Ep. 08 – Wait. You’ve Never Seen Arsenic and Old Lace?

Welcome to our podcast dedicated to discussing well-known movies and TV shows that one of us has never seen. In this episode we’re talking about Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, Not Rated).


You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Here are the links to some of the things we discussed: Arsenic and Old Lace IMDb page; It’s a Wonderful Life IMDb pageCary Grant Wikipedia page; Play/movie inspired by real-life serial killer, Amy Archer-Gilligan; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead IMDb pageSacco and Vanzetti, Italian-born American anarchists; Peter Lorre IMDb pageBechdel test pass or fail?Star Trek (2009) scene with Uhura, Gaila, and Kirk; Dexter IMDb pageRen and Stimpy IMDb pageCosmic Potato Podcast Network.

Next time, we’ll be talking about Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, so stay tuned!

Transcript of Episode 08 below:

This program is part of the Cosmic Potato Podcast Network. For more shows like this, visit our website at CosmicPotato.com.

[Clip from Arsenic and Old Lace]

Mortimer Brewster: Now look, darling, how did he die?

Aunt Abby: Oh, Mortimer, don’t be so inquisitive. The gentleman died because he drank some wine with poison in it.

Mortimer Brewster: Well, how did the poison get in the wine?

Aunt Martha: Well, we put it in wine because it’s less noticeable. When it’s in tea, it has a distinct odor.

Mortimer: You mean, you…You put it in the wine?!

Aunt Abby: Yes. And I put Mr. Hoskins in the window seat, because Reverend Harper was coming.

[Spooky Halloween intro music – piano ragtime with film projector sound effect and distorted monster laughs]

Shane: Hi this is Shane.

Virginia: And this is Virginia.

Shane: And this is “Wait. You’ve Never Seen…?” A podcast dedicated to discussing TV shows and movies that one of us has never seen.

Virginia: And today we’re discussing, Wait. You’ve never seen Arsenic and Old Lace?!

Shane: I have now and…Wow. Is that…is that a picture?

Virginia: It’s the final chapter in our scary movie month, which I feel is like a good…We started off strong, with two strong ones…

Shane: We did.

Virginia: House on Haunted Hill and Shaun of the Dead. Then we had two kinda busts with The Birds and Beetlejuice. Bleh.

Shane: The Birds would have been good if it was about 72 minutes long.

Virginia: Right. So now I feel like we both can agree that we’re finishing on a strong note here with Arsenic and Old Lace. What do you think?

Shane: Absolutely.

Virginia: So, what were—well, first we want to talk about trigger warnings, so it’s a really good movie but they do play mental illness for laughs a lot. There is some–those aunts…they are racist! Did you notice that?

Shane: Oh, I didn’t

Virginia: And there’s some torture or implied torture. Like, they tie up Cary Grant, so we know he’s about to be tortured but you don’t actually see torture.

Shane: His character’s Mortimer.

Virginia: Yes. Mortimer Brewster.

Shane: And yes.

Virginia: So tell me about–so you didn’t know…all you knew was the title Arsenic and Old Lace, so you had no idea what to expect, is that right?

Shane: That is correct. The only thing I knew about the movie was the title. Can I tell a quick story?

Virginia: Sure.

Shane: About the title of that movie?

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: So I have a relative…

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: …who has a friend who had a really rare form of…a really rare form of leukemia…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: And they were gonna try–and it worked and she’s great now…

Virginia: Oh, that’s good.

Shane: …they tried an experimental version of chemotherapy that actually used arsenic.

Virginia: Wow!

Shane: Yeah. So, my sister – trying to support her friends – sent them-sent them a pair of lace panties because the only kind of lace she could find was panties. [laughs]

Virginia: No..no doilies on the market or anything?

Shane: Well, she lives in Ireland…[Virginia laughs in background]…and I believe all of the B&Bs bought every doily…

Virginia: True, true.

Shane: I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. So…

Virginia: I think there’s a quota. You have to have so many to open…

Shane: So, my sister sent them a pair of…thinking it’s like, oh…

Both together: Arsenic and Old Lace! [Virginia laughs]

Shane: And they were like, “We don’t get it and this is strange.”

Virginia: Why are you sending us panties? What are you trying to say?

Shane: So…

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: Three things I expected from this movie.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: I said cloak and dagger stuff.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: I guessed that there might be an aspect of, you know, a spy aspect maybe.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: The second one: romantic comedy tropes.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: It seemed like maybe a love story.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: Three: Old lace.

Virginia: [laughs] So did you expect to—you–I mean, you didn’t know anything about it. Did you expect to like it? Or were you kinda…

Shane: 2 stars. 2 stars.

Virginia: Really?! 2 stars. Even with Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant.

Shane: I have no…I didn’t realize how funny Cary Grant would be, or could be!

Virginia: He’s very funny.

Shane: Well, that’s what you kept saying, and that’s what I was worried about. I was worried about you overhyping it…

Virginia: He’s-he’s great, what can I say?

