Arsenic and Old Lace ★½

Better Luck Next Week!

I’m pretty sure that in about 90% of the screwball comedies made in the 40s there is a character named Johnny. When I first saw Arsenic and Old Lace years ago, its over-the-top zaniness caught me completely off guard and I absolutely, positively hated it. This time I was committed to go into this with an open mind and try my best to enjoy it for what it is, even if comedy does age like milk. The first time I watched this it was Cary Grant’s performance that really turned me off but this time however, I realized that he is probably the best thing in it and is putting forth quite the effort. Regardless, I didn’t laugh even once and trying to enjoy the humor of Arsenic and Old Lace was like watching a Chinese film without subtitles. Needless to say, ‘screwball comedy week’ was probably the one on the list that I was most dreading.

The only somewhat interesting thing I was able to extract from this is that I suspect Cary Grant’s jerky and edgy performance was possibly an inspiration for Michael Richard’s incredibly popular character Cosmo Kramer on the show Seinfeld. The mannerisms anyhow. If that is true it is probably interesting to someone possibly. OR not. I made it up. Makes sense though. I sort of liked the Halloween setting and tone I suppose. It was different. Boy, I’m really reaching here.

My main gripe with this film is with the character that thinks he is Theodore Roosevelt. Every time he runs up the staircase in the house he yells “Charge!!!” I did not think this was particularly funny the first time they played this joke. I definitely did not think it was funny the following 6 times that they repeated it throughout the film. 7 times they did it. I counted. They even used it as their big finish to leave us with. Their secret weapon.

When I inevitably go to Hell, this sort of shit is the only thing Satan’s Cineplex will ever play. In the lobby, there will be a lot of ‘coming soon’ posters of things that I love but it will be a mean lie. They will never come. And the only candy they will sell at the counter will be something disgusting like Milk Duds. I’ll just be sitting there for all eternity watching Cary Grant and the Marx brothers with shit stuck in my teeth.

CJ liked this review