Clue (1985)
March 14, 2016 7:02 PM - Subscribe

In arguably the finest movie based on a board game, six guests are invited to a strange house, only to find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery where everyboddy is either a victim or suspect.

Reviews were awful, proving that Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin were humorless idiots:

Roger Ebert: "Clue" is a comedy whodunit that is being distributed with three different endings, which is sort of silly, since it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference who did it. That makes the movie a lot like the board game which inspired it, where it didn't make any difference either, since you could always play another game.

NYTimes: Production notes for the film reveal that Jonathan Lynn, its writer and director, screened Howard Hawks's ''His Girl Friday'' for the actors in order to help set the mood. This cannot help but have discouraged all concerned, since there is so little genuine wit to be found in ''Clue.'' The film does have a speedy pace, but that could hardly be confused with Mr. Hawks's madcap humor; instead, it involves a lot of running around through secret passages, and some slapstick routines involving dead bodies. The actors are meant to function as an ensemble, but that merely means that they often repeat the same line simultaneously.

But those reviews were just a red herring, as appreciation for the movie grew over time:

Hitfix: More importantly, it's one of the few ensemble comedies where the women rule, get all the best lines, and routinely put the men in their place without ever having to sleep with them. You come away from "Clue" exalting Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), and Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White) and thanking their gentlemen costars for not disrupting their rancor. Peacock, Scarlet, and White are femme fatales who'd rather scowl and crack jokes than entice anybody. Why should they be interested in these specimens? The movie's lone lascivious male, Professor Plum, is harangued for his disgusting lechery.

AV Club: The multiple-endings gimmick got so much attention as a novelty that critics seemed to miss its significance. Now that they’re all collected on DVD, where viewers can watch the endings one after another, it’s clearer that Lynn and Landis were commenting on the arbitrary nature of whodunits. While it’s a fun parlor game for readers or watchers of whodunits to play sleuth and peg the culprit before the big reveal, Clue goofs on the dirty little secret of many whodunits: The “who” could be just about anyone. In spite of the wealth of information that accumulates before the final act, Clue’s creators want the audience to know they could end it however they please, whether it’s one diabolical mastermind behind the whole thing, or a different person for each murder. If you figure out a whodunit, the film implies, you’re lucky rather than good.

Daily Dead: He may not have recognized it initially but Lynn ended up bringing together one of greatest comedic collectives in cinema with Clue, each actor being masters of timing and delivery- both verbally and physically- that all sparked when brought together with an infectious energy and shared chemistry that elevated Lynn’s ingenious script.


Why 'Clue' is probably the funniest movie you've never seen

Why 'Clue' is the best Christopher Lloyd comedy of 1985

How well do you remember the movie? Take our quiz

The perfect murder: Clue's infamous fourth ending

Clue endings explained

Artwork based on the movie 'Clue'

Trailer

Flames on the side of my face

I am your singing telegram

One plus two plus two plus one

I don't know what the fuck this is, but it makes me weep

Previously, on the blue
posted by MoonOrb (41 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Still one of my favourite comedies of all time. I still laugh every time. But it does seem to be one of those films that people either love and have watched a thousand times... or they've never heard of it. What an absolutely stellar cast.

I knew there was talk of another Clue film, but that IMDB page is so weird. There are screenwriters credited but no director - and a full cast? Methinks someone has invented this. Especially since it seems like a literal remake, when I thought all the talk was to make a film based on the "board game" not a remake of the original film. ie. it lists Wadsworth and Yvette, but those are only characters from the film.
posted by crossoverman at 7:14 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is up there with Ghostbusters in terms of films I was a huge fan of as a child, then saw as an adult and discovered so much more to love. Look at this amazing ensemble of comedic actors at the top of their game! Thrill to the great red scare jokes! Watch Lee Ving play exactly the sort of creepy dick everybody who knows him says he is in real life! Clue brings together a great script with an amazing cast, and I know several people who will respond to learning that somebody hasn't seen it by immediately screening it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:15 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Everything about this movie is fantastic. If I had to choose (don't make me choose) Clue would outrank Back to the Future, Real Genius, and Little Shop of Horrors as my favorite movie from the 80s and possibly of all time.
More importantly, it's one of the few ensemble comedies where the women rule, get all the best lines, and routinely put the men in their place without ever having to sleep with them.
Yes! I never thought to articulate it that way, but the women are all badasses and they remain so through all three endings. No one gets "put in her place" or forced into a romantic "happy ending".

The theory about "box office was bad because people didn't know which ending they'd see" doesn't hold up, though, because our newspaper (and apparently others) ran ads indicating which theaters/times you could see ending A, B, or C. They might still have been pissed at having to buy multiple tickets to rewatch the 1st 80 minutes...
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I must see this! Thank you!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:19 PM on March 14, 2016


One of my greatest joys in life is that I can walk into a gay bar anywhere in the world and find guys who can quote the entirety of this movie.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:03 PM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


this movie was a gay shibboleth for a while.

Like you could RELIABLY find queer people by just shouting FLAMES! ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE!


We all watched it and then we all read those weird tie in books where they just kind of hung out at the mansions solving crimes?

