Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), directed by Frank Capra.

On the day of his marriage to the girl next door, our hero is exceedingly flustered to discover that his harmless spinster aunts are actually homicidal maniacs who poison visitors and, with the aid of another nephew -- who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt -- bury them in the basement.

As if that wasn't enough, his long-lost scary homicidal brother returns home that day, looking for revenge.

It seems insanity runs in the family, which is quite concerning since our guy was just married and is eager for his honeymoon.

After a whole movie of everything going wrong, we have a great reverse-fiasco in the final act where everything goes right, so lucky it's hilarious. 1h58m is plenty long for this; they probably wanted to do the whole play right.

I've often thought that this level of hysterical goofiness is just too much for Cary Grant, but I thought that about Bringing Up Baby (1938) and came around in the end. Both the movie and earlier play were smash hits. Grant is often so cool and debonair that audiences liked to see him manic and panicked now and then.

I always enjoy seeing singer Priscilla Lane; she really does have a girl-next-door appeal. A brief filmography but she was in some good ones, such as Walsh's The Roaring Twenties (1939) and Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942). She does a bit of Code-compliant frustration of a bride who wants her wedding night.

Raymond Massey takes over from Boris Karloff who played the Frankenstein brother on the stage. "Looks just like Karloff" is a recurring jibe, probably a self-referential bit in the play.

And look who appears as his Renfield: Peter Lorre!

Photographed by Sol Polito -- 42nd Street (1933), The Petrified Forest (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Sergeant York (1941).

The title is a reference to Lavender and Old Lace, a now forgotten 1902 romance novel.

Available on DVD.