"Arsenic and Old Lace" (1943)
Leonard Maltin gives this one 3 1/2 stars and found it "hilarious." I never did.
I think the problem is that I don't really like Frank Capra's films. "It's a Wonderful Life" really isn't too wonderful.
"Arsenic and Old Lace" immediately betrays its origins as a play.
Cary Grant: In this film, his antics and facial mugging upon seeing the dead body in the window seat are simply not funny and unrealistic -- just silly. Cary Grant was an actor who simply got better and better as he got older. In this film I thought he was terrible. In "North by Northwest" and particularly "Charade" he was absolutely wonderful. By that time his camera presence and humorous style had become finely tuned and subtle.
Priscilla Lane: She was dull in Hitchcock's "Saboteur" and dull in this one as well.
John Alexander (as "Teddy Roosevelt"): After the first time, his repeated dashes up the stairs yelling "Charge" become boring and stagey.
Jack Carson as the police officer is, well, Jack Carson.
Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre: Only with their appearances does the film begin to come to life.
Raymond Massey is funny by not trying to be funny but playing his role absolutely straight in a zombie-like way. Lorre as Dr. Einstein is very funny living in perpetual fear of Massey for botching up Massey's facial-change surgury. But even they can't keep the film afloat with the unending trips to the basement with bodies to bury.
I'm sure this piece is much better on the stage than as a film and I never thought Capra good at adapting a play to a film.
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