Talky with little action, Three Bad Sisters (1956) is an extremely dull film, its 72-plus minutes play much longer. It's so lacking in anything like thrills or interest one has to wonder why it was ever produced in the first place. Even the title is a misnomer. Only two of the three sisters are bad; the third is a standard B-movie ingénue and completely innocent, though the others try hard to make up for that deficit.
The movie itself is blandly produced, playing very much like an episode of Perry Mason minus Perry, Della Street and Paul Drake, though otherwise a lot like the first act of a typical episode. An MGM "Limited Edition Collection" manufactured-on-demand release, Three Bad Sisters utilizes an old full-frame transfer, even though the movie clearly is meant for widescreen projection, probably 1.85:1. No extras.
Valerie Craig (Kathleen Hughes) is lounging on the yacht of her illicit lover, Tony (Anthony George), who was once an employee of Valerie's multi-millionaire father until he fired Tony for stealing. After making love (not shown), Valerie and Tony hear a radio report that Valerie's father was burned alive after his plane crashed in Wyoming (also not shown). Valerie barely reacts to the news, and Tony crassly informs her that now she'll be a position to get him his old job back.
Elsewhere, Valerie's sister Vicki (Marla English) is having an affair with artist Carlos (Brett Halsey). Carlos's understandably annoyed wife bursts in with the news of the millionaire's death, and again one of his daughters barely responds. (Yes, they're supposed to be cold-hearted, but their non-reactions are so extreme one begins to wonder if they're deaf.) The wife offers to leave Carlos for the right price, but Vicki blithely responds that she's only interested in married men.
Elsewhere, in a pointless scene, James Norton (John Bromfield), the pilot of Craig's plane, appears before a board of inquiry. He testifies that Craig suddenly grabbed the controls and caused the crash (For what reason? Nobody asks.) and Norton is quickly absolved of any wrongdoing. However, Craig's spinster sister, Martha (silent star Madge Kennedy) believes Norton responsible anyway, in order to assume full control of a housing development on which Norton was a partner. She also doubts the partnership is legitimate. "Mr. Norton," she says, "my brother was of Scottish descent!"
Valerie appears in Norton's hotel room, offering him $200,000 to seduce third sister Lorna (Sara Shane), the executor of the $40 million estate and whom Valerie believes is out to disinherit her. Norton, for no good reason, takes the job. Arriving at the Craigs' seaside, cliff top estate, Norton stops Lorna from making a suicidal jump into the ocean. Naturally, the two fall in love.
From here there's much additional, even Byzantine, yet incredibly boring scheming by Vicki and especially Valerie, and more endless talk.
Anyone expecting trashy fun along the lines of, say, Roger Corman's female juvenile delinquent "B" Teenage Doll (1957) will be sorely disappointed with Three Bad Sisters. The filmmakers make a lot of bad choices throughout. The airplane crash is talked about endlessly but not shown (not even as stock footage). A climatic car crash at the end occurs off-camera. Vicki and Valerie vamp a lot for the camera, but nothing much of any consequence happens.
As Vicki and Valerie, respectively, Marla English and Kathleen Hughes are about the movie's only attributes. English (The She-Creature, Voodoo Woman), with her dark hair, fair skin and blue eyes, at the time resembled a young Elizabeth Taylor. Hughes (It Came from Outer Space, Cult of the Cobra), with her short blonde hair and porcelain-like features, is similarly luscious. Unfortunately, they play second fiddle to Norton and Lorna, and even though she's top-billed, English doesn't even appear in the last third of the movie.
Video & Audio
Clearly photographed for widescreen projection, Three Bad Sisters nonetheless is full-frame in this lackluster, obviously pretty ancient transfer. It does crop nicely when reformatted and zoomed in on 16:9 monitors, but it could look a lot better. The region 1 encoded disc also offers good Dolby Digital mono audio, English only with no alternate language or subtitle options. No Extra Features. Despite the cheap-looking DVD cover art, in MGM's defense it incorporates elements from that film's original one-sheet, an amusing antecedent of the famous and controversial poster For Your Eyes Only (1981).
Pretty awful with only Marla English and Kathleen Hughes to recommend it, Three Bad Sisters is a Rent It.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.