Let’s take a break from those tough guy movies. Skip the cars tumbling in slow motion, the nail-biting suspense, the sly, nasty twist at the end, the blood-splattering shootout. Let’s get silly. Crime can be fun and funny. How about an evening of murder and crazy old ladies?
Arsenic and Old Lace. No groans, now. When was the last time you saw it? Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) and his childhood sweetheart and new wife, played by Priscilla Lane, visit Brewster’s crazy relatives. The grave digging brother and the geezer-killing aunts — they meant well — there is an entourage of great character actors from the era — Peter Lorre, Jack Carson, Raymond Massey, James Gleason and Edward Everett Horton — playing cops and ominous visitors. This is clearly a farce, full of coincidences, near discoveries, missing bodies, doors opening and shutting just in time as well as clever lines. The movie no doubt benefited from the play it was based upon, which had a long and successful run on Broadway before making it to the silver screen. Grant throws himself into his comedic role in this highly-rated vintage comedy, still popular among contemporary viewers. Arsenic and Old Lace will lighten your mood and make you suspicious of your kindly old aunt who makes her own wine.
Then if you want to do more silly, let’s call in the British. They know silly. Even dark silly. Eleven years after Arsenic and Old Lace was released, The Ladykillers came out. It met with immediate success and, like its American cousin, remains a popular rental today. British actress Katie Johnson is an eccentric elderly woman — the theme of the evening — who runs a boarding house in London and is a constant pest at the local police station. But instead of her being a crazy old murderess, she is the surprisingly resilient, clearly batty, intended victim. Seems as if a gang of thugs rent a room from her, ostensibly for their string quintet to rehearse. String quintet, smingquintet. The real reason we have Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and a cast of incredibly fine British actors meeting in at the boarding house is that there is a bank to be robbed and they need a place to plot out their strategy. The robbery is successful, but that’s only the beginning. Greed and paranoia take over. Misunderstandings, double-crosses and accidents abound, much to our guilty pleasure.
You might want to avoid Elderberry wine this evening, but why not go for something light and fun anyway. Celebrate with some spritzers — even you are a serious oenophile — especially if it is a warm summer night. Tonight is not the night for a furrowed brow.