Clue the MovieClue: The Movie (1985)

Review by Kate Shaw


“Let’s make a movie based on a board game!” Yeah, cause that’s a good idea. Except it was. At least it was a good idea in 1985 when Paramount Pictures released this gem. Of course, that being said, Clue didn’t do terribly well when it was released, scrapping the production company’s plans for a series of board game movies. Alas, we’ll never know what a . . . delight? Monopoly would have been. Aside: Hollywood seemed to have figured that since Clue became such a cult classic that they would try again. Battleship did so poorly in 2013, Hasbro’s toy sales declined (possibly due to economic recession . . . or that movie).

While Clue didn’t make a lot of money in theatres in 1985, it has since become a wildly popular cult classic. This is not surprising, considering the witty banter, stunning set and costume work, and especially the perfection of the cast. Director Jonathan Lynn claims to have had final say in the casting and he did a bang-up job. Tim Curry delights (oh the crush I had) as the mild mannered butler with a past, Wadsworth. Madeline Kahn offers her standard comic genius . . . . who could forget her beautifully delivered adlib about flames on her face . . . to the role of Mrs. White. Michael McKean offers a perfect follow-up to his This is Spinal Tap role as the squarish Mr. Green. Added to that mix are wonderfully funny performances by Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Colleen Camp, and Lesley Ann Warren.

(Aside #2: Apparently, Warren was a last minute replacement when Carrie Fisher went into rehab. As much as I enjoy Miss Fisher, I think that Warren plays the seductive Miss Scarlet to perfection.)

Lovers of the board game will delight in the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle nods to the game. The hall floor mimics board game squares and writers/producers ensured that the secret passages in the film would lead to/from the same rooms as they do in the board game. The end credits show clue cards flipping to show the actors. Mr. Boddy is the victim from the board game and there’s even a line from Wadsworth exclaiming, “We’re trying to find out who killed him, and where, and with what!” brilliantly describing the entire premise of the board game.

Clue is unique for its multi-ending format too. When the film was distributed to theatres, patrons learned if they’d be seeing ending A, B, or C at their local movie house. I’m sure this was an attempt to make more money by having theatre goers go back to see the movie a second or third time to see all the endings. Thankfully, the DVD version (and my oft-watched VHS copy from childhood) offers all three endings back-to-back. In fact, many DVD versions offer viewers a chance to choose an ending or have one randomly chosen for them, yet another way to give the film a board-gamey feel.

I love this film. Love it. There was a period of time that my VCR was set to rewind and restart tapes automatically.  Clue was in that VCR for probably a year and a half straight. Did I understand the jokes? No, I most certainly not, but I still loved the movie. I’m old enough now to understand some of the innuendo and darker jokes. Therefore, my appreciation for the film has grown. It’s short enough to watch again and again and it remains my favorite sick day/snow day tradition.

I can’t recommend this film highly enough. Of course, you must go into it in the right frame of mind. You shouldn’t expect Academy Award perfection. Just expect a fun, sometimes surprising, sometimes dark, sometimes silly (obligatory poop joke included) romp in 1950s New England. It’s not Schindler’s List. I mean, really, it is based on a board game.

The writing is snappy, the performances the perfect level of campy, and the music is perfection from the Crew Cuts Sh-Boom to the dark and ominous score. If you’ve never seen Clue, you’re missing out. If you have seen it, but it’s been a while, Clue is always worth a re-watch. Finally, remember, Communism just may be a red herring.

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About the reviewer: Kate Shaw watches Clue so often that she can recite pretty much the whole thing. She also still loves anything with Tim Curry. She is often found providing computer & ereader tutorials or bugging staff at the libraries to write reviews for this website.