Devilish Dwarves

There’s a famous old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch in which a one-legged actor auditions for Tarzan. The casting agent can’t believe what he’s being confronted with (“I’ve got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is, neither have you”) while the disabled actor remains oblivious to his chances of snagging the athletic role. Pete and Dud’s point is clear: some people are blind to their bleeding obvious limitations.

It’s a funny skit. What’s more, it’s starting to look prescient. These days employers have to be bloody careful about turning applicants away. It only takes one deluded asshat to claim prejudice on Twitter and a company can find itself at the center of a politically correct firestorm. In this kind of climate where everyone has allegedly equal aptitude, would you be surprised to hear of an upcoming one-legged Tarzan movie? Or some TV show with a handless pianist? We’re supposed to be willing to accept such madness because otherwise that makes us discriminatory.

And so to dwarves. When it comes to the movies, they’ve traditionally been pigeonholed into three kinds of roles: porn, comedy and horror (and if you’re lucky, you might be able to find a saucy flick that combines all three). Apparently, this is no longer enough and there now appears to be a more inclusive push. This probably has something to do with the 1.35m Peter Dinklage. He played a depressed trainspotter in 2003’s The Station Agent, an uneventful (although surprisingly assured and satisfying) flick which did OK financially and won plaudits. Game of Thrones later materialised, in which he revelled as the hooker-fucking alcoholic Tyrion.

He’s since had many starring roles, although you have to say he’s not exactly hitting box-office home runs. I bet you’ve never even heard of Rememory, I Care a Lot, I Think We’re Alone Now and Cyrano, let alone watched any of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put down this guy’s extraordinary achievements. Indeed, he’s been a minor revelation, partly because he’s a decent actor whereas far too many dwarves… aren’t. Plus, it takes an awful lot of luck to star in a good or hit movie whether someone’s under four feet tall or not.

His greatest success remains GoT. This was an ensemble piece, leading me to suspect movie-goers are not quite ready (or plain don’t want) to hand over their dosh to see a dwarf as a romantic lead, crime lord or action hero. That’d appeal about as much as a one-legged Tarzan, yes? And lest we forget, cinema is a money-driven business.

There’s also a weird duality at work here. In real life we know people do the most crazy, self-defeating kind of shit while coincidences happen all the time. You know, fact is stranger than fiction. Take the German cannibal Armin Meiwes who advertised online for a victim in 2001. Are you surprised someone not only answered, but went to his home and ended up on his dinner plate? It’s just another eye-rolling example of how fucked-up we are as a species, but if you saw that onscreen would you go for it? Surely half your brain would be muttering that’s ridiculous. Well, the psychological horror movie Grimm Love exploring Meiwes’ notorious exploits turned up in 2006. It’s an over-analytical treatment so terrified of its insane subject matter that it tries to deal with it through continual voice-overs, childhood flashbacks and academic dialogue. The choppy, deadly dull story never gets going (or as one irked character says: “You will find no answers here”). Grimm Love fails partly because of that odd paradox: Movies have to be more believable than the real world.

Now dwarves in real life, of course, marry normal-sized people, run marathons, start fights and do other physically incredible things, but slap such stuff in a flick and credibility starts to wobble (although I’m sure our PC lefty friends love it). Frankly, I’m against movies being used to present some idealized version of life in which dwarves can do exactly the same things as the rest of us. A flick should aim to entertain first and foremost so fuck positive representations of a disadvantaged group if you merely end up with groan-inducing shite that’s little more than a vehicle to peddle a worthy message.

Michael Dunn, who remains the only Oscar-nominated dwarf for his role in 1965’s Ship of Fools, would have disagreed. “I don’t want to play Charlton Heston parts,” the 1.19m American actor said, “but there are a lot of roles I can do.” He could be right, but are investors going to stump up for projects that widen the perception of what dwarves are capable of, given that the box-office efforts of most able-bodied actors die on their arse?

