Decidedly so, I can honestly say that Arsenic and Old Lace is one of the funniest genre-bending classic comedies that I have ever seen. The amount of ridiculous gags and totally slapstick situations is enormous, making the film really pleasurable and lighthearted. Being a perfectly astounding exemplification of a screwball comedy, the movie is sometimes so ludicrous that it’s even hard to imagine how can anyone come up with a plot like this one.
When a well-known drama critic Mortimer Brewster visits his two adorable aunts in order to tell them the fantastic news about his engagement to beautiful Elaine Harper, he finds out the horrible truth that spins the would-be quick meeting totally out of control. There is a dead man in the wooden box inside the house. But that is not all! There are eleven more buried under the residence. Then, there is also Teddy, who is a 100% sure that he is the late president Theodore Roosevelt. And if this was not enough, after some time we meet another member of this peculiar family – Jonathan (possessing a face that provokes a fantastic recurring gag concerning Boris Karloff), who shows up suddenly with his old friend Dr. Einstein.
Even though Cary Grant considered this to be one of his personal least favorite movies, his performance is actually so exaggerated that is almost excellent. What’s surprising is that his character seems to be the only normal person in the entire household (and Mr. Grant was very often considered to be the not-so-typical, out-of-bounds comedy performer), trying to resolve all the farcical problems that occur throughout the whole film. One of them – the hardest one perhaps – proves to be convincing the aunts that killing an innocent older man by the way of adding a bit of arsenic to his wine is not right, mostly due to the circumstances – the two ladies claim that by killing those men they just shorten their miserable, lonely lives. Another obstacle relates to the fact that his own brother, the gruesome Jonathan, wants to torture and kill him on the same exact night. And as with so many comedies of this humorous sort, there is also more action, here involving police officers and locked-up corpses.
If I’d have to pick one particular scene that I found the funniest (or the most absurd) I’d go with the conversation between aunts and Jonathan, who try to resolve a dispute about their little ‘competition’ – who killed more people! Because the sides are currently tied, one of them must be the winner, right? If you think that this is already too much you are very wrong, but I won’t go into details, because I don’t want to spoil the whole experience of watching this amazingly hilarious picture.
All in all, I want to highly recommend this movie to EVERYONE. It is one of the funniest pictures ever made and it certainly didn’t lose its charm after all those years. The jokes are intelligent and fresh, the cast is first-class and the remarkable screenplay will leave the most pleasant mark on your memory. Don’t resist it, go and watch Arsenic and Old Lace today and remember: no refunds available when your stomach hurts like crazy after all the time you spend laughing!