Sometimes, movies will stick with you for the strangest reasons. Whether it be because of a quirk of the plot, the performance (good or bad) of one of the cast, or the simple presence of Tim Curry (admit it, he’s someone that generally sticks), there is just something about the film that keeps coming back from the recesses of your mind. Of course, it helps when something else makes pays homage to the original incarnation, which is exactly what this week’s movie is about. I’ve just caught the Psych episode “100 Clues”, because I’ve been watching the show on DVD when I get around to it, and it brought Clue back to my mind. Not a difficult task, really, as, like I said, there’s just something that makes certain movies stick around, and Clue is one that sticks for me.
First and foremost, yes, this is a movie adaptation of a classic board game. However, before you write it off as having nothing to do with the game in question (I’m looking at you, Battleship), realize that the movie Clue is actually a pretty decent crime caper, revolving around murder, just like the game. Heck, the movie even takes the time to explain why all of the characters are in the mansion in the first place. The owner of the mansion, Mr. Boddy (a bit prophetic of a name) has been blackmailing everyone involved, and his butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry) is trying to get everyone to team up, and report the blackmail to the police. The guests are the well-known Clue characters, Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), and Ms. Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren). Of course, that’s not all, as, aside from Wadsworth the butle things (butle is the correct verb for what a butler does, right?), there’s the maid, Yvette (Colleen Camp, in what appears to be a gravity-defying costume). The action takes place in the mid-1950s, against a backdrop of McCarthyism, and all of the characters are desperate to keep their secrets from being leaked out. Naturally, when Mr. Boddy is found dead, it becomes a spirited game of trying to figure out who killed who, with each guest trying to plant the blame squarely on someone else.
The film acts as both a bit of an ensemble piece (looking at the some of the powerhouses cast, it couldn’t really be avoided), while being madcap, a little slapstick, and definitely invoking elements of three-door comedies. From the moment that Boddy’s body is revealed, the action barely lets up. Over the course of the night, more murders are committed, all leading up to the final reveals, as there are, of course, accusations of “It was (insert character name here), in the (insert location here), with the (insert deadly weapon here)”. All in all, the movie is able to stand as a darker comedy set around murder and mistakes, while also playing with the game that it’s based on.
If anything, it’s the endings that really made this movie a bit trickier for audiences to absorb. When it first came out in theaters, audiences couldn’t possibly be sure which of the three endings they were seeing. To make matters worse, people were generally led to believe that the endings varied from showtime to showtime, when, in truth, they were entirely based on which theater you went to. What was potentially meant to be a fun little marketing tool to help promote the movie ended up backfiring a bit, because audiences didn’t want to see the same film multiple times just to see the multiple endings, or, alternately, they didn’t want to see it at all, because they might miss out on the one true ending of the film. Mind you, each ending actually does stand alone, and works to resolve the plot points of the film.
One of the reasons why Clue has stuck around, even after not being treated well upon initial release, was the concept of home video, which not only gave people an opportunity to see something they missed out on in theaters, but, with a film like Clue, allowed audiences to see ALL of the endings in one sitting. This was taken a step further in DVD, where an option existed to watch the film with an ending picked at random. Ultimately, I do believe that Ending C is probably the best, and truest to the concept of the film, as each character (with the exception of Mr. Green) has murdered one other person in cold blood during the course of the night. It is a bit convoluted, but, really, who hasn’t played a game of Clue where they’ve imagined that all of the characters are there to cover for their own crime, and only one person is going to get caught in the long run?
Even with all that, I’m still not entirely sure what it is about Clue that sticks with me. Maybe it’s the cast, and the performances there-in. Maybe it’s the comedic way of handling a murder movie, taking a loving poke at that particular genre (I do love spoofs, parodies, and gentle satires). Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that, deep down, I know I’m a sucker for every single “cult classic” movie I’ve ever seen, and I want to see them brought to wider audiences.
Or maybe it’s just Madeline Kahn talking about flames. That bit never gets old to me.
Do you have a movie you’d like to see me talk about? If so, leave a comment, and, if I’ve seen it, I’ll give it a shot!