Shane: But he really was! I mean, he’s…I mean, you got to be ready for–it’s a lot. You got to be ready for him cuz he’s a ham.

Virginia: He really is and I have more to say about that later.

Shane: A ham and a half. So, let me get through…

Virginia [speech overlapping] But what is your one sentence TV Guide summary?

Shane: So this, I realize, is a lot of fun to do…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: …if you know nothing about the movies…

Virginia: Yeah.

Shane: So, I wrote two of them.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: The first one…[in 1940s radio announcer voice] This movie is a good old-fashioned panty raid.

Virginia: [laughs] Oh my god.

Shane: Then the offending panty raiders get executed…by arsenic!

Virginia: [laughs] Oh my god!

Shane [in normal voice]: The second one…ready?

Virginia: Yes

Shane: The year is 2233. On this upside down dystopian prison planet full of thought criminals, the only weapon is arsenic, and the only currency…Virginia?

Virginia: Old lace?

Shane: No. Wits of steel.

Virginia: [laughs] Oh my goodness.

Shane: I could have written five more, but I didn’t. [laughs]

Virginia: I bet you could have. So, do you want to hear what the IMDb page had to say about this one?

Shane: Absolutely.

Virginia: So, um, it’s Arsenic and Old Lace from 1944, not rated. It’s an hour and 58 minutes. Comedy/crime/thriller. And it says, “A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs and that insanity runs in the family.”

Shane: That sounds like a laugh riot.

Virginia: So…[laughs]…so, um, let’s talk about how things met or didn’t meet your very interesting expectations.

Shane: So…[laughs]…so I also expected to be bored.

Virginia: Really?

Shane: Because I’m just like, well it’s 1944 and they’re trying to make a comedy, and I know that it’s two hours long. I just thought it would be boring

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: I wasn’t. [laughs] I wasn’t at all. My star-my star rating…wait, are we doing star rating right now?

Virginia: Yeah we’re going over how things met…

Shane: 4.5!

Virginia: Oh wow!

Shane: I think this is our biggest jump…

Virginia: Yes I believe so!

Shane: from expectation…[laughs]

Virginia: To reality.

Shane: Yeah, to my actual, uh, you know.

Virginia: So what changed your mind? Why such the big-the big leap?

Shane: Well, it was genuinely funny, so…one of the reasons I didn’t want to watch…

Virginia: Mm-hmm.

Shane: …this movie or that I was worried about this movie was that it was–it’s a Frank Capra picture, and I think Frank Capra is known to be his movies are known to be really corny like, the, It’s a Wonderful Life…

Virginia: Mm-hm. Mr. Smith goes to Washington…

Shane: Which we-which we will see eventually, but It’s a Wonderful Life, I love…

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: …and I caught around Christmastime when I was like a teenager, and I just loved it…

Virginia: I think you’re missing an important point here, that you and your brother quote this movie back and forth to each other on the phone.

Shane: Let’s be more specific.

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: Sometimes all we do…

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: …when we talk is-is do It’s a Wonderful Life back and forth.

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: We’re gonna do a two-man show one day…

Virginia: Ok.

Shane: …where it’s just gonna be It’s a Wonderful Life.

Virginia: And y’all are gonna play all the characters.

Shane: Obviously.

Virginia: Right. Okay.

Shane: So…so I love that movie, but it was also like, you know what? How can anything be as good as this movie? And he has a reputation for being corny so much so that his movies are sometimes referred to as Capra-corn.

Virginia: [laughs] I had not heard that.

Shane: [laughs] That’s an actual thing. So this was a grim, you know, like a-like a grim comedy really…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: …you know? And it wasn’t Capra-corny at all, and there were criminals in it so it’s kind of close to the prison planet.

Virginia: Right. Yeah.

Shane: There were lots of criminals so there we go. [laughs]

Virginia: Okay can I talk about how much I love Cary Grant?

Shane: You may.

Virginia: I love Cary Grant! He’s one of my favorite, like…So my favorites are Audrey Hepburn. You know our dear departed…

Shane: Awwww…

Virginia: …little puppy.

Shane: Named after…

Virginia: Named after Audrey Hepburn. Katharine…

Shane [interrupting]: Because?

Virginia: Because?

Shane: Why was she named after Audrey Hepburn?

Virginia: Because she was very regal and queenlike.

Shane: I thought it was also her eyes.

Virginia: Her eyes…

Shane: Her Audrey-her Audrey eyes.

Virginia: Yes. Um, I like both of the Hepburns.

Shane: Yes.

Virginia: Audrey and Katharine.

Shane: Yes.

Virginia: And I like Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy. Those are my top four classic film stars. So one Mr. Cary Grant was born in England as Archibald Alexander Leach, which is just not…

Shane: Wow.

Virginia: It’s not a-it’s not a good Hollywood name, I don’t think. So the general manager of Paramount Pictures demanded he change his name to something more American sounding like Gary Cooper. So they ultimately decided on Cary Grant. He never won an Academy Award. He was nominated a couple of times…

Shane: Mm-hm.

