Friday, 26 September 2008

THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS (1948)

Until now I'd only met one person who had actually seen this film. I remember an old girlfriend mentioning it but that was the extent of my knowledge. It is very much a forgotten film in England despite Dylan Thomas contributing to the screenplay. Daniel Birt is a director whose name seems to have vanished from memory along with his films (he ended his days directing Richard Greene ROBIN HOOD episodes) and his handling of this film shows why. It lacks pace and any directorial subtleties. But despite that THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS is an extremely interesting film. Three elderly infirm sisters living in a huge Gothic pile in a Welsh mining village connive to kill their younger half-brother, a successful business man, to gain the family fortune. What immediately strikes an odd note is that the motive of the sisters seems to be entirely altruistic in that they feel responsible for the collapse of a row of cottages (they owned the mines under the cottages that caused the disaster) and want to rebuild them. Their brother seems to be a boorish capitalist. But, as the story progresses our sympathies slowly switch. The scene where the brother played by Raymond Lovell confesses to his insecurities and inability to stand up to his sisters is really quite moving. The film is obviously socially concerned - the old ladies symbolise the old order while their brother is the new money that they need but look down on (he has been made to feel inferior as his mother was the cook). The family house is as cracked and rotting as the sisters and finally falls apart a la the House of Usher. Mary Price is in turn sympathetic, sinister and finally murderous as the elder, blind, sister and Mary Clare and Mary Merrall complete the trio. Nova Pilbeam (whose last released film this was had previously appeared in two early Hitchcock's and had been Selznick's first choice to play REBECCA) is excellent as Lovell's loyal and feisty secretary. Anthony Hulme plays the local doctor who slowly realises the truth about the sisters (Hulme's character is called David Davies while the local policeman is played by Welsh actor David Davies) and the ever excellent Hugh Griffiths plays the local socialist worker who acts as a sort of Welsh chorus and the scene where he lectures a group of bemused Welsh Terriers in socialist philosophy seems likely to have part of Dylan Thomas's contribution to the script as does his earlier scene when Lovell first arrives in the village. It is an odd film for sure - part horror film, part social commentary. It doesn't quite work but you have to give it credit for trying. Rating ***

3 comments:

Rick said...
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Cerpts said...

I wrote, as I recall, a rather lengthy review of this film several years ago when i first saw it. I can remember absolutely nothing of what I wrote. Perhaps it's time I dug it up, typed it up and posted it up on my blog!

Weaverman said...

Please do! Or send it to me and I'll post it next to my review.