If you’re in the UK, you’ll call it Cluedo. If you’re in the US, you’ll call it Clue. The movie in question was made in the US, so Clue it is – both the title and the board game.
Most of us will have played the board game – Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs White, Colonel Mustard, Mrs Peacock and Reverend Green, all moving around the ground floor of a manor house, trying to work out ‘whodunnit?’
My dad, incidentally, could never play. He used to use all the little notes on the character cards that were just there to make it more interesting.
But I digress.
What a lot of people don’t know is that there is a film based on the board game.
Set in 1954, the film is based in a stereotypically creepy old manor house, during a dinner party. Six guests have been invited to attend, all of them greeted by Wadsworth the butler (played superbly by Tim Curry) by aliases – Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs White, Colonel Mustard, Mrs Peacock and Mr Green (the reverend was dropped).
They have no idea what they’re doing there, until the seventh guest, Mr Boddy (Lee Ving), arrives, and Wadsworth reveals that they are all victims of blackmail – thanks to Mr Boddy. The police are on their way, he explains, and if they tell all, Mr Boddy will be arrested and their troubles will be over.
But Mr Boddy has other plans. Gifting each of the six guests with a weapon (rope, gun, knife, lead pipe, candlestick and wrench), he reminds them that he will expose them all if it goes to court – but if one of them kills Wadsworth, no one will ever know their dirty little secrets.
The lights go off, there’s a scream and a gunshot – but when the lights come on again, it’s not Wadsworth who lies dead on the floor.
What follows is nothing less than hilarity as the six guests, aided by Wadsworth and Yvette (Colleen Camp), the maid, attempt to figure out who killed Mr Boddy and with what. With less than an hour before the police arrive, their own secrets threaten to come to light and their efforts are hindered by constant interruptions and the fact that more murders are then committed.
Was it sultry Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), who makes no secret of her work running a ‘specialised hotel and telephone service’, but who seems to have other things to hide?
Was it roguish Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), who was struck off from studying medicine after an affair with his patient?
Was it mysterious Mrs White (Madeline Khan), whose husband died under very mysterious circumstances?
Was it no-nonsense Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull,) who insists he came into money after the war to explain his expensive car?
Was it high-strung Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), accused of taking bribes for her husband’s votes?
Was it nervous Mr Green (Michael McKean), whose only ‘crime’ seems to be his sexuality and who constantly insists ‘I didn’t do it’?
Or was it someone else entirely? And is communism, indeed, just a ‘red herring’?
Uniquely, when Clue was released in theatres, it was pot-luck who the murderer was – there are three different endings to the film, each with a different culprit. On the DVD, you have a choice between watching the film with a randomly selected ending, or watching it with all three (separated by title screens reading ‘That’s what could have happened. But how about this?’ and ‘But here’s what really happened’).
Clue is not a deep movie, but it doesn’t need to be – this is a comedy, not a horror, and, frankly, a horror movie would not work.
The constant banter between the characters lightens the mood considerably, and the cast does wonders with the material they have – proving that the most important aspect of comedic acting is the timing.
The actual ‘revealing’ of the culprit – so often dry and repetitive – is played with such enthusiasm by Tim Curry that I often find that I don’t care ‘whodunnit’ – I’m laughing too hard as he drags the guests into miniature re-enactments – often without their consent. Mr Green seems to be his favourite target, and constantly finds himself pushed around without warning.
I would give this movie four out of five, but only because I always feel self-conscious about giving full marks to anything.
Roxanne Williams (off to rewatch for the hundredth time)
Clue is available on DVD on Amazon.