Short Reviews: Clue (1985)

Granted, there’s not a whole lot of competition in the field of movies based on board games, but even if Battleship hadn’t made its excruciating presence known, I’d still favour this as one of the best out there.

Clue is a 1985 film based on the boardgame of the same name, unless you’re Australian or English and know it better as Cluedo. Set during the height of the 1950s Red Peril, the story sees Tim Curry playing Wadsworth the butler as he oversees the gathering of a group of mysterious individuals, who he assigns the codenames we all know from the game. When their host Mr Boddy arrives, he reveals that they’re all being blackmailed, and blackmailed by him to boot. Soon enough, he’s been murdered. And while the party attempts to solve the mystery, the bodies keep on building up.

The film throws out the Agatha Christie-esque genre of its story, and instead opts for all-out farce. How much you as the viewer care for it depends on how funny you’re willing to find the film.

I enjoy it immensely, despite its slow beginnings. The ensemble cast play well off each other, and the absurdity of the story keeps on increasing until its now-infamous three endings. Tim Curry is on top form as Wadsworth, and the penultimate scene where he recreates everything that has happened up until that point in the movie by retracing every step at speed is a delight.

The movie was released in theatres with three potential endings depending on what cinema you went to, to mirror the game’s ability to always have a different conclusion (these were presented on the home release in sequence, with title cards separating the different version by announcing “this is how it might have happened” and “this is how it really happened”). Some critics at the time rejected the multiple endings, pointing out that the flexibility of the outcome means that the events that lead up to the ending don’t ultimately matter. I feel it prudent to point out exactly what sort of film they’ve been watching up until that point.

Clue never takes itself seriously, and although it might not be to everyone’s taste, it’s a great spoof of the murder-mystery genre with some fantastically entertaining performances. Curry is as good as you’d expect him to be, but the real highlights for me come from Madeline Kahn as the vituperative Mrs White and Eileen Brennan’s frantic Mrs Peacock. Christopher Lloyd is present too as Professor Plum, and Lesley Anne Warren clearly had a lot of fun playing the femme fatale-y Miss Scarlett.

It’s a campy, over the top and fun movie that I think got a bum rap on it’s release, but I’m glad to see it’s become something of a cult classic since. Highly recommended.


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