I prefer dwarves in plausible roles (Oompa Loompas, Munchkins, Ewoks… OK, maybe not those bloody Ewoks) because that’s surely the best way to play to their strengths and end up with classic movies like Bad Santa. And as I try to show below, little people have already been doing the movie-going public proud for a long, long time.

Photo by Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Hans in Freaks (1932)

Poor Hans. He’s a nice guy but makes the classic mistake of falling in love with a heartless floozy twice his size.

Employed in a traveling circus, he’s just come into an inheritance. Suddenly he’s got ideas above his station, ignoring his devoted, similar-sized fiancĂ©e while throwing his newfound cash at the conniving trapeze artist, Cleopatra (an atrocious Olga Baclanova).

Biggest success: Coming into a fortune.

Biggest humiliation: A shit wedding which includes the circus strongman snogging his bride a few moments before she drunkenly taunts Hans: “What are you? A man or a baby?” And then, of course, he doesn’t even get a sniff of num-nums on his wedding night.

Best one-liner: (while flatly parroting the contemptuous Cleopatra) “Dirty, slimy freaks!”

Satanic powers: None, unless he used some to conjure up his mysterious inheritance in the first place.

Number of murders: None. Sometimes keeping ’em alive works better.

Memorability: Freaks has gained serious critical respect since its reviled box-office failure back in the Depression. I’m not sure why as it’s a stilted, badly acted watch with only a few memorable moments, such as the ‘gobble gobble, one of us’ tabletop scene, a sack-clad dude with no arms and legs amazingly lighting a cigarette, and a slightly interesting rain-lashed denouement. Hans (the 0.99m mildly slappable Harry Earles) stands at the center of this enduring oddity, a dapper man with a case of blue balls and a barely comprehensible, high-pitched German accent. Chin up, son. You’ll be a munchkin in seven years.

Evil rating: 1. A sympathetic judge would look the other way.

Hop-Toad in The Masque of Red Death (1964)

I have a cunning plan, my lord…

It may surprise you to know that Blackadder’s Baldrick is not the only slightly short dude to have come up with such a plan. And unlike that medieval idiot, Hop-Toad’s scheme is both well thought-through and spectacularly successful.

He’s a court jester at an Italian castle, in love with a ‘tiny dancer’ by the name of Esmeralda. However, her latest performance also entrances a corrupt, boorish guest called Alfredo, although that doesn’t stop him smashing her to the floor when she accidentally knocks over his goblet of wine. Hop-Toad goes for his knife, but knows he’s unlikely to win a straight fight. Later they talk about what happened. Hop-Toad feigns indifference, but the Machiavellian wheels of his mind are already turning…

Oh, did I mention Esmeralda is a child? About seven years old, I’d say. Naughty Hop-Toad.

Biggest success: No one makes fun of Hop-Toad’s short size, suggesting he’s an accepted and valued member of the court. I guess I’d better also mention the way he publicly humiliates and burns Esmeralda’s assailant to death, a stunt seen by his evil master as an ‘entertaining jest’. Hop-Toad and his prepubescent ‘pretty toy’ even avoid the Red Death, a virulent disease that wipes out just about everyone else.

Biggest humiliation: None. Very few dwarves in horror flicks do as well as this one.

Best one-liner: (To Alfredo when discussing his earlier assault on Esmeralda) “She’s nothing to me. I prefer a full-sized woman.”

Satanic powers: None. Hop-Toad favors deceit and cunning.

Number of murders:  One, but fair play, his monstrously excessive revenge is a peach.

Memorability: Skip Martin puts in a decent performance in a theatrical, but nicely shot flick that’s filled with Satan wooing and anti-God talk.

Evil rating: 5. Turns immolation into a much-appreciated public spectacle and is an unabashed pedo.

Olaf in The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

Danish sexploitation, anyone?

This one has to be experienced once in your otherwise sheltered life, especially if you’ve always fancied watching a dwarf abduct ladies, get them addicted to smack in a squalid attic and proceed to sell their helpless little asses to johns.

