Arsenic and Old Lace (film, 1944)

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Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 film based on the stage play by Joseph Kesselring, and stars Cary Grant as a marriage critic who discovers some sinister things going on with his already-strange family, the weird Brewster clan. The film was directed by Frank Capra, and also stars Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, who were brought in from the stage to reprise their roles.


Mortimer Brewster (Grant) is a critic of marriage with several books on the subject decrying it as a mere superstition; this stance doesn't prevent him from falling in love and marrying Elaine (Priscilla Lane). Before the honeymoon can get started Mortimer has to pay a visit to his beloved aunts Abby and Martha (Hull and Adair), where he discovers the "charity" the aunts provide: killing lonely old gentlemen with poisoned elderberry wine. To make matters a little more complicated, his insane brother Teddy Brewster (John Alexander) - who believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt - has been "digging locks for the Panama Canal" and burying "yellow fever victims," i.e. burying them in graves dug in the cellar.

While Mortimer is trying to make some sense of it all, as well as trying to arrange a new home for Teddy at an insane asylum, his other brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) arrives, a psychotic killer with a body of his own, accompanied by a plastic surgeon (Peter Lorre) who was a little intoxicated at the time he changed Jonathan's face, getting him to look like Boris Karloff in the process.