Virginia: …but he never won an award. He got an honorary award in 1970, and then he…[laughs quietly]…he believed – this may surprise you – he believed that Arsenic and Old Lace was the worst performance of his career. He thought he was way over the top…

Shane: He was pretty over the top.

Virginia: He didn’t like it. He thought it was just too, too much, so…

Shane: It was a lot, but I think it was the right amount.

Virginia: He did really—See, I disagree with his own assessment that it was the worst performance of his career. I loved it.

Shane: Like, there are times when I want, like, analogous to him might be – not that there’s really any comparison…[Virginia laughs in background]…let me just put that on…

Virginia: True, true.

Shane: But Jim Carrey can be—can, like, overact to the point where I’m just like, I feel like he’s just messing with all of us.

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: I feel like the joke’s on me as the audience member.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: And he-he’s only putting on a performance for himself, which might have been true in certain cases.

Virginia: Right. Well, I think at one point when we were watching the movie you said, “God even when he’s not talking he’s very hammy.” Like, his facial expressions.

Shane: About Cary Grant?

Virginia: Yeah.

Shane: Cary Grant you mean.

Virginia: Which you get a lot from Jim Carrey, I think. I mean, well, I haven’t seen every one of his movies, but…

Shane: Right. [clears throat]

Virginia: Did you know that this was an adaptation of a stage play called Arsenic and Old Lace and that the aunts and the guy who played Teddy were all in the stage play playing those roles, so they were playing their play roles in the movie

Shane: Oh wow.

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: That’s interesting.

Virginia: Yes. And did you notice how they like ran/skipped, like, everywhere they would go to answer the door and they’re like to [sing-song voice] doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. [normal voice] I know this is great podcasting because people can’t see me.

Shane: She’s acting this out. I feel like you’re making the sounds of a dance.

Virginia: [laughs] But it’s also rumored to have been inspired by real-life serial killer Amy Archer-Gilligan.

Shane: Really?

Virginia: Really!

Shane: She did this? Did she put–so should we mention that the old ladies aren’t just mercilessly killing, like, anyone.

Virginia: Right!

Shane: They’re putting-they’re putting old…

Virginia: …lonely men…

Shane: …out of their…

Virginia: …out of their misery. They’re really doing–they’re doing the right thing. Come on, y’all. They’re just two sweet old ladies killing people. It’s fine, it’s totally fine.

Shane: And they are so delighted. They’re so delighted by their own they’re proud of their murders…

Virginia [interrupting]: They hold Christian funeral services just like they should, you know?

Shane: Yeah, absolutely. [laughs]

Virginia: So, this is from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt…

Shane: Ok.

Virginia: But, um, “Amy Archer-Gilligan was a Windsor, Connecticut, nursing home proprietor and serial killer. She murdered at least five people by poisoning them. One of her victims was her second husband, Michael Gilligan; the others were residents of her nursing home.”

Shane: Was it mercy killing? I’m sorry.

Virginia [continues reading Wikipedia]: “It is possible that she was involved in more deaths because the authorities found a total of 48 deaths in her nursing home…”

Shane: Holy cow!

Virginia [continues reading Wikipedia]: “…the “Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm.” The case attracted wide publicity at the time and has been cited as an inspiration for the play Arsenic and Old Laceand for Frank Capra’s later film of the same name.” [finishes reading Wikipedia]

Shane: Wow!

Virginia: See here’s the thing about female serial killers.

Shane: Tell me.

Virginia: You don’t really hear a lot about them, but I don’t know that there’s, like, less – I mean fewer – female serial killers so much as they’re just better at not getting caught. Like, it’s always the men who get…

Shane: If a body shows up, you’re automatically–a cop’s looking for a guy.

Virginia: Right. Right. But I’m just saying maybe women are better serial killers. We don’t know.

Shane: Oh I’m sorry. I’m not giving them the credit.

Virginia: Well look at Aunt…

Shane: You’re not gonna kill me, are you? [laughs]

Virginia: So moving on to Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha…

Shane: Ohhhh.

Virginia: [laughs] I mean, yeah, you would never suspect them, and they’re serial killers. They could–they still got away with it! They didn’t go to jail at the end they just went to Sunnydale.

Shane: Well, that’s the end. We can talk about the end closer to the end. I have some thoughts about that. So I was thinking about Abby and Martha, that they’re a little bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in that when I meet two nice old ladies in a movie…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: I just think, oh these are gonna be secondary characters. These aren’t gonna be–the whole story isn’t gonna be about, you know, hinge…

Virginia [interrupting]: These two ladies.

Shane: …on these two characters.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: We just meet them, and they’re like, “Oh we want you to get married Mortimer, and we’re happy.” I just expected it to be…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: …about him and his-his lady.

Virginia: His wife, yeah. His new wife.

