Euthanasia & Old Lace

We revisited Arsenic & Old Lace last night. It's amusing, but it doesn't measure up to the stage play --now I remember why I resisted seeing it again. Just as at age 12 I didn't notice that Oklahoma is largely about the damaging effects of p0rnography, in high school I never noticed this play is a brilliant attack on euthanasia, which movement had already come upon the scene by 1939 when the play was written (it was only a bit discredited by the Nazis, and had to go in for re-branding). If you recall the conceit, Mortimer Brewster finds a dead body hidden in the window box of his kind old aunts' home. He assumes his insane brother is the culprit, but it turns out to be the handiwork of the old ladies, the neighborhood do-gooders, who've taken it upon themselves to rid the world of lonely bachelors whose lives don't seem worth living. As they put it,
It's one of our charities.
Just a thing they do. Like collecting toys for orphans, taking broth to the sick, having the parson in for tea.

Complicating the action onstage is the escape of another crazed Brewster, Jonathan, from an insane asylum. Jonathan is a serial killer, and the most telling moment of the play is the scene in which it's revealed that the "genteel" form of killing is every bit as dangerous as its sadistic counterpart. Dr. Einstein --a bungling plastic surgeon who's made Johnny Brewster look like Frankenstein --taunts the killer thus:
[Discussing the body count]
Dr. Einstein: You got twelve, they got twelve.
[Angrily grabs Dr. Einstein's necktie]
Jonathan Brewster: I've got thirteen!
Dr. Einstein: No, Johnny, twelve - don't brag.
Jonathan Brewster: Thirteen! There's Mr. Spinalzo and the first one in London, two in Johannesburg, one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, two in San Francisco, one in Phoenix, Arizona...
Dr. Einstein: Phoenix?
Jonathan Brewster: The filling station...
Dr. Einstein: Filling station? Oh!
[Slits throat]
Dr. Einstein: Yes.
Jonathan Brewster: Then three in Chicago and one in South Bend.
Dr. Einstein: You cannot count the one in South Bend. He died of pneumonia!
Jonathan Brewster: He wouldn't have died of pneumonia if I hadn't shot him!
Dr. Einstein: No, no, Johnny. You cannot count him. You got twelve, they got twelve. The old ladies is just as good as you are!

Mercy killing and sadistic torture-murder are part of the same family. Brilliant.