Arsenic and Old Lace | Warner Brothers | Frank Capra | 1944

From the Vault: an old takedown of one of the shittiest comedies known to man. Published first on Letterboxd, decided to bring it back for a Rio Bravado exclusive!!!!!

This is a comedy classic for boomer dads and all other archetypes of American milquetoast humorlessness. There is no buffer zone of normalcy much less tolerability to provide a baseline foil for the ensuing (errr, eternally ensued) zany-fest (but not even truly zany cuz it’s tempered by theatrical humdrum pacing/staging). Grant ideally should occupy that buffer zone, but he just over-secretes his flusteredness via eye-bulging noodle-leg slapstick, so he just digs the hole deeper until it can’t possibly be filled back in (and who’s trying?). It’s wild, sure, but at a steady velocity, without acceleration or screeching halt. The Raymond Massey subplot is a paragon of cringe, aided as it is by Peter Lorre at his most degraded and the Teddy Roosevelt bullshit…oy. It’s fundamentally bad gag-writing that (I guess?) worked on the stage cuz the whole appeal (I think?) is in ensemble histrionics and slowly accumulating real-time insanity, but that fails terribly in this film with its goofy music cues and scene changes and implosion of the very idea of timing/rhythm. It only apparently gets a pass nowadays through mountainous layerings of old-timey family-friendly nostalgia filtration and unconditional Cary Grant adoration. Priscilla Lane is wasted! I swear to god Jack Carson is the only funny thing about this movie. In somehow standing out from the rest of the muck, he establishes himself as an artist among character actors. Worst thing Capra ever directed.


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