Shane: Sorry. His new wife. So in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead– I don’t know if you saw that; it was a 1966 play and it’s later made into a movie in the 1990s.

Virginia: I don’t think I’ve seen this that you’re talking about.

Shane: Well, it’s a whole big…well, anyway perhaps that should be on our list and I should stop talking about it.

Virginia: Perhaps.

Shane: But it’s the idea of–what we need to know, what you need to know about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are that they were there were minor characters in Hamlet.

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: Like, at one point somebody runs out and goes, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”

Virginia: Right.

Shane: And that’s the last you hear about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Virginia: Oh.

Shane: They have a couple of lines…I can’t remember, my Shakespeare is a little–there’s a little–has some holes as far as my knowledge of Shakespeare goes.

Virginia: Mm-hmm.

Shane: But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the play and movie, sort of talks about the idea of these side characters, you know, finding themselves in a-in a major role.

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: That’s all I have to say about that.

Virginia: Something I found interesting…I have-I have a lot to say about the aunts.

Shane: Okay.

Virginia: Okay. First of all, the racism that I noticed from the aunts was: (a) they had what appeared to be a lawn jockey on their front…the front lawn.

Shane: I didn’t notice that. Was it painted black?

Virginia: It appeared to be, yes.

Shane: Mm-hm.

Virginia: They also talked about how they didn’t want to bury a foreigner with Mr. Hoskins. That was the dead body that the brother and Dr. Einstein brought in.

Shane: Doesn’t that mean–I don’t mean to quibble here, but doesn’t that make them xenophobes and not racist.

Virginia: True, true.

Shane: I mean, there’s—these aren’t mutually exclusive.

Virginia: Um, right. Yeah, you can be a xenophobe and racist. And then they talked about, once they were like, “You know, oh, maybe we should go to Sunnydale, because you know the neighborhood’s really gone downhill since they won the pennant.” And I’m like, okay maybe I don’t—like, I felt like that was a little racist because it seemed like, “oh no, our neighborhood’s really going downhill, so we better get out while the getting’s good.”

Shane: That’s true.

Virginia: You know?

Shane: Well, it seemed like the quote-unquote foreigner had–all we know about him is that he got murdered and that he has an Italian last name.

Virginia: Right, right. Mr. Spinalzo.

Shane: I wonder if they have, like, that very–that specific, like, Italians are bad for America thing, like the…

Virginia: Well they also specifically said–the aunts said they’re conducting Methodist services, and the likelihood than an Italian as Catholic, that seems…you know, that might be another thing that they were…

Shane: Could be. But I’m wondering about that—well, in the 1940s–so I’m thinking of, like, the Sacco and Vanzetti – the Italian anarchists who got, uh, who got executed for a crime they probably didn’t commit–for a murder they probably didn’t commit. This was in the 1920s.

Virginia: Yeah, I’m not too up on 1920s Italian history, I’m sorry.

Shane: [in 1920s radio announcer voice] Well you should be! [Virginia laughs in background] [in normal voice] Sorry, I’m talking about-I’m talking about men being killed for crimes they didn’t commit. [laughing] I probably shouldn’t be joking around about it. But, um, yeah that was-that was one of those very low moments in-in American history when it comes to Italian immigrants and, well, immigrants in general.

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: But there was basic distrust and…

Virginia: So in the-in the serial-killer department…

Shane: Okay.

Virginia: …for the aunts. They’re so bizarre, because not just because they’re killing people.

Shane: Oh right.

Virginia: They get offended, like, they said, “Oh so-and-so wants us to take Junior to the movies. Well, I’m not going to see those scary pictures.” [Shane laughs in background] Like, you’re killing people!! You’re killing people and you’re like, “I don’t want to go see that scary movie.” Like, no. That-that just–I know that’s the joke they were going for…

Shane: Right.

Virginia: …and I obviously totally bought into it, but it’s just like…Ladies. Please. And then they – we both talked about this – they keep a cabinet with their trophies.

Shane: Ohhh yeah.

Virginia: The gentlemen’s hats.

Shane: That was really, like, a chilly kind of moment.

Virginia: Yeah.

Shane: When I realized, oh they’re real serial killers. [Virginia coughs in background] They actually have-they actually have a collection…[laughs]

Virginia: Yes, yes.

Shane: Of trophies.

Virginia: So I feel like we haven’t actually talked about Cary Grant a lot considering how much I love Cary Grant, but he just played the part magnificently. Like, every… He was just…I did not for one second think he wasn’t shocked by his aunts committing these horrendous crimes. Like, “You know, what you did was wrong??” And they’re like, “oh no, it’s not wrong. We were just helping him.” [Shane laughs in background] It, like, he’s just astounded, and I think he does that really well. And I also think, like, even if he – he, the actor – didn’t like the roles, I think he really, um…you can tell he really cares about his aunts, and he doesn’t want anything to happen to them.

