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Arsenic & Old Lace [DVD] [1944] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Cary Grant , Priscilla Lane , Frank Capra    DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Product details

  • Actors: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton
  • Directors: Frank Capra
  • Writers: Joseph Kesselring, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
  • Producers: Frank Capra, Jack L. Warner
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Turner Home Ent
  • DVD Release Date: 29 Aug 2000
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0790743949
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 346,249 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



In 1941, when Frank Capra filmed Arsenic and Old Lace, he was in the midst of his string of social-concern pictures. So this uncharacteristic property must have seemed like a vacation; it's a straight farce, played at full tilt and closely adapted from the Broadway play. Almost all of the action takes place on a single set: the old home of the Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair), those dear, dotty old ladies who mix up a very special elderberry wine. Very special. As their nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) discovers on the eve of his wedding, the two ladies have been spiking the wine with poison and sending lonely gentleman callers off to the great beyond. More specifically, they've been burying them in the cellar with the help of nutty Uncle Teddy, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt (and thus digging the Panama Canal down in the basement). The ominous happenings are made more sinister with the arrival of another menacing relative (RaymondMassey) and his quack doctor (Peter Lorre), who look and act like refugees from a horror movie. Played completely over the top, this movie offers up lots of bracing slapstick, with Grant run to near exhaustion by the galloping insanity of his family. Although Capra shot the film in 1941, prior to his making military films during World War II, the film was not released until 1944; the contract stipulated that the movie not come out before the play ended its enormously successful run. --Robert Horton