We’re introduced to Olaf (a relentlessly sleazy Torben Bille) loitering near a woman playing hopscotch on the pavement. He uses a cane and is carrying a cute, battery-powered doggie. No threat here, then. The rapt woman follows him into his house to look at his toy collection where he doesn’t hesitate to bop her over the head…

Less than three minutes in and you have to ask why a grown woman is playing hopscotch alone before wandering after a dwarf to play with his toys. Honestly, it’s almost as if some dunderheads deserve to be enslaved.

Anyway, the busy Olaf has many duties, such as administering heroin and ushering the johns in and out of the makeshift brothel. “You know what to do,” he tells one. “Just ring the bell when you’re finished.”

Olaf also lives on the ground floor with his scarred, musically-inclined mother. She appears to be in charge of this white slavery ring despite being half-cut most of the time. When she’s not bitching about the price of skag, she’s dressing up in a top hat and feather boa to do a Marlene Dietrich impersonation as Olaf accompanies her on the piano. I guess there’s a certain charm to watching her forlornly sing about losing at the ‘game of love’ as the director cuts to upstairs shots of a naked slave being whipped.

Biggest success: In between excited bouts of voyeurism, Olaf’s learned to tinkle the ivories quite well.

Biggest humiliation: Always having to climb those bloody stairs to the top floor. A sex dungeon would surely have been a lot more practical.

Best one-liner: Nothing of note, although everything he says is delivered in a raspy voice that adds to the air of depravity.

Satanic powers: None. Like Ralphus (see below), he’s got his real-world MO worked out just fine.

Number of murders: Possibly one with his trusty cane when the cops come to visit. However, who knows how many of his worn-out and cruelly abused harem have overdosed or otherwise been disposed of?

Memorability: High. The Sinful Dwarf is low-budget, badly acted dreck with a couple of deliberately surreal moments and an imaginative, even poetic, final shot. The main blonde girl also has that same innocent allure as the star of Debbie Does Dallas. What’s more, Torben occasionally makes you believe he’s a sick little fucker by managing to look genuinely demented. Surely we’re due a remake with Peter Dinklage?

Evil rating: 10. Olaf’s a sadistic, sex-obsessed dwarf in anyone’s book, especially when getting mean with his cane. Christ, he even arranges his beloved toys in sexual positions.

The red-coated dwarf in Don’t Look Now (1973)

Less is more is a good way to sum up the acting career of the 1.27m tall Adelina Poerio. In her only known role, she scampers around Venice tricking Donald Sutherland into believing she might be his recently deceased young daughter. Once she’s caught his attention, she lures him to a deserted palazzo to reveal she hasn’t got any daddy issues at all. Or a sense of fair play. “It’s OK,” he gently tells her. “I’m a friend. I won’t hurt you.”

Too right, mate.

Biggest success: Managing to sink a meat cleaver into a six-foot-three man’s neck without even jumping up. Bravo!

Best one-liner: We don’t get a peep. A classic case of action speaking louder than words.

Biggest humiliation: Who knows? But she’s gotta be pissed at something to take such umbrage with strangers.

Satanic powers: We’re given no explanation about this mysterious scurrying figure, yet Don’t Look Now clearly taps into the paranormal.

Memorability: Very high. Once seen, the climax of Roeg’s masterpiece is not forgotten whether you find it bone chillingly unexpected, headscratchingly weird or hilariously bad.

Number of murders: One confirmed kill, but you have to say it’s a doozy. Unless there are two nutters running around, I guess this female fiend is also behind those other people being fished out of the drink.

Evil rating: 8. You sense she’ll be up to more mischief in that foggy, waterlogged city.

Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

I’d love to tell you the undersized, underhanded Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) is the best thing about this lackluster Bond outing, but that honor probably goes to Britt Ekland’s bikini. Nick Nack gets a fair amount of screen time as the sidekick of Scaramanga (a suave Christopher Lee) yet is required to do little more than deliver champagne, give the odd sarcastic wave, officiate duels, look cute in a bowler hat and call Bond a ‘big bully’. He sneaks around and has a certain yen for voyeurism, but overall it’s uninspiring stuff. This manservant is not fit to shine Odd Job’s shoes.