Shane: Right. He’s trying to…

Virginia: [imitating Cary Grant] “Oh darlings!” [normal voice] You know, blah blah blah.

Shane: He’s trying to work out a way for them to not go to prison…

Virginia: For the rest of their lives…

Shane: …for what they’ve done.

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: And really if you think about it–so you have these aunts, and all their reactions are very unexpected.

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: That’s one thing that makes this movie compelling…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: …that I don’t know what they’re gonna…It’s not like, they’re not purely evil, that they’re not evil at all, probably. They think they’re helping.

Virginia [interrupting]: [imitating aunts] “Oh yes dear, there’s a dead body in the window-seat. Of course we know!”

Shane: [laughs] And then we haven’t talked about Teddy Roosevelt.

Virginia: Right. Teddy Roosevelt. I was gonna talk a little bit about him in disability portrayal.

Shane: Well, just real quickly, the character he believes himself to be the president.

Virginia: Right. Mortimer’s brother.

Shane: And the way he acts, though, is also sort of like very over-the-top, like the acting of…

Virginia: Teddy?

Shane: Yeah. The acting of Teddy Roosevelt is very over-the-top…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: …so, like, Cary Grant’s performance is not at all cartoony. He’s–it fits into this like…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: …really twisted world.

Virginia: Right, yeah.

Shane: So we have not talked about Peter Lorre.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: As I refer to him as “Little Big Creep.”

Virginia: He’s a creep in everything. Well, I say that – I just watched The Maltese Falcon the other day because we recently signed up for Filmstruck, um, and he was a creepy sidekick in that one too, so…

Shane: [imitating Peter Lorre] Heh…yes. [normal voice] That’s my Peter Lorre.

Virginia: That’s pretty good.

Shane: [imitating Peter Lorre] It’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Virginia: But then he just sort of he escapes because the…oh, the cops were so inept!

Shane: [regular voice] Oh yeah.

Virginia: Like, the accomplice is standing right there, the person at the police headquarters is reading off the description, and the chief of police or whoever sitting there is like, “okay yeah he’s about 5’3” and bug-eyed” and whatever.

Shane: [laughs] Right.

Virginia: And he’s like, “okay sir you’re free to go!” And it’s like no, that’s him right there!

Shane: Well, I mean, they do…they do kind of…Like, at one point Cary Grant’s like, “I’m gonna just march into the kitchen, and I’m gonna tell the cops what’s going on here.” He’s like, “Well, we’ll tell them about the twelve bodies…”

Virginia: “Twelve bodies in the basement”! [laughs]

Shane: You know, so at least, you know, Cary Grant has incentive to not, you know…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: But yeah I guess he could have…[laughs]…he could have realized that Peter Lorre was a bad guy.

Virginia: Are we ready for the Bechdel test?

Shane: Yes!

Virginia: So this one’s a little tricky because the aunts talk a lot about poisoning men, which I can kind of get behind as a pass because…anyways… [Shane laughs in background] But really…

Shane: Cuz if it’s a-if it’s a dead person they’re talking about, are they really talking about men?

Virginia: Well, I’m saying like – well they were really talking to Mortimer then but anyways – so, for example, um I believe it’s Abby who’s at home talking to Reverend Harper when Martha…So Reverend Harper leaves, Martha comes home and Martha says, “Oh did you just have tea?” and Abby’s like, “Yes, and dinner’s going to be late too.” Now, we don’t know at that point that dinner is going to be late because she killed somebody by herself and had to stuff him in the window-seat!

Shane: [laughs] Right.

Virginia: So at that point it appears that it’s passed the Bechdel test because they’re just talking about a meal, you know?

Shane: But-but in a real way…oh, did you–was there other arguments? Did you find arguments about this?

Virginia: Well, because they talked about poisoning men, is that really talking about men or are they-are they doing the world a service by poisoning–I’m just kidding! [laughs]

Shane: I’m just talking about nuts and bolts of what you mean by talking about a man. So if they’re referring to a dead body, does it matter if it’s a man or a woman?

Virginia: I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question, but see the reason–as it always comes back to Star Trek, sorry…

Shane: Of course.

Virginia: …the reasoning in my hesitation here is because in, I believe, Star Trekthe 2009, one it technically passes the Bechdel test because Uhura talks to her roommate Gaila I think it is about the Klingon transmission she picked up or whatever. Meanwhile, Kirk is hiding under the bed the whole time looking at them in their underwear. Well, technically it passes but there’s a man in the room and he’s, you know, like just ogling them or whatever…

Shane: But I thought a man could be in the room, provided that it’s just a two-way conversation between the women.

Virginia: But I’m saying the argument there is, Gaila knew Kirk was in the room.

Shane: Oh.

Virginia: Her purpose is not to carry on the conversation with Uhura. Her purpose is to get Uhura out of the room so she can go back to making out with Kirk. So I’m saying, like, does intent-does the intent behind the conversation really affect whether it passes the Bechdel test or not? So Gaila’s intent was to get Uhura out of the room, whereas their intent is to–the aunts’ intent is to poison men, but we don’t know that at that point.

