We’ve talked before about how truth in B-Movies titles was never considered a high priority. Take the 1956 film “Three Bad Sisters,” a scandalous sounding title, but not terribly accurate. But who can blame the producers…ya gotta admit, “One Bad Sister, One Crazy Sister, and One Slutty Sister” wouldn’t have fit on a theater marquee very well.
A wealthy tycoon, Marshall Craig, has died in a plane crash, but his pilot, Jim Norton (played by John Bromfield) managed to make it out alive…and without a scratch. As it turns out, it was Craig who caused the crash, going crazy mid-flight, seizing the controls and sending the plane into a nose dive. We later learn that suicidal tendencies are common in the Craig family. But all this leaves Norton in a bad place. Now considered a jinxed pilot, his job prospects are few. He ends up accepting an offer from one of Craig’s three daughters, Valerie (played by Kathleen Hughes). Valerie has her eye on the family fortune, so she plans to have Norton seduce her sister Lorna (Sara Shane), who is the executor of the estate. Once Norton has control of the money, he’ll leave Lorna (or better yet, drive her to suicide…which runs in the family) and take off with Valerie. A story is concocted that Norton saved Mr. Craig from drowning and was rewarded with a partnership in a land development project Craig was working on. This gains him entry to the family’s inner circle, which also includes an alcoholic spinster of an aunt (played by Madge Kennedy) who is suspicious of Norton from the start. She reasons that her brother would never have been quite so generous as to give Norton such a potentially lucrative reward, after all he was “of Scottish decent.”
But, remember, the title says there are three sisters. The third sister Vicki (played by Marla English) spends pretty much every moment of her life posing like a pin-up girl. As soon as she meets Norton, she decides she’s going to have him for herself. Now, Valerie also has to eliminate her floozy sister for the plan to move forward. This happens in wonderfully over-the-top fashion with the two sisters clawing at each other…Valerie even takes to beating her sister with a horse whip. After being taunted and beaten by her sister, Vicki drives her car off a mountain road…continuing the family tradition of “suicidal tendencies.” Meanwhile, Norton has started to fall for Lorna for real. When he comes clean about Valerie’s plot, it strangely just seems to make Lorna love him even more. But Valerie has more tricks up her sleeve before this one is done.“Three Bad Sisters” is not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is good B-movie fun. Kathleen Hughes, as Valerie, is really what makes the movie work. From her very first scene, we know something isn’t right with this chick. I mean, after getting slapped by her boyfriend and smiling about it she learns of her father’s death on a radio news flash and doesn’t even bat an eye. The filmmakers make it clear, she’s evil! Yet they also toy with the audience. I mean, Hughes is quite beautiful in this film, yet you can see behind her eyes that the Dark Side of the Force got hold of her long ago. Her fight with sister Vicki is absolutely vicious…oh, and then she tries to trample Lorna with a horse. She’s a great B-movie villain!
The other ladies do a good job as well, though caught in Hughes’ shadow. Sara Shane, as Lorna, could’ve done a bit more to play up her character’s supposed metal illness, but the performance is passable. Marla English is also a great B-movie starlet who seems to have a lot of fun with the role of the nymphomaniac sister, Vicki. And we mustn’t forget Madge Kennedy as the truly messed up Aunt Martha. The scene where she pulls a gun on Norton is wonderfully crazy!The only character I didn’t really care for is John Bromfield’s Norton…who is a bit of a doofus. One minute he’s a shady pilot willing to take part in Valerie’s scheme, and the next he’s a business tycoon successfully running all the Craig family’s business interests!?!? The dumbest part is that even after being a part of Valerie’s original plot, he’s too stupid to see when she’s now plotting against him. Still, it sets up more opportunities for Hughes to be evil, which is good ole B-movie fun.Though the story is a bit outlandish, the script is clever. But it takes a great team up wonderfully sultry B-movie actresses to send this is into must see territory.