Arsenic and Old Lace

Frank Capra's 1944 adaptation of the hit Broadway comedy Arsenic and Old Lace concerns a pair of dotty old sisters who poison lonely old men (out of compassion, of course) and their homicidal back-sheep nephew (Raymond Massey, taking the role created on stage by Boris Karloff), who escapes prison to compete with the old ladies in the body-count department. Cary Grant gets top billing as the nice nephew whose plans to marry get thrown off track by his family shenanigans. Worrying about this strain of hereditary insanity, he makes the most of his double-takes and wide-eyed reaction shots. But he's basically straight man to the inmates running his family asylum, often upstaged by the sweetly fussy hens (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) and Peter Lorre as Massey's comically creepy sidekick. Arsenic is like Capra's earlier eccentric family comedy You Can't Take It With You, with gallows humor meeting the director's bright, plucky sensibility. It's minor Capra, but possibly the funniest serial-killer comedy ever made. Call for showtimes. (NR) SEAN AXMAKER

Oct. 19-25, 2012

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