time as it may be, it’s a film that I’ll probably never feel the urge to revisit. I barely got it the first two times.