Biggest success: Not being a fucking freak like that three-nippled Scaramanga.

Biggest humiliation: Deciding to try to kill Bond while in an ideal position to perve on Britt Ekland disrobing, a mistake that ultimately culminates in him being imprisoned in a suitcase.

Best one-liner: (To Bond about Scaramanga while indicating his boss’ island home) “If you kill him, all this be mine.”

Satanic powers: Nada.

Number of murders: Zero. The best he can manage is showing a spontaneous desire to kill an unconscious Bond with a trident.

Memorability: Pretty low, although at least he prompts Bond to say: “I’ve never killed a midget before.” Maybe Villechaize, who apparently insisted on being called a midget rather than a dwarf, was better in the long-running American TV show, Fantasy Island.

Evil rating: 1. A pretty poor effort all round. Needs to talk to Olaf.

Burns in The Freakmaker aka The Mutations (1974)

I’ll be honest here: this low-budget British horror B-movie is all about the marvelous teaming of future Halloween luminary Donald Pleasence and imminent Doctor Who star Tom Baker.

Pleasence is a discreet mad geneticist who splices plants and animals so the former can move around and the latter can harness the energy of the sun, a quirk that sees him feeding lab rabbits to a giant carnivorous plant. Inevitably, he’s also experimenting on humans so that a man can grow roots (among other things) if he wants.

Baker is the disfigured, tyrannical boss of a nearby circus freak show. He abducts people for Pleasence’s experiments and then employs them when the mutations go wrong. He’s one fucked-up dude, stomping on a birthday cake one minute and paying a hooker to say the words he most wants to hear the next. Despite being a figure of horror, he maintains a sliver of sympathy by hoping Pleasence’s medical expertise will one day cure him of his own pronounced facial deformity.

Former Oscar nominee Michael Dunn plays Burns, Baker’s business partner, a man well under the thumb in a deeply antagonistic relationship. Hence, we see him following a pretty girl through an autumnal, fogbound London park, reluctantly helping to shoo her into Baker’s waiting arms. At other times he’s on stage talking about the ‘the refuse heap of evolution’ before introducing the circus’ ghastly exhibits, a parade of freaks that includes a contortionist, an eyeball-popping man, a human pincushion, a living skeleton and a Lizard Woman. He’s liked by the other carnies, telling them “It’s just us against all the rest of the world”, but desperately wants to make enough cash to get out.

Biggest success: Playing a bad guy, but still managing to project a sense of morality in a seriously out of whack flick.

Best one-liner: (While trying to calm the growing unrest among the other bullied, disabled carnies) We’re one big happy family. Let’s keep it that way.”

Biggest humiliation: Having to take shit from the ‘ugliest man in the world’ and being unable to punch him in the face.

Satanic powers: None. This movie is more about the dangers of playing God.

Memorability: The Freakmaker wears its influences on its sleeve, with Freaks being the most obvious, but there are also dashes of Island of Lost Souls, Burke and Hare, Carnival of Souls, Hammer Horror and Eyes Without a Face. Directed by acclaimed cinematographer Jack Cardiff, it’s a fun mad scientist flick shot through with cruelty, plentiful nudity, time-lapse photography and political incorrectness. I’m going to put my neck on the line and say everyone needs to see a human Venus flytrap do its thing. Dunn is a good actor and does what he can with a fairly well developed supporting role.

Number of murders: At least two as Burns helps his boss procure and dispose of subjects, but he’ll stick the knife in, if necessary.

Evil rating: 3. Clearly conflicted, Burns is a good example of an essentially decent man getting out of his depth. Still does bad stuff for money, though.

Hercules in I Don’t Want to be Born (1975)

We all deal with rejection in different ways. Some of us consume half a ton of chocolate. Some dash off an email to an agony aunt. Some crawl inside a bottle. And some curse the womb of middle-aged strippers.

