In an old Welsh village, the tunnel of a coal mine collapses burying several houses and killing some of the inhabitants. The Morgan-Vaughn family made its fortune from the coal mines and the remaining family living in the estate feels responsible for building new houses for those who lost their homes due to the cave in. The last of the family that still live in the mansion are three elderly sisters. Gertrude (Nancy Price), who is blind, Maude (Mary Clare), who is almost deaf and Isobel (Mary Merrall) who suffers from advanced arthritis. The three sisters promise to make restitution; however, they no longer have the funds to do so.
The sisters have a half-brother, Owen (Raymond Lovell). Owen’s father was a Morgan-Vaughn, but his mother was the family cook. She married Owen’s father after the death of his first wife, the mother of the sisters. As such, the sisters looked down on Owen. Owen left the family as soon as possible and made his own fortune in London. He does provide for his sisters. The sisters expect Owen to supply the funds needed to restore the village. Owen refuses and takes his secretary, Claire (Nova Pilbeam), with him to face his sisters knowing that they have a tendency to bully him.
When Owen and Claire arrive in Wales someone throws a rock at the car and hits Owen in the head. The thrower is a simple-minded man named Thomas (Elwyn Brook-Jones). Thomas is the son of the Morgan-Vaughn family cook, Beattie (Marie Ault). Owen is taken to the village doctor, David Davis (Anthony Hulme). David wants to keep an eye on Owen and orders that he stay at the family estate overnight until he is well enough to travel back to London.
That evening Owen becomes violently ill. Claire begins to suspect that the elderly ladies, that the village is so fond of, are actually evil and plan on murdering Owen to get to his money. She has a hard time trying to convince anyone to listen to her. Even David believes she is overreacting and that there are simple explanations for Owen’s illness. At least until more strange things happen and even Claire ends up in danger.
“The Three Weird Sisters” was released in 1948 and was directed by Daniel Birt. It is a British crime drama. The movie is based on the novel “The Case of the Weird Sisters” by Charlotte Armstrong. I actually liked it.
Each sister is creepy in their own way and quite disturbing. I had not expected the movie to be that dark. I thought that the sisters would be perhaps a little pixilated but not downright insane. This is not “Arsenic and Old Lace” 1944. These little old ladies are not sweet. Even though they have, what they feel is an obligation to help the town, and they have done good works for the village, they have an old world Puritanistic attitude, and are quite manipulative. They are prim and proper, but murder is not beneath them. It is a means to an end. I suspect that even their altruistic side is only to gain the obligation of the village to however they want to run things. As the villager Mabli Hughes (Hugh Griffith) put it, “I abominate the principals that motivate their charity, but they’re nice.”
Half-brother Owen is no prize either. He is selfish and greedy, but it is his money that he earned himself. Owen had been bullied by his older sisters, especially Gertrude, throughout his childhood. Outside he is curt and loud but inside he is an emotionally abused child that needs his secretary with him as an emotional bodyguard.