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Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace

4.8 36
Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey


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Arsenic and Old Lace stands in a unique place in Frank Capra's output. Capra had directed a few screwball comedies (It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You), and even Meet John Doe had elements of screwball comedy buried within its social commentary, but Arsenic and Old Lace mixed screwball pacing with elements of the


Arsenic and Old Lace stands in a unique place in Frank Capra's output. Capra had directed a few screwball comedies (It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You), and even Meet John Doe had elements of screwball comedy buried within its social commentary, but Arsenic and Old Lace mixed screwball pacing with elements of the macabre into a singularly unusual whole. The circumstances of its production were even more extraordinary -- Capra was about to go into the army and wanted to do a film that would tide him and his family over while he was away; the producers of the play Arsenic and Old Lace allowed him to do the film adaptation, even though it was in the midst of a successful theatrical run, provided that it was held back from release until 1944. He was contractually limited as to the number of actors that he could borrow from the stage production for the film, using John Alexander and Josephine Hull but not, alas, Boris Karloff, who is replaced here by Raymond Massey. The film's Brewster family of Brooklyn Heights is something like the Addams Family of more recent vintage on television. They're eccentric, live in a big old house, have a lot of strange family members, and have a custom of murdering people in the most genteel manner. Cary Grant is hysterically funny as the only normal member of the family and the one who initially believes the others to be merely eccentric, not murderers. The film is done at a breakneck pace, so that the macabre nature of the action cannot be dwelt on or taken seriously in the least. The DVD features a glittering film-to-video transfer, with a very clean and sharp image, superior to that of the laserdisc version in most respects. The one flaw is the sound, which is mastered at a relatively low level and which does seem soft in its detail and resolution. The audio does require some pumping up, especially on a speaker system, but at least it's clean enough to permit this without distortion. The disc offers no extras apart from a choice of English of French subtitles, not even a trailer, although it is broken down into 37 chapters that map out the two-hour running time very nicely. The menu pops up automatically on start-up.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This hilariously droll black comedy is one of the most successful adaptations of theater to film. The deft portraits of two classically sweet little old ladies (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) who invite bachelors to dinner and then poison them with spiked elderberry wine are at the center of the increasingly frantic proceedings. A homicidal nephew and another who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt add to the fun. Frank Capra coaxes over-the-top performances from a cast that includes Cary Grant as a clueless drama-critic nephew and Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre as villains. The film's cavalier attitude toward death was well-suited to its World War II release. It was actually shot in 1941, and Capra's family lived off his salary from it while he served in the war. It's one of Capra's best. A cinematic evergreen, Arsenic and Old Lace has never lost its appeal, as new generations of audiences keep discovering its lunatic charms.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Turner Home Ent
Region Code:
[B&W, Full Frame]

Special Features

Interactive menus; Scene access; Subtitles: English & Français

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cary Grant Mortimer Brewster
Priscilla Lane Elaine Harper
Raymond Massey Jonathan Brewster
Jack Carson Officer O'Hara
Peter Lorre Dr. Einstein
Edward Everett Horton Mr. Witherspoon
James Gleason Lt. Rooney
Josephine Hull Abbey Brewster
Jean Adair Martha Brewster
John Alexander "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster
Grant Mitchell Rev. Harper
Edward McNamara Brophy
Garry Owen Taxi Driver
John Ridgely Saunders
Vaughan Glaser Judge Cullman
Chester Clute Dr. Gilchrist
Charles Lane Reporter
Edward McWade Gibbs
Spencer Charters Marriage License Clerk
Hank Mann Photographer
Lee Phelps Umpire
Leo White Man in Phone Booth

Technical Credits
Frank Capra Director,Producer
Robert Burks Special Effects
Russel Crouse Producer
Julius J. Epstein Screenwriter
Philip G. Epstein Screenwriter
Byron Haskin Special Effects
Howard Lindsay Producer
Dan Mandell Editor
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Parker Art Director
Sol Polito Cinematographer
C.A. Riggs Sound/Sound Designer
Russ Saunders Asst. Director
Max Steiner Score Composer
Perc Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Side #1
0. Scene Selections
1. Credits. [1:09]
2. A spree grows in Brooklyn. [:51]
3. What Mortimer's come to. [3:10]
4. The Brewster house. [7:23]
5. One thing at a time. [4:09]
6. The two nicest aunts. [2:04]
7. Murder will out. [2:03]
8. Their little secrets. [2:53]
9. An even dozen. [2:37]
10. Gone to Panama. [2:54]
11. Where Elaine stands. [3:06]
12. A new gentleman. [3:08]
13. Another Roosevelt. [3:30]
14. Jonathan and Dr. Einstein. [7:52]
15. Disagreeable. [2:41]
16. Just the right size. [2:45]
17. Lights-and bodies-out. [5:16]
18. Elaine's bad timing. [3:59]
19. A touching reunion. [3:08]
20. What's the matter with Elaine? [2:28]
21. Who can that be? [2:24]
22. Window-seat worries. [1:52]
23. O'Hara drops in. [3:13]
24. If you tell, I tell. [2:01]
25. Tie score. [3:02]
26. Galloping insanity. [4:09]
27. The Melbourned method. [2:24]
28. Big dope. [3:52]
29. To my dear dead brother. [2:42]
30. O'Hara's opus. [3:13]
31. Third-act brawl. [3:44]
32. Rooney on the scene. [3:44]
33. Teddy's term expires. [3:57]
34. Bodies everywhere. [3:54]
35. Sign, Dr. Einstein. [1:41]
36. True confessions. [3:14]
37. Not themselves; Cast List. [1:34]


