Film review of Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace"

Essay by tmurgioUniversity, Master'sA, May 2004

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Frank Capra's 1944 classic "Arsenic and Old Lace" is a true "Black Comedy" classic. It contains all the elements need to make a black comedy work. Unlike other types of comedy Capra uses the symbiotic bond of tragedy and comedy to make this remarkable funny film. Capra's use of characterization allows us to bond closely to the players and brings up strong emotional ties which are imperative to the films success. Because Arsenic and Old Lace was originally adapted from a Broadway show it is possible to look at the differences between, a motion picture and live production and get very different opinions out of each production.

Comedy and tragedy have a closely linked bond that is sometimes highly misunderstood, we as an audience will laugh at highly gruesome and macabre scene and laugh. Why this does happens? I don't know if that can be answered fully by anyone, but that is just the principle Capra uses in Arsenic and Old Lace. If you look at the story it is pretty sick. You have two old women killing men they think would be better of dead because they are lonely, and their mentally ill nephew who buries them in their basement. They show no remorse for what they do, and have in fact come to enjoy it. In real life is such a story was to happen we would all think how sick these women must be and then send them to the electric chair, but as we watch the movie we laugh, and think that is so funny. This has to do with the whole basis of black humor, which to me is that's funny as long as it's not happening to me.

One of the other brilliant aspects of Arsenic and Old Lace is its...