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ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

FRANK CAPRA

This film screened 19th December 2010.

‘Insanity runs in the family,’ confesses a theatre critic (Cary Grant) to his new bride (Priscilla Lane), adding, ‘in fact, it practically gallops.’ He is thinking primarily of his two aunts, who are in the habit of administering arsenic in their elderberry wine to lonely male visitors. However, he could also include his uncle (John Alexander), who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt, and his homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), who has been disguised by a Doctor Einstein (Peter Lorre) to look like Boris Karloff. Based on Joseph Kesselring’s hugely successful theatrical farce, this black comedy was not to everyone’s taste, but for Capra it was pure fun, particularly the moment when the critic is forced to listen to a manic cop (Jack Carson) telling him the plot of his terrible play and seeming not to notice that his captive audience is literally bound and gagged. Cary Grant has never been more frenetically funny, and madcap comedies have rarely come madder than this.

118 minutes| U.S.A.| 1944| Black and White| 35mm

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