Shane: Yeah, I think intent would be really difficult because maybe…like if you took it to-if you took the Bechdel test to, like, an extreme…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: …like maybe there’s two women who have a conversation for a half an hour and none of it’s about men but really the one woman’s whole whole reason for talking to the woman was because she wanted to figure out what about this woman does this guy like? You know, what attracts him to her? Maybe if I learn more about her, but we never know what her motivation is.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: Motivation is difficult. If you go down the motivation…

Virginia: So I would say, since at that point in the movie we don’t really know that they’re talking about being serial killers and killing men, I would say their initial conversation about tea and dinner probably passes because we don’t know their intent at that point.

Shane: And there’s no other—are there other moments?

Virginia: They do, um…

Shane: I figure there’s gotta be.

Virginia: Well, see and here’s the thing too, is when the kids come to the door for trick-or-treating?

Shane: Yeah, by the way real-just real quick cuz, as an aside, they pass–the aunts pass children – trick-or-treaters – they passed them whole carved pumpkins.

Virginia: Yeah, I don’t know what that was about. Maybe that was a thing that happened in the ‘40s?

Shane: But then you’re carrying around a…[laughs]…a slowly rotting pumpkin all night?

Virginia: I mean, maybe you’re supposed to throw it at people you don’t like.

Shane: Are you gonna have a collection of them?

Virginia: Maybe.

Shane: Are you the Green Goblin [Virginia laughs in background] and you somehow turn them into pumpkin bombs and throw them at people?

Virginia: So when the kids come trick-or-treating, Abby says “Isn’t Halloween a wonderful time for them?” [Shane laughs in background] and Martha says, “Yes, they have so much fun.” Which again, there could be boys among the kids – there probably is. But they’re talking about Halloween, they’re talking about trick-or-treaters as a whole…to me, that’s where it gets sticky. Like, I don’t-I don’t know all the nuts and bolts there so…Um kind of into disability portrayal, I love this movie. I really do. It disappoints me how much they play the disability, like looking back on it now…

Shane: Yeah.

Virginia: It disappoints me how much they play the disability for laughs. Um, but I want to be clear that I’m not, like, a medical professional here or mental health professional, but it seems like there’s some–it’s pretty clear there’s some mental illness in this family. The aunts just murder people with no–they don’t seem to know it’s wrong?

Shane: Yeah.

Virginia: They think they’re helping, but they don’t lack empathy that’s kind of why they’re doing it – they feel sorry for these guys who have no family, they’re lonely, they’re old, so they meet some of the criteria in, like, psychopaths or sociopaths, but they don’t meet them in other–and you know I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to sit here and diagnose them.

Shane: You know, I just realized something. They have a code the way Dexter has a code. Like Dexter will only kill if the person he’s targeting meets certain criteria. [laughs]

Virginia: Right, yeah. I haven’t seen Dexterin awhile.

Shane: So he feels like there’s a certain morality to it but not really.

Virginia: Gotcha. Yeah.

Shane: Like he has his own twisted version of what morality is.

Virginia: Teddy appears to have some sort of…I don’t know what it’s called when you think you’re someone else…is that a psychotic disorder?

Shane: I’m not sure exactly.

Virginia: Again, we’re not mental health professionals, but um…

Shane: And it is like–real quick I think we should mention that there was a time when like you weren’t like the quote/unquote crazy people dressed up like Napoleon like that was like a stock you know in cartoons like in Warner Brothers cartoons…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: …in the ‘40s and ‘50s. If you wanted someone to be crazy like they think they’re Napoleon.

Virginia: Right. So, um, which they say something like, “Oh we already ha–“ – when they call Sunnydale like, “Oh we already have five Teddy Roosevelt’s. Do you think he could be Napoleon?” Or something like that.

Shane: Yeah.

Virginia: Um, but as much as it does play mental illness for laughs, I do appreciate it in other ways where clearly, especially with Teddy, clearly he has some mental problems, he has some mental issues, but the aunts are adamant that he’s gonna stay with them until they die and then he’ll be sent to the home. So they want to take care of him as long as possible. They don’t want to just ship him off like, “We’re not gonna deal–he thinks he’s flipping Teddy Roosevelt! What can we do with this?!”

Shane: So they have compassion, they have real compassion.

Virginia: Right. And the community it seems – except when he’s blowing his bugle because, yeah, that’s-that’s annoying for everyone…

Shane: Yes.

Virginia: But except when that’s happening, the community seems to just be like, this guy thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and we’re just gonna go with it because he’s not hurting anybody. This is the way he lives his life, his aunts take care of him…

Shane: I hadn’t thought of it like that. There’s something admirable about like that sort of respect that they have for him.