Well, that’s what Hercules (George Claydon) the dancing dwarf does at a London flesh palace after his clumsy advances are not appreciated by glamorous colleague Joan Collins. Suitably hexed, her demonic spawn routinely escapes its crib to slaughter the innocent in this gloriously awful horror flick.

Biggest success: Well, he throws a curse and by Jiminy, it works beyond all reasonable expectations. He also keeps his job at the club after a clear case of sexual harassment.

Best one-liner: (To the somewhat startled Joan) “You will have a baby, a monster, an evil monster conceived in your womb, as big as I am small, and possessed by the devil himself!” In fact, it’s his only line.

Biggest humiliation: Having his consummate stage act ruined by an interfering nun. There he is in his top hat and tails surrounded by lovely disrobing ladies when all of a sudden an emissary of God starts reading Bible passages and making the sign of the cross, causing him to stagger, fall over and look like a right tit.

Satanic powers: We never learn how he has the power to hex people, but presumably it’s down to having an occult source and the fact that all people less than four feet tall are intrinsically evil. Well, religion taught us that for centuries with all that ‘monstrous birth’ shit.

Number of murders: None directly, but fuck that murderous baby goes through people like a mini T-Rex.

Memorability: Not that high for this 1.45m former Oompa Loompa as the action concentrates on Joanie and her satanic sprog.

Evil rating: 3. Prefers the proxy approach to the dirty hands on stuff.

Ralphus in Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Or porn. And I tell you what, Luis De Jesus did just that during his fifteen-year movie career. He might’ve only been 1.3 meters tall, but given that he spent most of his acting life eschewing the Bard in favour of hardcore stuff like 1971’s The Anal Dwarf, I bet he could’ve told you an eye-opening story or two in the pub (or should that be fly-opening story?) He did let himself down somewhat by appearing in the 1981 Chevy Chase vehicle Under the Rainbow and the obscure Return of the Jedi two years later, but this was probably to satisfy a pressing need to rehydrate. Hard to pick a crowning moment for this former circus performer, but I do like his giggly turn as the curly-haired, gold medallion-wearing assistant Ralphus in Joel M. Reed’s notorious (and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek) exploitation-splatter pic.

Ralphus works for the sadomasochistic Sardu, a somewhat frustrated artist who has combined theatre, torture and death to very little public acclaim in his show, Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre. Audience numbers are usually below ten. Not that the lack of interest stops Ralphus from wholeheartedly committing to such a creative endeavor. He loves every aspect of the job whether it’s unpacking the recently abducted ‘performers’ from a wooden crate, electrifying their nipples or amputating their hands onstage. Working conditions are so good he frequently jumps up and down or runs in little circles, barely able to contain his glee. Well, why not? How many jobs offer the chance to use a bare bottom as a dartboard or pull an eyeball out and devour it?

Biggest success: Ralphus is an expert with a blow dart, using his ninja-like skills to firstly hide in a prima ballerina’s locker and then subdue and abduct her so she can be forcefully made to dance in Sardu’s planned new show.

Best one-liner: (On explaining the tastiness of his freshly prepared chicken soup) “I used a whole chicken. The secret is cooking it alive.”

Biggest humiliation: Being picked up and thrown through the air by the flick’s sole good guy. Yeah, Ralphus is in the entertainment biz, but the look on his face suggests he thinks dwarf-tossing is outdated and plain mean.

Satanic powers: Ralphus is very much a product of the modern world. Who needs supernatural mumbo-jumbo when you’ve got a seemingly endless supply of shackled women and a collection of tools that include a hacksaw, a chainsaw and a pair of thumbscrews?

Number of murders: Four (although has an indirect hand in many more).

Memorability: Pretty high, especially whenever he’s scooping out raw meat from a bucket and chucking it through the bars of a backstage cage to starving naked women.

Evil rating: 10. This is one unapologetic dwarf, a permanently grinning imp who will kiss the lips of a decapitated head in an act of pure celebration. He’s so committed to turning suffering into popular entertainment that I suspect he might have been the brains behind that monstrous reality TV show, Big Brother.

