Happy Friday, witches and werewolves! Let’s start this pre-Halloween weekend out right with the best (in my opinion) Halloween movie there is: Arsenic and Old Lace. That’s right, we’re leaving the very scary parts of Halloween to Slay Belle and going with more of funny-scary this weekend. The movie stars Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Peter Lorre, and Raymond Massey. The film is directed by Frank Capra, and was adapted from the play by Joseph Kesselring. While the movie was filmed in 1941, it wasn’t released until 1944.
Mortimer Brewster (Grant), a successful play critic and New York’s most eligible bachelor, secretly marries his fiancee, Elaine Harper (Lane), who lived next door to him, at city hall on Halloween. When he arrives home to tell his aunts Abby and Martha and his brother Teddy (who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt) the good news, he discovers a dead body in the window seat. It’s then that he discovers that his aunts have a little charity project of their own: they give old, lonely men whom they take in as boarders elderberry wine mixed with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch of cyanide.” Once the old bachelors die, Teddy, under the impression that he’s burying victims of yellow fever who died during the construction of the Erie Canal, secrets them in the basement. Mortimer is gob- smacked when he also finds out insanity runs in the family.
Things get worse when Mortimer’s sociopath brother Jonathan (Massey), on the run from the police, arrives at the house with his alcoholic plastic surgeon Dr. Herman Einstein (Lorre) and a body of his own to hide. Jonathan needs a new face on the fly because Einstein has botched the latest surgery, the results of which left Jonathan looking like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein. Tension mounts and hilarity ensues as each character finds out just what exactly is occurring and the killers try to conceal all of the bodies in the house before the police find out what’s going on.
The movie itself is a classic screwball comedy, which Grant is rather known for, but the situations and the characters are so zany that you can’t stop laughing throughout the whole movie. There’s a lot of physical comedy, too, so it’s almost like a slapstick with a little bit of black humor thrown in as Mortimer tries to right himself and get himself out of a pickle before he leaves on his honeymoon with his bride. While it’s relatively family-friendly, there are some parts which might not be exactly inappropriate for younger kids, if it doesn’t go over their heads. But what does it matter? They’ll be too busy watching everyone run around like chickens with their heads cut off anyhow.
So if you like movies that are light on the scary and heavy on the funny, watch this one this weekend, particularly since it might be on showing on television, as it always does this time of year.