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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What we've been doing is a mercy."
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...
Published on 13 Feb 2005 by Mary Whipple

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Capra's best..
Not Capra's best . . . by a lot, and Cary Grant mugs it up too much. But Capra is still Capra and Grant is still Grant, and it's worth the occasional viewing. Always nice to see Peter Lorre, and it's an interesting stretch for Raymond Massey—although we all know the part should have been played by Boris Karloff.
Published 4 months ago by 1Fatts


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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
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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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. Perfectly timed entrances and exits keep the action moving at a frantic pace, and the conclusion is delightful. Released in 1944, when World War II had taken a terrible toll on the country emotionally, the film must have provided a much-needed comic lift at a time when it was especially needed. Mary Whipple
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Madcap comedy, 6 Dec 2011
By 
M. J. Wright (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly delicious!, 19 Oct 2003
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (DVD)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun Halloween story, 15 Dec 2004
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Feather In His Capra, 30 Sep 2006
This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Its Capra..but not as i know it !, 27 April 2007
By 
T. Williams "Maranatha!" (North West, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (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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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but better in original black and white, 21 Oct 2001
By 
Mr. N. Carnegie (Kirkcaldy, Scotland, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (DVD)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars They don't make 'em like this any more!, 19 Oct 2009
By 
M. Tendler (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (DVD)
I first saw Arsenic and Old Lace on stage in a very small local theatre in upstate New York whilst on holiday. Set entirely in the living room of the Aunt's house I thought it was a great show and very clever premise.

When I saw the DVD I just had to buy it, although on first watching I was not so pleased with the few scenes outside of the house such as at the beginning when he is trying to get his marriage licence, but the more I have watched it the more I have loved it.

The characters are so well written, and once it gets going, it really does fly along at a great pace. I am not too familiar with other Cary Grant movies, but I think he is really good in this.

I am not sure what everyone is talking about with a "colour" version, as mine is in Black & White only! (How can you make a black and white film into colour anyway???)

I have to give it full marks. And if you haven't seen it, then it's definitely worth a punt!

Bottom line: Watch it, love it, recommend it :-)
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A funny premise but a flawed execution (pun intended), 12 Aug 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (DVD)
Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) has a problem. He's a newspaper critic known for his complaints about marriage, who just got married. Before the news breaks he wants to tell his two nice, elderly aunts, but when he arrives at their home he discovers the aunts have a combination hobby and charity. They poison lonely old men, then have them buried in their basement by their addled brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. "Teddy" is concerned about all those yellow fever deaths, but digging the locks for the canal provides a logical burial place. When Mortimer discovers his aunts' 13th work of charity in a window seat, his troubles are just beginning. Showing up unexpectedly is Mortimer's criminal brother, Jonathan (Raymond Massey), an escaped psycho who, thanks to the botched facial surgery of his partner, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre), now resembles Boris Karloff. And wandering in and out are some great character actors, including Jack Carson as a play-writing cop, James Gleason as a police superintendent, Edward Everett Horton as the head of a home for the insane, and Grant Withers as a bemused clergyman.

What could not be funny with such a setup and with such actors? Well...Cary Grant, in my view, nearly does the movie in. Grant (or Frank Capra) seems to think playing farce means squatting and walking like a chimpanzee, talking as loudly and fast as possible, and mugging broadly for the camera at every opportunity. There are many good things in this movie, but, for me, Grant overacts, something he rarely did in his other films. I suppose the blame rests with Capra.

Hull, Adair and John Alexander who plays Teddy originated their parts in the stage presentation. One of the funny conceits was that playing Jonathan on Broadway actually was Boris Karloff. I've been told that when the movie was filmed the stage play was still doing good business. The producers let the three take six weeks to make the movie, but wouldn't release Karloff. They thought he was too important for ticket sales. It's too bad. As good as Raymond Massey is in the role (he shows a real flair for deadpan humor), having the real Karloff become enraged because his surgeon botched the operation and made him look like Karloff would have been unusually funny.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Comedy, Classic Cary Grant, 22 April 2010
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This review is from: Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] (DVD)
Perhaps it is just my perverse nature, but while Some Like It Hot is seemingly universally acclaimed as "the funniest film ever" I have to say I prefer Arsenic And Old Lace.

Clearly derived from a stage play, but none the worse for it since the pace, script and performances never let you dwell on anything for too long.

Probably more correctly described as a farce, the plot mixes and plays with fear and fun, managing to make the baddies both serious and silly, but always believable and never breaking the mood of the film.

Cary Grant is the star at his comedy best (better than Bring Up Baby I'd say) but he is more than ably supported by Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey.

This is like an old friend you only see from time to time, but are always instantly comfortable with and always enjoy each other's company.
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Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944]
Arsenic And Old Lace [DVD] [1944] by Frank Capra (DVD - 2001)
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