Virginia: Yeah even the cops that come in, you know, they just sort of play into it like, okay we’re just you know we’re just gonna let this dude live his life as long as he’s not hurting himself or anyone else which was…A long time ago, I mean not and–when I say a long time ago, I mean like in the 18th and 19th centuries when there wasn’t a lot of medical intervention or anything for mental health it was sort of like it needed to be a community everybody knew about that one person in the town or the village or whatever that needed extra assistance and so everybody just kind of looked out for them. It was a community effort, and so I feel like maybe it might be the Capra-corny-esque nature of the film, but I was really happy to see that they didn’t just ship him off.

Shane: Yeah. Or lock him in the attic.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: Or keep him hidden.

Virginia: Especially considering this state of mental health institutions during that time, but that’s a whole other topic for a whole other time. Um…[laughs]…and I wanted to talk about how Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s scary brother…

Shane: Mm-hm.

Virginia: …looked like Frankenstein’s monster, because that’s something you–you were like, “Oh is Boris Karloff in this movie?” And that was sort of the running joke.

Shane: [laughs] I mean, they kept referring—like, “He looks like Boris Karloff!” and he’d get upset when people would say that.

Virginia: So, he has a lot of scars which, you know, that denotes his evilness.

Shane: Right.

Virginia: We know he’s the bad brother.

Shane: Very cartoo–very poorly done, enormous, enormous stitches, very wide stitches.

Virginia: Right. And he looks like Frankenstein’s monster, which you have this disabled person as a monster, compared–even compared to all the other disability in the family. You have…

Shane: That’s true.

Virginia: …the potentially, you know, the serial killers and then Teddy. So here’s another guy who is part of this family…

Shane: Mm-hm.

Virginia: …and you have even–since everybody else has mental health issues, you have to further distinguish him as the monster, the bad guy in this movie.

Shane: Right.

Virginia: So along with the scars, you also had that he resembles this other fictional monster to go with that. And I-I think we both kind of mentioned or noticed this, when Dr. Einstein, Peter Lorre, tried to stab him in the leg with a fork…

Shane: Oh.

Virginia: …and I’m wondering…

Shane: It was Cary Grant that tried to stab him in the leg, right?

Virginia: I don’t know.

Shane: I thought Cary tried, cuz he’s just trying to figure out a way to like, you know, disabled the guy.

Virginia: Oh maybe it was Cary Grant’s character. Yeah.

Shane: And he probably has a prosthetic leg maybe? is that what we were—

Virginia: We were thinking–so that even further dehumanizes him, where like he’s just made up of all of these parts and not even not really a real person, you know what I mean?

Shane: You know what? He may have a prosthetic – a prosthesis – a prosthetic leg?

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: Or he might honestly be an–why couldn’t Peter Lorre’s character like reanimate…

Virginia: Oh you wanna go the whole Frankenstein’s monster route? Yeah.

Shane: Maybe it was a full–and he figured out how to put like some form of consciousness inside.

Virginia: It wouldn’t surprise me. I mean, this movie was weird! [Shane laughs in background] It was weird. Okay, um, do you have anything in disability or do you want to go to pop-culture references you now understand, because I’m curious if there is anything since you didn’t really know a whole lot about the movie.

Shane: So, pop-culture references: not really. Um, I know Peter Lorre has been in a million-a million movies, and he’s always kind of that sort of character…

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: I’m guessing. Sometimes he’s a gangster though right and sometimes he’s like the monster’s, like, henchmen, right?

Virginia: I haven’t seen a whole lot of Peter Lorre movies.

Shane: Well, I’ve always known that Ren from Ren and Stimpy, a cartoon that was popular in the 1990s [Virginia laughs in background] Late 1990s? Early 1990s?

Virginia: I have heard tell of it.

Shane: Was it the late 1980s?

Virginia: I don’t know.

Shane: Anyway, I think—anyway, whenever that was I’ve always known that the cat – I hope I’m getting this right – the cat, Stimpy, is loosely based-loosely based on one of the Three Stooges…

Virginia: Mm-hm.

Shane: On Larry. Larry Fine. And the Chihuahua, Ren, was based on Peter Lorre.

Virginia: Oh really?

Shane: Yeah.

Virginia: Oh I can hear the voice now, yeah. Yeah that makes sense.

[Clip of Ren’s voice]: What is it man?

Shane: [laughs] So yeah, that’s sort of a reference I got.

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: I know that it’s not exclusive to this movie but yeah…

Virginia: Well, and you understand your sister’s story now. That’s not really pop culture, but it helps-it helps give you context now.

Shane: Well, I mean the title kind of gave me the…

Virginia: Yeah.

Shane: …gave me the context I needed.

Virginia: This might mean – your sister listens to this show, so I’m kidding but – it might mean your sister’s a serial killer. Dun dun DUUNNNNN.

Shane: I’m neither gonna confirm nor deny that. [Virginia laughs in background] So how would this movie be different with today’s technology?

