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
DVD Special Features:
Languages in Mono: English, French, Italian
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the hearing impaired, Italian for the hearing impaired.