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The title tells a lie: It's actually two bad sisters. The middle sibling
Lorna (played by Sara Shane) proves as virtuous as she is dull, compared
the psychotic (Valerie, played by Kathleen Hughes) and the nymphomaniac
(Vicki, played by Marla English) with whom she shares a mansion and their
dead father's millions. (Also in the mix is a boozed-up busybody of an
played by Madge Kennedy.)
The trouble, which has been brewing for three lifetimes, boils over when dad dies in a plane crash. The pilot (John Bromfield) claims to have tried to save him, but doubts abound. Valerie, sniffing an opportunity, schemes to have him brought into the family business and marry him off to Lorna, engaged to the estate's executor (Jess Barker). She hadn't reckoned on Vicki, who throws herself at Bromfield as though lust had just been put on the market in easy-to-swallow caplets (`I graduated magna cum laude from Embraceable U,' she coos at him).
Valerie and Vicki make Goneril and Regan look like Little Sisters of the Poor. They openly and viciously taunt one another, and Lorna, about age, and looks, and anything else their stoat-like minds can come up with. In one eyes-like-saucers scene, the twisted sisters get into a cat-fight concluding with Valerie's taking a riding crop to Vicki's face, driving her (quite literally) around the bend. All the while she's photographed in pitiless close-up, her thickly-lipsticked maw stretched wide in ecstatic triumph. But wait! There's more....
Suds'd-up trash so pungent it's hard to pass it by, Three Bad Sisters was a late-50s Z-movie template for the motivelessly malignant soaps and serials that soon became a staple of television screens, filling the days of our lives. Script, acting and production boast no redeeming qualities whatsoever, except excess and sheer effrontery. In regard to those qualities, Three Bad Sisters offers an embarrassment of riches.
That hilarious line is typical of what these naughty sisters say. (It's
funny on its own terms and pretty funny unintentionally , too.) Only
two of the sisters are really bad. Boy, are they bad, too! One is given
to pinup poses and salacious comments where e'er she goes. The other is
got up to look like Marilyn Monroe. She has those sensual, slightly
parted lips. And, not to give anything away, she is even more bad than
All three sisters are played by starlets. The man who stumbles into their lives is played by John Bromfield. He had something of a career.
This looks today like possibly the first mainstream soft-core porn ever marketed. Well, of course not the first but the raciest at that time.
The girls wear as little as possible and let's not forget about the female audience members: Bromfield is shown shaving with an electric razor -- whose fetish was this? -- bare-chested. He also is shown sopping wet in a swimsuit.
There's a real plot here, too: The girls' family, see, is cursed. They are prone to suicide -- or dramatic deaths that can be made to seem like suicide.
The movie is not bad. I truly don't know where it was shown. Maybe it was made for drive-ins. Somehow, and I could be wrong, I felt that the typical male audience was not the primary target here. The women are scantily dressed. They often resemble lurid covers of mags like Police Detective or jackets of dime novels.
But the guy seems to be the central focus. Not everyone in the movie likes him, but all the girls love him. And I think the audience is meant to also.
It's lots of fun -- and on its own terms, too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a rich tycoon is killed in a plane crash, his spinster twin
sister, Martha Craig (Madge Kennedy), doesn't believe he grabbed the
controls in a suicide dive (even though self-snuff runs in the family)
but his three beautiful daughters couldn't care less. The pilot, Jim
Norton (John Bromfield), goes to work for Valerie Craig (Kathleen
Hughes) who soon coerces him into helping her wrest control of the
estate from her troubled sister, Lorna (Sara Shane) and the family
lawyer (Jess Barker). Valerie wants Norton to seduce Lorna when he's
not fending off the advances of another sister, the nymphet Vicki
(Marla English), but her plans are thrown into a tailspin when Norton
falls for his prey. All bets are off as a world of woe -including
corporate chicanery, seductions, suicides, blackmail, a murder plot,
the Mann Act, double-crosses, disfigurement, and poetic justice- befall
"Craig Manor", an imposing mansion on a bluff overlooking the sea...
This preposterous potboiler would have made a perfect second feature for WRITTEN ON THE WIND, also from 1956. Douglas Sirk's saga of a powerful (and powerfully dysfunctional) oil clan was said to have inspired the 1980s night-time TV serial DALLAS but the Craig's low-brow excursion into insanity seems right out of it's sinful sister-soap, DYNASTY. All three siblings (only one of whom is really bad) are great beauties but it's Kathleen Hughes' cartoon villainy that stands out. Valerie is relentless in her quest to inherit the family fortune and her unbridled enthusiasm for evil is one of the movie's many guilty pleasures. Teenage sister Vicki is quite a piece of work as well, reminiscent of Carmen Sternwood in THE BIG SLEEP. When they first meet, she pulls the equivalent of trying to sit on Norton's lap while he's still standing by coming on to him with the line "I graduated summa cum laude from Embrace-able U." Whew!