Virginia: Um, I couldn’t really…I mean, this one didn’t really depend a whole lot on technology. I feel like there would be better mental health treatments available obviously. Um, I mean, we’re still not 100% on mental health treatments now. There’s still a lot of crappy stuff that goes on. But also, although this was funny, him running around trying to get signatures from everybody…I think now it would just be like, “excuse me judge, can you send your electronic signature through your iPad?”

Shane: [laughs] Oh right.

Virginia: Like, you wouldn’t have to, you know, drag him out of bed and get him to sign a paper and etc etc.

Shane: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Virginia: So, um, yeah I think…I don’t know… Just those two things that I noticed, I guess.

Shane: This is technology they had at the time they could have used.

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: They could have employed this technology to stop a lot of the confusion – lock your doors and windows!! [Virginia laughs in background] That was so, I mean, I know that’s part of the comedy…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: But ugh…it was like a French farce with those–with the dead bodies.

Virginia: Yes.

Shane: I expected like almost like the Benny Hill music to show up at one point.

Virginia: That’s not Mr. Hoskins!

[Both laugh]

Virginia: Oh man that was funny.

Shane: Oh and also I think in the very beginning – I mean, this is like inconsequential to the rest of the movie but – in the very beginning there are those reporters that hang out with big giant cameras…

Virginia: Oh right…trying to get people at the marriage license office.

Shane: Yeah like, “Oh was that—“ – what was he?

Virginia: A drama critic, but he writes he writes books about how marriage is just a big scam.

Shane: Right. He’s like the-he was like the Clooney–he was like the George Clooney of the day, sort of. [Virginia laughs in background] Not that George Clooney sir wrote books like that but he vowed to never get married and then eventually he got married.

Virginia: Right.

Shane: I feel like-I feel like TMZ would be on that before-before they got to the…

Virginia: Right.

Shane: Before they got to the…

Virginia: Right. So that those two guys were the TMZ of their day is what you’re saying.

Shane: Yes, and there’s probably, like…they’re not sure who they’re looking at?

Virginia: Right.

Shane: Like those TMZ guys know who they’re looking at.

Virginia: Yeah. Yeah. True.

Shane: Like even if they have a disguise on like sunglasses.

Virginia: I think we’re gonna edit in the recipe that for the poison wine at some point.

Shane: Oh gosh, that’s really good idea.

Virginia: I think Martha gives us the recipe that she uses to mix into the elderberry wine.

Shane: I think it—okay, okay. We’re gonna A/B this against what I believe I think I heard.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: So I think it’s arsenic…

Virginia: Uh-huh.

Shane: …cyanide–a little bit of cyanide, and just a dash of strychnine.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: That’s what I think it was.

Virginia: Okay.

Shane: We’ll see how close I get.

Virginia: Okay,so I think that about wraps it up. Youcan find us on iTunes and Stitcher and also on the Cosmic Potato Podcast Network at CosmicPotato.com. Episode transcripts and links to what we talked about are available on our website at WaitYouveNeverSeen.com. We’re on Facebook and Twitter under WaitYNS. You can also email us at WaitYouveNeverSeen@gmail.com.

Shane: Leave us some feedback and let us know if you have any suggestions for movies we should see. That’s our show for today. Next time we’ll be watching Doctor Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Virginia: That’s a long title.

Shane: I’m not even sure that’s the right title.

Virginia: That is the right title.

Shane: Is it? Yay!

Virginia: Yeah. Thanks for listening!

Shane: Bye!


Virginia: So, we had said in our show that we were going to find the clip of Aunt Martha’s elderberry wine recipe, not so the audience can mix their own – we would not advise that…

Shane: No, not at all.

Virginia: Because we’d like to keep our audience alive to listen to us. I mean, it’s really all about us in the end.

Shane: We don’t want to be brought up on charges of conspiracy to murder.

Virginia: Right. Right. So, um, instead of having the clip of Aunt Martha, what Shane is going to do is a dramatic reenactment…[Shane laughs in background]…I don’t know why I set this over here…of what, um, Aunt Martha’s recipe is. Now, just to remind people you said that the recipe would be arsenic, a little bit of cyanide, and just a dash of strychnine.

Shane [imitating Aunt Martha]: For a gallon of elderberry wine, take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.

Virginia: See you had your cyanide and your strychnine mixed up. Otherwise, you were right on.

Shane [regular voice]: I think it’s gonna do the job no matter what.

Virginia: Either way, you know I guess it’s all about the taste. You know what I want to know is, how did Aunt Martha and um I’m totally blanking on the other woman’s name [transcriber’s note: It’s Aunt Abby]…Anyway, how do they know how it tastes?

Shane: Well maybe they got complaints.

Virginia: Before the men died.

Shane: Yes.

Virginia: Anyway, ok.

Shane: Like, “Oh this elderberry wine tastes terrible.”

Virginia: So now that we’ve done our comparison, that’s all for the show this time.

Shane: Bye!

Virginia: Bye!


3 thoughts on “Ep. 08 – Wait. You’ve Never Seen Arsenic and Old Lace?

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