“That’s what we’re trying to find out! We’re trying to find out who killed him, and where and with what!”
Since 1949 people have been trying to figure out the answer to that particular mystery as they played the board game Clue. In 1985 though the “who, where and with what?” took on a whole different meaning, long before it was cool to release a board game as a movie, Paramount Pictures did just that, and the chose “Clue” as their vehicle. Unlike a game with pegs that serve as hits on a battleship, Clue made sense to make as a movie, I mean at the heart of it it’s a “whodunit”. Now take that set it in post World War II and a screenplay co-written by John Landis (The Blues Brothers) and you got the making of something that is great, except no one showed up to see it. Maybe they were all seeing “Rocky IV” for the fifth time.
Before the home video market, a movie like this would have just disappeared in the ashes along with the other box-office failures, but somewhere along the line, “Clue” found its audience and became a “cult classic”. If you are not familiar with the film it is easy to describe. In a mysterious mansion during a crazy rain storm serves as a host to a dinner, where the guests have been summoned to talk about something they all have in common. The guests are given aliases to hide their true identities, with only their host knowing who they really are. You have Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Mr. Green (Michael McKean) and Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), and to start the film they are all in the dinning room. The butler who greets them is Wadsworth (Tim Curry), who works for a man named Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving), who may or may not be the man who is blackmailing the entire guest list. When Mr. Boddy ends up dead, the mad-cap search begins for the culprit, as the guests spend the rest of the night trying to survive as more murders begin to pop up.
Turing a board game into a movie seems like a difficult task to undertake, turning it into a great movie seems next to impossible with what we have been given so far, but those filmmakers don’t have a clue (pun intended) on how to make an entertaining movie. The secret weapon of this films can be summed up by one actor. Tim Curry. He gives what might be his best performance as a man. Bouncing off comics like Mull, Lloyd, and the brilliant Madeline Kahn, it’s like watching that thing your chemistry teacher told you about happens when the mixture is just right. You get to see a lesson in perfect comic timing, an explanation of murders that would make Sherlock Holmes jealous, and to do something completely original and true to the game, the filmmakers filmed three different endings, and you as the viewer would not know what ending you would see in theaters. Nobody in Hollywood would attempt that nowadays. But in 1985, pure unappreciated genius.
Movies are a lot like love, and when the movie cupid hits you with an arrow it is hard to turn away. I feel right in love with “Clue” and knowing so many got it eventually fills me with joy. It’s been thirty years since this film first came out, and it still holds up. So if you love this movie like me, you can’t wait to watch it again for thirty more.