THREE BAD SISTERS, produced by schlockmeister Howard W. Koch, is a terrific trash-wallow in exploitation excess and the cast is B-Movie Heaven: Marla "She Creature" English, 50s hunk John "Revenge Of The Creature" Bromfield (once married to French sexpot Corinne Calvet), Universal starlet Sara Shane (discovered by Hedy Lamarr), Jess "Mr. Susan Hayward" Barker, Kathleen "It Came From Outer Space" Hughes, and former silent screen star Madge Kennedy give it all they've got -however much or little that is. Future Eurotrash star Brett Halsey (TRUMPET OF THE Apocalypse) is seen briefly as one of Vicki's victims.
B-Movie rating: 10/10 Marla (and her body English) made marvelous movies! THREE BAD SISTERS was recently seen on the big screen as part of the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival but the jury's still wiping soap suds out of ...aw hell, it's noir (5/10 on the noirometer).
This is a very low budget soapy thriller--and it makes no attempt to be
anything other than entertaining. It ain't the least bit sophisticated
and is a bit silly--but it IS enjoyable on a low-brow level. Just sit
back and watch the fireworks. I guarantee you won't be bored!
"Three Bad Sisters" begins with a plane crash. A rich guy is killed--leaving his vast fortune to three really screwed up but beautiful daughters (sort of like really bad versions of Hilton girls). One daughter, Valerie (Kathleen Hughes), is greedy and wants to force the pilot of the plane, Jim, to work with her to somehow cheat her sisters out of the money--but how is never really stated. The guy (John Bromfield) seems to have no choice and comes to stay with the family on a trumped up pretense. He soon learns that one of the sisters, Lorna (Sara Shane), is emotionally unstable and seems to be struggling with suicidal impulses--and she's by far the best of the bunch! Vicki (Marla Craig) is a combination nympho and home-wrecker. And, Valerie is just evil. What's Jim to do? And what exactly is Valerie's plan? Tune in to this VERY juicy film to find out more.
Subtle it's not nor is it especially believable. But, it also it great fun and the actors do pretty well with what they've been given. Sure, a few characters are a bit broadly written but it never bores...never. It's sort of like a poor man's "Peyton Place"...on crack! I'd not say it's a great film but it's a wonderful guilty pleasure--the sort of overwrought trash that can be very difficult NOT to watch.
We have to remember that the 50's were practically a blank slate when
it came to movies. Hollywood was in transition from patriotic war
movies, noir, two reel oaters, etc to movies with a message. We had
Blackboard Jungle, On the Waterfront and so on. Some folks might think
that was an improvement. I don't. Who was the mogul who said: If you
want to send a message, call Western Union? He was right. These
psychological thrillers are less entertainment than some kind of remote
This one is a pip. It's about three sisters trying to wrest control of their dead father's estate. One of them, maybe the only one worth redemption enlists the aid of the company pilot to help her keep the rest of the family at bay. He's initially in it for the bucks, but eventually falls for her. Meanwhile the rest of the family schemes to sabotage the romance. The results are predictable. You get a little bit of everything in this movie. Sexual tension between the sisters. A little subtle masochism. Hereditary insanity - if there is such a thing. We never get to meet the parents, but they must really have been screwed up The cast is practically unknown. One or two of the actors sound vaguely familiar. The acting is so bad it's hard to believe. It was released under the United Artists umbrella by a company called Bel-Air Productions. It was shot in and around LA mostly at night and probably without permits. The end was so bizarre that I thought it was a joke. It was as if they ran out of money and the producer decided to wrap it up in the middle of a scene.
I can't explain it - not even to myself - but I gave this pile of trash an 8/10. I'm familiar with the term "It's so bad it's good", but I don't think I ever ran into the phenomenon before. Well, maybe "Hot Rods to Hell", but this one certainly fits. You might want to try this if you love movies that seem like they were made in somebody's basement.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Somebody called Howard Koch a schlockmeister but he did write the
screenplay for "Casablanca", didn't he? Or didn't he. Maybe there's
more than one Koch slinking around in Hollywood, and I'm not too fond
of "Casablanca" anyway. Wait a minute -- yes, there is another Howard
Koch slinking around Hollwyood. That's the one who wrote "Casablanca."
No matter. I'll put as much care into this comment as "Howard W. Koch"
put into this production, which is to say only a little.
You know what this sounds like? Somebody read Cliff's Notes on Shakespeare's "King Lear" and decided, since no original thoughts were aboard the Inbound Inspiration Express, to update it and Hollywoodize it with a happy ending.
There are differences. Lear decides to divvy up his vast estates between three sisters and before doing so, asks them how much they love him. Two of the sisters throw themselves at his feet and brown nose him to get at his money. The third is the good girl and refuses to go operatic on Lear. But in the play, Lear remains alive to regret his decision to give the two connivers his stash and deprive the honest girl. He winds up crazy and naked during a gale on the moors, putting flowers in his hair and hallucinating. Kids can do that to you. (Take my kid, for instance. After all the effort I squandered on raising him, does he show any interest in becoming a doctor or a lawyer? No.) In the end, everybody in the play dies.
In the movie, evidently, the good sister is morose and suicidal but when she tries to off herself, somebody jumps in and saves her, so the ending is, more or less, happy. That's the difference between Hollywood and a genuine tragedy, unless you define Hollywood as a tragedy sufficient unto itself.
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