Arsenic And Old Lace

Arsenic And Old Lace
(1944)

Directed by Frank Capra
Starring Cary Grant, Peter Lorre

Rating: ******
              6/6

This is a film that could make your day.
It was based on a successful Broadway play.
It’s about a man who has more than one aunt.
He’s Mortimer, played by Cary Grant.
His two aunts look very sweet in their dresses,
But are actually accomplished murderesses.
If they’re visited by a man who shares a sad story,
They poison him dead because they feel sorry.
Then they bury him in their basement downstairs,
And make little gravestones down in their lairs.

Well, Mortimer doesn’t know about this yet,
And he visits his aunts with a pretty young guest.
She’s his new fiancée, he’s happy to boast,
To his brother Teddy, who could be the ghost
Of Theodore Roosevelt, President at large,
Who frequently runs up the stairs and yells “Charge!”

Mortimer is the happiest feller,
Until he goes down into the cellar.
He comes upstairs with an ashen face,
And asks his aunts to explain that place.

Meet Teddy

They tell him the truth, a little too freely,
“They’re our gentlemen,” they say very sweetly.
They had called upon Teddy to carry them down
And bury them in the cellar’s ground.
He didn’t mind. It was no trouble, either,
Because he thought they had all died of Yellow Fever.

Mortimer realizes, for the first time,
That everyone in his family is out of their minds.
This idea gets reinforced when
His brother Jonathan visits them.
Jon is a murderer on the run from the Law,
And looks very distinctly like Boris Karloff.

Mortimer discovers a body.

He’s accompanied by a strange little man—
A plastic surgeon who drinks all he can.
Peter Lorre plays this physician,
And now poor Mortimer is in quite the position.
How can he protect Teddy and his aunts,
And protect his community from these miscreants,
While all the while staying ahead
Of his murdering brother who might want him dead?

Jonathan and Dr. Einstein.

Jonathan also brought someone else with him,
A deceased human being who’s no longer livin’.
Mortimer isn’t thrilled about this,
But there’s little he can currently do about it.

When Jonathan takes a trip downstairs,
He encounters the little graveyard down there.
He counts all the gravestones and quickly found
That there’s the same number dead that he put in the ground.
He asks who’s responsible and the aunts tell him sweetly
That they’re the ones doing murders so neatly.
Jonathan’s really amazed by it all.
While he’s been on the run, they’ve been safe, warm and full…

And here’s where I’ll finish spoiling the show,
Though it’s the reactions and dialogue and performance that go
And make this exciting and funny and fresh.
I’m giving it full marks because of this.

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