A drama critic gets married on the same day he learns his aunts are
serial killers and his murderous brother has escaped from prison.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein
Starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull,
Jean Adair, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, John Alexander,
Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton
Based on the stage play by Joseph Kesselring
Arsenic and Old Lace is a bizarre film, but ultimately very entertaining. The plot is outrageous, the characters are unbelievable, and the acting is superb. For a film with such a dark subject matter, it passes itself off as a comedy rather well, delivering genuine laughs while still dealing with multiple homicide.
Cary Grant delivers a performance that is extremely over-the-top, but brilliantly shows a man driven to the brink by a crazy night full of insane reveals. Seeing Grant's character of Mortimer Brewster slip slowly into madness is one of the highlights of the film. While I do wish Boris Karloff had been able to portray Jonathan Brewster, Raymond Massey did a phenomenal job of channeling his inner Karloff. John Alexander steals the film, playing Mortimer's other brother, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. His constant bugle-playing and charging up the stairs help make this film a joy to watch.
The film does take a sharp left about halfway through and turns into a dark thriller, with Jonathan and his eerie partner Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) taking over the household and trying to move a body downstairs. Fortunately, the tonal shift doesn't last and the film reverts to a comedy rather quick. The film's pace perfectly mirrors the mood swings of Mortimer, becoming less and less sane as the film progresses. I would say this film is a delight and definitely give it my seal of approval.