Falcon in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)

Well, this one’s an embarrassing puzzle. Lone Wolf is a simpleminded, enjoyably silly western designed to make Chuck Norris look as manly and heroic as possible, but I couldn’t figure out how the vertically challenged Falcon (Daniel Frishman) fits into the scheme of things. Initially he’s seen ogling our bearded hero through binoculars, perhaps wondering why Chuck’s an action star when he’s only a foot or so taller. Later Chuck bursts into his office to find him zooming around in a motorized wheelchair obsessively playing pinball. Falcon then demonstrates his yen for throwing his head back and cackling. I think this means he’s a baddie. He might also be in cahoots with an evil arms dealer, but I’m unable to offer any further details. Whatever the case, Falcon’s a well-dressed, confident bastard and remains unfazed when a bodyguard is slugged to the floor. Chuck tells him: “I’m gonna have your little ass.” Lordy, how should we interpret such a threat? Either Chuck’s up for a bit of midget porn or he’s going to roundhouse a disabled dwarf during the inevitable climactic fight.

Biggest success: Evading McQuade by having one of those cool revolving walls in his office that he can smartly disappear behind like a Bond villain. And then cackle.

Best one-liner: (While pointing a long-barrelled gun at the similarly armed McQuade) “As you can see, mine’s bigger.”

Biggest humiliation: Called ‘shorty’. When someone like Chuck (who’s not exactly tall) hands out such a withering dismissal, I guess you really are short.

Satanic powers: Zero. However, even if Falcon were able to conjure up all the demons from hell, he still wouldn’t be able to defeat Chuck in his prime.

Number of murders: As I couldn’t follow what Falcon was up to, I’m unsure if he had an indirect hand in any of the numerous killings.

Memorability: Pretty low. He simply does not belong in this flick.

Evil rating: 1. Got the cackle down pat, but that’s about it. Dwarves seemed a lot more evil in the 70s.

Lubdan the Leprechaun in Leprechaun (1993)

Although horror’s probably my favorite genre, I’ve never fancied those Chucky movies. A doll isn’t scary whether it’s possessed by the twisted soul of a serial killer or not. It’s the same with leprechauns. A six-meter shark circling your boat is scary, as is an extra-terrestrial monster with acid for blood, but a wee man with a scabby face, an Imelda Marcos-like fetish for shoes and an oft-forgotten Irish accent?

To be fair to the 1.07m Warwick Davis, the world’s highest grossing supporting actor, he does play things for laughs. However, this is a good example of what can happen when you put a dwarf front and center i.e. ninety minutes of pure shit (although Leprechaun made money). The joke is that Davis probably puts in the best performance because everyone else is poor and annoying, especially a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston as a whiny rich girl in desperate need of being abducted by Ralphus or Olaf.

Anyway, Davis is the six-hundred-year-old, wisecracking Lubdan, a supernatural shortarse who rides a tricycle and kills whoever nicks his pot of gold. Perhaps he should try keeping it in a bank.

Biggest success: Slyly stroking Jennifer Aniston’s leg while panting.

Best one-liner: (after bloodily pogoing on a man’s chest) “You’ll bounce back in no time!”

Biggest humiliation: Being imprisoned in a wooden crate for a decade because it’s got a four-leaf clover sitting on top.

Satanic powers: Numerous. Can impersonate dead people, magically transport himself, be physically strong, shrug off the odd amputation and take a shotgun blast in the chest. Can’t recognize a dud script, though.

Number of murders: Four.

Memorability: I’m doing my best to forget I ever saw the irritating little bastard and certainly won’t be watching any of the five or so sequels.

Evil rating: 5. Despite numerous kills in a R-rated horror flick, Lubdan comes across like a slightly mean stage magician.

Majai in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

An imaginative and unsettling source novel by an esteemed writer. A cast boasting the Godfather, Iceman and Jake the Muss. A $40million budget along with a director who could deliver flicks as good as Seconds and The Train.

