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Arsenic and Old Lace [DVD] [1944]

126 customer reviews

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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: PAL, Full Screen, Black & White, Dolby, Digital Sound
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Bulgarian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: 7 May 2001
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056BB9
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,456 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

DVD Special Features:

Interactive Menus
Scene Access
Trailer
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.

From Amazon.co.uk

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Wright on 6 Dec. 2011
Format: DVD
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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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Andy Millward VINE VOICE on 19 Oct. 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bernie TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Dec. 2004
Format: DVD
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gavieboy on 30 Sept. 2006
Format: DVD
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Williams on 27 April 2007
Format: DVD
I bought this film on the strength of Capra's back catalogue of great titles such as It's a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night and Mr Smith Goes to Washington. I did not know the story and what to expect and was quickly enchanted by this masterpiece. Funny, at times pleasantly spooky, great performances from every actor involved (and a Karloff look-alike to boot), and a cracking screenplay from the Epstein brothers (Casablanca) all combine to create one of the best comedies ever made.
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