You'll die laughing! Frank Capra directs Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and stellar cast in the hit Broadway farce about a nutcase family with well-intentioned homicidal tendencies.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What we've been doing is a mercy." 13 Feb 2005
Cary Grant is at his comic best in this off-the-wall Frank Capra film in which Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic with a bizarre family. His brother Teddy (John Alexander) thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and spends his time digging "locks for the Panama Canal" in the basement of the family home. His brother Jonathan (wonderfully played by Raymond Massey) has returned home with a dozen murders to his credit, looking like Frankenstein, thanks to the sinister plastic surgeon who accompanies him (Peter Lorre). His batty, elderly aunts (Jean Adair and Josephine Hull) put Teddy's "locks" to good use for their own "merciful" activities.
The frantic action, ironies, and the dramatic surprises all center around two bodies, hidden at various times in the window seat of the living room, and the reactions to them by the various people within the household. The local police, friends of Aunts Abby and Martha, stop by to chat, have coffee, and protect these "sweet" old ladies, often at the worst possible moments, while Mortimer tries to decide what to do about his strange family and the bodies in the house. Complicating the action is the fact that Mortimer has just that day married Elaine (Priscilla Lane), who lives next door. She keeps showing up at the house at the wrong moment, having no idea why Mortimer keeps kicking her out.
Sight gags, mistaken identity, contretemps, high-speed action, and split second timing make this one of the most outrageous, and hilarious black comedies ever filmed. The cast is perfect, and the acting is over-the-top, with a great deal of yelling, mugging, wide-eyed looks of surprise, feigned innocence, and even satire of the film industry as people repeatedly tell Jonathan he looks like Boris Karloff.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly delicious! 19 Oct 2003
By Andy Millward VINE VOICE
You would have to be suicidal or made of granite not to warm to Frank Capra's finest films. Everybody loves It's a Wonderful Life for its life-affirming humanity, but Arsenic and Old Lace is just a good old-fashioned farce which by 1944 standards must have seemed inky black in its treatment of death. The years have been kind to this film - it has matured beautifully and simply leaves a big wide smile on your face.
However, there is plenty more on offer: Cary Grant may be gloriously over the top, but the splendidly observed supporting performances can be treasured. In particular, Josephine Hull and Jean Adair at the two aunts, Raymond Massey as the homicidal brother and Peter Lorre as his fussy and fragile plastic surgeon.
This is simple escapist entertainment relying on age-old virtues of good script, timing, acting ability and top notch direction - who needs computer-generated special effects anyway!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feather In His Capra 30 Sep 2006
This must rank up there as one of the funniest movies ever made; certianly one of Grant's best; it slick black humour and slapstick comedy is the driving force behind its appeal; it never lets up on the laughs from begining to end; a pure delight to watch again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Madcap comedy 6 Dec 2011
This movie was originally staged as a Broadway comedy, and it shows. Fast paced dialogue, sudden entries and exits, tons of dramatic irony and lots of physical humour all contribute to an hilarious climax. All the action proceeds on a single set, as the hapless Cary Grant tries to manage an increasingly insane and homicidal set of relatives. All this on a Brooklyn Halloween, with the taxi driver waiting next to the cemetry outside. Don't worry, even the most menacing character is absurd or sweet enough to take any sense of horror away, and everything is played for laughs, not screams. A gem of its kind, from a gentler age, when relationships and relatives could be relied on to be sweet, most of the time.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but better in original black and white 21 Oct 2001
This is a classic farce masterfully directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant as a lifelong batchelor trying to get married but having trouble with his literally insane family. That's about all you need to know to want to buy this movie BUT the big dissapointment with this movie is that it is in colour when it was shot in black and white. Why do they do this? Most people want to see a movie as the director meant it to be seen and before his death Frank Capra himself expressed his displeasure at the adding of colour to his classic movies and it is a classic. The choice is yours...
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is a classic farce masterfully directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant as a lifelong batchelor trying to get married but having trouble with his literally insane family. If you like old movies, love old Cary Grant movies and enjoy nothing better than watching them on a cold, wet winters evening or afternoon, you'll love this. If you don't like Cary Grant you wont like this. If your looking for It's a Wonderful Life, you wont find it here but you will find an old fashioned farce that looks like it was adapted from the stage (and was adapted from the stage). But it's great fun and that's about all you need to know to about this movie BUT please don't buy the colour print of this movie. Why do they add colour to a movie that originally shot in black and white? Surely most people want to see the original versions of their favorite movies on DVD and it doesn't need colour to enhance it. It's fine as it is in good old fashioned black and white... it's a good old fashioned classic that'll make you reminisce about how "they don't make films like that anymore"...Enjoy!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Mayhem and laughter.
Some very odd stuff here, but extremely funny at times, super understated support acting. Cary Grant doing the brilliant double takes and wide eyes. Read more
Published 2 days ago by BarryRM18
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab !
One of my favourite films. Been looking for this to give as a gift to my godmother who I first watched it with.
Published 14 days ago by MRS SUSAN WALSH-PLATTS
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh-out-loud black comedy
This stage farce transferred to the movies was highly successful and one can see why. The dialogue is brilliant, the pace never lets up, the characters are richly humorous, and the... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Aletheuon
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC FILM
Fantastic film. bought this even though I had seen it many years ago but it was worth watching again and again - have enjoyed it again and had a good refreshing laugh a few times... Read more
Published 2 months ago by FRANCES.LEAHY
5.0 out of 5 stars Cary Grant
This is a blast from the past. I remember watching it as a young girl. It has all you could want in a movie. I just love it.
Published 2 months ago by Carol58
5.0 out of 5 stars arsenic and old lace
This an old classic thriller with some great actors in.
I love the story line with even some romance added in. Even some laughter. Read more
Published 3 months ago by SandraLaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A comedy classic
There are some classic films that I'd never got round to seeing and "Arsenic and Old Lace" was one of them. Read more
Published 3 months ago by M. Joyce
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film
Hilarious film; Cary Grant is fabulous in this film; the story is great and the comedy makes you laugh out load; love it.
Published 3 months ago by JS
5.0 out of 5 stars review
old classic are the best, I have bought a few of the older style films as they have a great story line and you don't tire of watching them
Published 3 months ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars classic
I love these old colourful hollywood classics. They cheer you up on a dull day, and the acting is just for fun and entertainment. Great purchase
Published 3 months ago by A. L. Addams
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