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Arsenic and Old Lace

Cary Grant , Priscilla Lane , Frank Capra    DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 47.97
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Frank Capra made this film in 1941 before he went off to make films for America's war effort, but it wasn't released until 1944. Adapted from the hit play by Joseph Kesselring, this frantic black comedy shows Capra at his best as a master of mood and timing. Actresses Josephine Hull and Jean Adair reprise their Broadway performances as two gentle old ladies who poison men with elderberry wine to put them out of their misery. Cary Grant plays one nephew, a normal guy who just gets wind of their little hobby and tries to get them to stop, while Raymond Massey plays another, a villain just escaped from jail. Capra encourages the cast, especially Grant, to give a somewhat more outsized performance than one might expect. But made during the war years as it was, this overstated comic approach to killing was probably cathartic. --Tom Keogh

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great stars in this black comedic farce! Sept. 26 2009
By Robert Badgley TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Arsenic and Old Lace starring a bevy of fine performers,was released three years after it was in the can.A remake of a Broadway play of the same name by J. Kesselring,it lifted three of the plays three principals John Alexander,(Teddy Brewster),Jean Adair(Martha Brewster) and Josephine Hull(Abby Brewster) and plunked them down amongst a stellar cast of Hollywood thesps such as Cary Grant(Mortimer Brewster),Priscilla Lane(Elaine Harper),Raymond Massey(Jonathan Brewster),Peter Lorre(Dr Einstein),Edward Everette Horton(Dr Witherspoon),Jack Carson(Officer O'Hara) and many other fine supporting players.The film makers also wanted Boris Karloff to reprise his Broadway role as Jonathan Brewster but he refused the offer(he had a monetary interest in the play).
The story involves writer Mortimer Brewster(Grant)who writes books on the pitfalls of marriage.It opens with him and his girlfriend Elaine(Lane)trying to get hitched!It is against his better judgment but Cupids' arrow is firmly planted and there's no escape for him.On the way to their honeymoon destination of Niagara Falls,the now married couple stop off at Elaine's home, which is also near Mortimers' aunts home.They both part to break the news to their relatives;Elaine to her father and Mortimer to his aunts Abby and Martha.
His aunts are elated at the news but Mortimer is dumbfounded upon finding a body in the window seat.His aunts are nonplussed as they calmly tell him they poisoned the former lodger plus 12 more that are now buried in the basement.
Going back and forth between total apoplexy and controlled confusion Mortimer tries to somehow get a handle on events as they unfold.
It seems Mortimer' brother Teddy(who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt,complete with horn blowing and a charge up San Juan Hill!
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite films! July 26 2013
By Gerdog
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Excellent!! How can you not love this classic film with the talents of Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Peter Lorre and a string of great artists!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It Gave Me a Major Migraine Jan. 14 2002
Format:VHS Tape
This movie was loud and annoying. It seemed overplayed and exagerrated. I envision it as perhaps having been amusing on the stage, but on the screen it is abrasive. So many other people review it favorably that it made me think that perhaps I was just in a strange mood when I watched it. So, I later watched it again and had the exact same response.
There is a character in this movie who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. He repeatedly screams "Charge!" and then runs up some stairs and slams himself in his bedroom. Everytime he did this my two-year old daughter awakened crying and my cat clawed my knee where he rested. If the scene had been amsuing I would have endured, but it was annoying.
I love Capra and Grant films, but this is the glaring exception.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad Feb. 16 2001
Format:DVD
This is a very well-written script and probably would be better as a play. It lacks the smoothness needed for the big screen. Strangely the worst part about the whole movie is Cary Grant's acting. He's one of the top 10 actors of all time, but he was way over the top in this thing. He appeared to think the movie was a big comedy, but the other actors treated it like a comedic drama, as they should have. Grant was way off the mark on this one.
There are some mild spoilers here, but I wouldn't think they'd damage your pleasure before you watched it. Proceed at your own risk.
The story is a little absurd, but that's where the comedy comes from. A newlywed dramatic critic (Cary Grant) in the big city lives with his two aunts (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) and an uncle (John Alexander). Uncle Teddy is cookoo and thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. The aunts think he's the only one that's screwed up in the head, but, in fact, they are as well. For they have been murdering lonely elderly gentlemen in their own home and burying them in the cellar. When the nephew finds out, he goes a little weird himself in his attempt to figure out what to do about it.
Everything gets worse when the long, lost, delinquent brother (Raymond Massey) returns home after a prison escape and is looking for a place to live and to bury his most recent victim.
It's a plot that Hitchcock himself would have enjoyed, but there just wasn't clear direction of the acting and therefore no cohesiveness. Frankly, I think the movie is tremendously overrated. Not bad for a saturday night though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fun Halloween story Oct. 2 2006
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:VHS Tape
I have seen this movie dozens of times on TV. The problem is they always cut out a lot of the little nuances that make the movie fun; sometimes it is curtail to the story. Now you can see the whole story in its entirety. Lots of sight gags and relies on many expressions to convey what they are thinking. If this looks like a play, that is because it is a play. It was written by Joseph Kesserling and opened in New York City 10 JAN 41. It ran for 1,444 performances. Boris Karloff was an investor and the star attraction so he could not be released for the movie.

The story takes place all on Halloween night in Brooklyn. Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) a critic, that wrote a scathing book about the negatives of marriage, gets married. He soon finds out about his families past and where the bodies are buried. Soon he is to be visited by his estranged or just strange brother (Raymond Massey). Seems that his brother and his brother's friend, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre), has some secrets of their own. Keep your eye on the elderberry wine.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cary Grant & his Facial Expresssions
Cary carries the entire movie just with the lift of an eyebrow or a wide eyed terror-filled expression. His comic genius is apparent in this movie.
Published 3 months ago by Nancy Thornton
5.0 out of 5 stars You really need this in your classic movie collection
Cary Grant does some great comedy in this movie but the best is his two aunts who create the situations, a brother who complicates the situations, and for good measure, there is a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by R. Papp
5.0 out of 5 stars A good movie for Halloween season.
Finally on DVD. This is a treasure to own for Halloween. The quality of the DVD is very good. I definitely recommend this movie for your collection.
Published 7 months ago by Monique
5.0 out of 5 stars Arsenic and Old Lace DVD
I purchased this for my Mother for Christmas and I'm sure it will be a welcome addition since we watched this movie every time it was aired on television and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Published 9 months ago by Mary Lauzon
4.0 out of 5 stars Why not Haloween Classic
Gary Grant is the classic leading man known for his sauve looks. But he has a great since of humor and can laugh at himself and this picture proves it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by william stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars Arsenic and Old Lace - my favourite movie of all time
All the things i like about older movies: complex plot, great character development and dialogue, witty and funny. Read more
Published 17 months ago by DonnaB
2.0 out of 5 stars Arsenic and Old Lace
This movie will be appreciated by the older generation. The most humerous and unexpected scene is at the very end.Arsenic & Old Lace
Published on Feb. 17 2012 by Countrygirl
2.0 out of 5 stars 1944 farce not my cup of tea
i tried to watch this movie,but i couldn't get through it.that's not
because its a bad movie.rather,it's because movies were much different
back in 1944. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2007 by falcon
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Hoot!
Watching this movie has become a Hallowe'en tradition in our family, just as "The Bishop's Wife" is now a Christmas tradition. Read more
Published on July 13 2006 by Seamatron
4.0 out of 5 stars Arsenic and Old Lace - Zany, Whacky Comedy
A great stage play transferred directly to film. Stereotypical characters that do wild and crazy things. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2005 by Bill Fletcher
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