And a dwarf by the name of Majai (Nelson de la Rosa), who happens to be one of the shortest men who ever lived.

What could go wrong?

Well, I guess when you’re aiming for horror but end up with comedy, quite a lot. Poor John Frankenheimer. Seventeen years after directing the eco-horror mutant bear laugh fest Prophecy he once again stepped in cinematic dog shit with his version of H.G. Wells’ oft-filmed novel about perverted animal experimentation.

Stranded Englishman Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) washes up on Moreau’s doorstep, remaining unimpressed after an impromptu but decidedly hair-raising jaunt around his fucked-up new home that reveals one hybrid-creature after another. “Look at these people!” he bellows at Moreau (a camp, bloated Brando in a variety of ridiculous outfits) before singling out Majai’s seventy-one-centimeter frame. “Look at him!”

Now it’s true Majai doesn’t have a lot to do in this travesty. He’s simply a devoted mini-version of Moreau. However, I am quite fond of the scene in which he plays a grand piano duet with the identically dressed Moreau. Majai’s little piano, of course, sits on top of Moreau’s and the fact he has one grossly misshapen hand complete with talons does not affect his musical ability one iota. What a shame they never ended up on Top of the Pops.

Biggest success: Not being sat on by that weird fatso, Brando.

Biggest humiliation: Wearing a naked body suit while dancing on the back of a jeep. Thankfully, Brando doesn’t reciprocate.

Best one-liner: Majai’s mute throughout, although probably curious to discuss why Island of Lost Souls, made sixty-four years earlier, is a vastly superior version of Wells’ classic novel.

Satanic powers: Zip.

Number of murders: None, although it’s rumoured the director offered him a cool million to kill that prima-donna Val Kilmer during the famously troubled production.

Memorability: Well, Mike Myers obviously remembered Majai in coming up with the character of Mini-Me three years later in The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Evil rating: 0. Seems like a nice guy, but it must be tricky to get up to naughty stuff when you’re not much bigger than a shoebox.

Marcus in Bad Santa (2003)

Criminal duos don’t come much more foulmouthed, antagonistic and politically incorrect than Willie and Marcus in Terry Zwigoff’s comedic masterpiece. Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is a self-loathing, alcoholic, safe-cracking Father Christmas while Marcus (Tony Cox) is his organized, but none too cheery elf helper. Together they hurl insults at one another, trying to not get fired before knocking over whatever department store that has stupidly employed them.

Marcus is the team’s socially competent half, constantly appalled by his partner’s lack of professionalism and self-respect, such as saying ‘fuck stick’ to the boss, being late or smoking on the job. Or as he tells Willie during a typical pep talk: “You are an emotional cripple. Your soul is dog shit. Every single fucking thing about you is ugly.”

And yes, I do like to trot that little speech out whenever I bump into an ex-girlfriend.

Biggest success: Only having to work a few weeks of the year while spending the rest of his time banging his Asian wife.

Biggest humiliation: Having to endure Willie for a few weeks of the year.

Best one-liner: (On being told by the store’s security chief to singlehandedly remove the drunken Willie to his car) “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a motherfuckin’ dwarf so unless you got a forklift handy, maybe you should lend a hand, huh?”

Satanic powers: An elf in costume only. Even if he did have any magical ability, I doubt he’d be caught dead making toys in Santa’s North Pole workshop.

Number of murders: One, although obviously wants to kill Willie, too.

Memorability: Very high. Bad Santa is a shining example of how to use a dwarf in a movie. Evil rating: 3. He’s a seasoned criminal, but the annual plundering of a department store and the occasional dispatch of a corrupt, greedy security guard is never gonna put him in the same league as the likes of Olaf or Ralphus.

About Dave Franklin

Dismayed by the state of post-2000 cinema, Dave Franklin hasn't visited a movie house in more than a decade. He can usually be found in a dingy room dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, pining for the lost days of 70's cinema. Saying that, he will visit you for an appropriate fee to read excruciating excerpts from his novels.