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Arsenic and Old Lace 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Earth_Angel More than 1 year ago
If you want to laugh, laugh, and laugh...then this is the must-have halloween movie. It's set in Brooklyn on Halloween Day. "Oh..Mortimer" What have you gotten into...LOL First saw this on TV when I was around 24 or so...I found myself 10 years later going to see it in NYC on Broadway starring Jean Stapleton. I still laugh all these years later. I say in a single word..."CHARGE" right to the store and get this movie...Happy Haunting...
EliseV More than 1 year ago
If you ever find yourself trying to entertain 75 (or one) sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen- year- olds, this is a must. Introduce a younger generation to classic comedy. Cary Grant is hillarous in his role as Mortimer Brewster. My students even got over the fact that it was in Black and White. Several asked for the name so that they could order this title themselves. They, and I, love it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My 10-yr old daughter and I came across this movie on PBS one evening and we couldn't stop watching. The quick pace and timeless humor kept us glued to the movie. I recently learned that this is also one of my mom's favorite movies! Three generations of Arsenic fans! Amazing, simply amazing.
loulouTX More than 1 year ago
I love this movie growing up and still love it today! My daughter loved it also.
DarkStarGrl More than 1 year ago
I always love a good Grant film and this one is a favorite! Slapstick comedy adds to the character's charm. Always a treat from the usual Halloween films. But,don't wait 'til then to watch it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Arsenic and Old Lace is my favorite comedy movie and one of my favorite Cary Grant movies! It is very hilarious and the cast is superb! I have never seen the play but this movie has me very interested in seeing it and hopefully someday I can see a production of the play!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every minute of this zany film is enjoyable, from the machinations of the two old ladies to the macabre brother of the ''son of a sea cook''. For me, a high spot is the nervous giggle of Peter Lorre when he realizes that he will go free.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always liked this movie. When I first saw it I had to own a copy. All of the characters were perfectly animated and each one can tickle your funnybone throughout the movie. It's just a great production for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oscar-winning director Frank Capra ("It's a Wonderful Life") knew a good story when he saw one. He bought the rights to this successful stageplay and then brought in a superb team to make it (including the original actresses who played the spinster sisters in Broadway). The story, plot-twists, scares and humor are non-stop. Cary Grant,Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and the cream of character actors and actresses each contribute to this Hollywood classic. Not to be missed!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such a cool movie! I read the play, and saw the movie. It is so humourous, I just can't stop laughing. I would reccomend it to everyone!
Berlinsgonewhere More than 1 year ago
HIlarious. A favorite. Wonderful script performed by a top notch cast. Peter Lorre and Cary Grant at their side-splitting best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cary Grant is Brilliant in this film! He is truly a man of all trades almost on every level you can think of. This must be his funniest film ever next to Bringing up Baby I believe. There is some mystery to the story. You must pay attention closely or you could miss some important factors to the movie. You won't be disappointed! I don't normally like Priscilla Lane. But, she was Fantastic in this movie. She kept up with Cary Grant's beat and comedic and romantic scenes perfectly! You don't have to be a Cary Grant Fan to enjoy this movie! It's great for the whole family too! It is a must treasure to add to your collection!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grant is such a great comedian. The movie apparently is based on the Broadway play. They couldn't get Boris Karloff, so Raymond Massey played Karfoff's part and several places in the movie other characters comment on how much Massey resembles Karloff. Anyway good for a relaxing evening.
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Cary Grant plays a new groom and he brings his bride to meet his family before they go off on their honeymoon. He has done all he can to keep her "protected" from their zany behavior, the antics that occur as he tries to steer her clear of the family are a riot. This was LOL! LOL! fun and entertainment. And if you enjoy this DVD, you should view some of the other Cary Grant DVDs like: His Gal Friday, The Bishop's Wife, An Affair to Remember, and Every Girl Should Be Married. These were all entertaining and just delightful to watch. Mr. Grant is a great actor in each of these movies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very Funny old movie in B&W. Cary Grant is hilarious and the rest of the cast is great.Peter Lorre is very interesting. If you like the old movies, this one is funny and very enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whoever said murder can't be funny? This movie is zany, wild, and hilarious. With two loveable muderesses and Theodore Rossevelt how can you go wrong?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was first introduced to Arsenic And Old Lace when I saw it at The Rep. Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I fell in love with the play and new I had to do something involved with Arsenic And Old Lace! I am now playing Mortimer in another version of the classic! Getting this DVD is a must for me! ''There's a body in the windowseat!''
Guest More than 1 year ago
Arsenic and Old Lace is a fantastic movie. Cary Grant is great in this movie. Also they did an amazing job turning this play into a movie without jeopardizing the feeling of being in an audience as the actors performed on stage - the setting was believable and they didn't shoot from impossible angles. My only complaint is that I wish the role played by Cary Grant had been played by Jimmy Stewart, I think that would have added to it a bit. Otherwise a great movie for anyone.
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