Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie Monday: Three Bad Sisters

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This week's Movie Monday is the 1956 sex thriller Three Bad Sisters!

This is one of those movies you find while absent-mindedly browsing through the Netflix WI queue. I had never heard of it before, but the title was enough to draw me in! Let's go, daddy-o!
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Three Bad Sisters opens with news that a business tycoon named Marshall Craig has died in a plane crash. The report comes over the radio, and a blonde bombshell named Valerie (Kathleen Hughes) hears it, along with her quasi-boyfriend. We learn within the first two minutes of the movie that Valerie ain't right, because A)she's the tycoon's daughter, and she barely bats an eye at the news, and B)her boyfriend slaps her hard across the face, and instead of being angry, she seems to get kinda turned on:
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Valerie quickly hatches a plot with the pilot of the plane (who escaped, though not without his professional reputation up in smoke--too soon?) to get her father's money. You see, one of Valerie's sisters, a nice lady named Lorna (Sara Shane) has been made executor of their father's will. So she sends Jim Norton (John Bromfield, who thrilled us all in Revenge of the Creature) to seduce Lorna and either convince her to change the will, or simply commit suicide, a trait that runs in this crazy-ass family:
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But of course, the film isn't called Two Bad Sisters, so there's still one more to go: Vicki (Martha English) Craig, who seems to spend a lot of time in pin-up poses, just waiting for someone to come by and paint her I guess. The minute she gets her eyes on Jim, she wants him for herself, using come-on lines like "I graduated summa cum laude from Embraceable U."
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There's a whole lot of gabbin' (including a scene where Norton gets a professional dressing-down, which I bet was added solely to creep the film over the 70-minute mark), and it takes too long to get all the three sisters together, where you assume sparks will fly. And you would be right...sort of.
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(See? Tell me Vicki isn't just waiting for Robert McGinnis to wander by!)
 
The whole which-floozy-gets-the-dough plot comes to a bit of a head--or a face, more precisely--when Valerie and Vicki get in a cat fight and Valerie climbs atop her sister, and thwaps her in the face with a whip about half a dozen times. Valerie does this while looking right in the camera, a nice effect, and Val looks like she's ever-so-lightly getting off on bringing the pain like this. It's by far the movie's most lurid scene, the kind of transgressive bit that makes these little Bs so fun.

Unfortunately, after Vicki emerges and looks in the mirror, all she has is a couple of bloody cuts on her cheeks. If she had really taken the whipping we saw her get, her face would like a piece of hamburger. Sure, they could only get so graphic in a 1956 movie, but after such shocking piece of violence, seeing what looks like not much more than some papercuts really exemplifies that the filmmakers weren't all that interested in getting down in the muck, despite the title.

Speaking of the title, it's really a misnomer: there's really only two bad sisters here. Lorna is troubled, but she's not bad (their pistol-packing aunt, played by Madge Kennedy, is more like the other two). There's a whole lot more talking, ending with a car crash that looks like it's going to end in twisted, fiery death, yet the car has a big dent in the front and that's about it. As the great Del Griffith once said, "They'll be able to buff that out no problem."

So I was hoping to report that Three Bad Sisters is a juicy, obscure little piece of B-level trash that flew under the radar and is great fun. And while it is that, in parts, even at 75-minutes or so mark it gets a bit tedious and by the end I was just waiting for it to wrap up. Sorry ladies!


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