Anyway! The whole movie is a queer generational touchstone. I watch it once a year despite being able to recite it backwards and fowards.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 PM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


But YEAH if anything is CAMP and in the tradition of those screwball 30s comedies (of which I have seen a MILLION of) it's this movie.

Like I think if you actually released it when the movie was set (and I guess cutting out the gay stuff) like no one would bat an eye.

But I think my experience with it was pretty universal. I saw it on a random VHS or on TV and I became OBSESSED with the arch, camp, super gayish retro vibe of it all and NO ONE ELSE KNEW WHAT THE HELL I WAS TALKING ABOUT so you could feel like you where the ONLY ONE WHO KNEW ABOUT THE MOVIE
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 PM on March 14, 2016


I saw ending C in the theater and later when I saw all three endings I felt ridiculously special, as if I had seen the real ending and was somehow part of some select club.

This was shown in a (is a theatre that shows lots of things from the 1980s a revival house? that makes me feel old) revivalish place here a few months ago, so I got to see it in a theater again for the first time since I was 9 or 10. I think I made a similar comment on the thread linked here from the FPP, but I seriously was surprised when I found out that this was not widely regarded as one of the great comedies of its generation. I still watch this at least once a year.

If the dialogue from this movie were taken away from my wife and I we'd have a lot less to say to each other.

Tim Curry was a comic tour de force in this film. His manic running around at the end is amazing.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:30 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


This movie is SO GOOD! I love it so much! I went through a period of time a few years ago where most weekends I'd get pretty drunk either at home or at a bar and then stay up and watch Clue after everyone went to bed (NB they largely went to bed because they were like "Seriously, you're watching Clue AGAIN? How many times can one person watch that movie?" and the answer is "ALL the times."). It's just so fun and watchable and quotable! What a delightful movie it is!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:45 AM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the subtle things that I have enjoyed over multiple viewings is the way that it really does incorporate the concepts and gameplay of the board game into the movie. The splitting up to search different rooms, the secret passages, the "who where and with what" accusations, etc. Clue takes a lot of flak for being a board game adaptation, but against all odds it manages to be a somewhat faithful board game adaptation while still being an enjoyable movie (Battleship, I'm looking in your direction).
posted by Rock Steady at 5:51 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


The theory about "box office was bad because people didn't know which ending they'd see" doesn't hold up, though, because our newspaper (and apparently others) ran ads indicating which theaters/times you could see ending A, B, or C.

Also, that's true, but I don't think they did that originally, I think it was only after the movie had been out a while and people wanted to see the endings they hadn't seen before? Also, don't forget that people in those days often just showed up to the theater around 7:00 to see what was playing without necessarily checking the paper beforehand. Or maybe that was just me and my friends/family?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:55 AM on March 15, 2016


This is one of those movies where, every once in a while I find out a friend of mine hasn't seen it. And then I make them see it. And then they're like, "holy shit, how did I not see this years ago?!".

Tim Curry is goddamn amazing in this movie -- which is not to say the rest of the cast isn't great (they are!), but, good lord, Tim.

(to this day, it's common in some of my friend groups, if confused, to simply utter: "one plus one plus two plus one ...")
posted by tocts at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Absolutely one of my favourite movies and I had quite the crush on Tim Curry as Wadsworth as a child.
posted by Kitteh at 7:15 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


We enjoyed the game, just as much as the movie in my childhood household. Back in the (insert 'good ol' days' old man voice), the idea that there were multiple endings floating out there in various movie theaters was simply incredible to my young mind. I could only wonder what the other endings were and so on.

The music of the film worked perfectly to underline the hijinks and the comedy of murder.

Also, I always felt horrible for the outsiders killed, such as the police officer or the singing telegram girl.
posted by Atreides at 8:19 AM on March 15, 2016


My kid will quote FLAMES when something frustrates her. We love this movie.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:26 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Love this movie. I need to watch it again. I don't think I've seen it since college. The pacing, jokes, delivery, aesthetic of this movie are right up my various alleys.

If you like this check out the Psych episode 100 Clues. It's got Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, and Martin Mull among others. I don't think you can call it a parody. It's an homage I guess. I like Psych a lot, but I think even if you don't, there's enough crossover here if you're into Clue.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:24 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyway, fun fact, the same writing team that came up with the scathingly witty "Yes, Minister" BBC series also did this movie and it shows (also John Landis?)
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 AM on March 15, 2016


(If I ever have to date again I'm calling myself a Wadsworth with Mrs. White tendencies)
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm just here because I love this movie.
posted by phunniemee at 9:30 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I will always point to "ANOTHER door?!?" *shower head sprays* as a perfect example of physical comedy.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:35 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of my greatest joys in life is that I can walk into a gay bar anywhere in the world and find guys who can quote the entirety of this movie.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:03 AM on March 15 ]

this movie was a gay shibboleth for a while.
Like you could RELIABLY find queer people by just shouting FLAMES! ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE!
...
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 AM on March 15


I'm fairly sure that roger ackroyd introduced me to this movie in high school, so seeing these two comments back-to-back pleases me more than you can imagine.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:35 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


*smashes wine glass against the fireplace * can someone please tell me what is GOING ON HERE
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


(For the comic novel I'm working on I decided to reorient for tone with some readings and a marathon viewing of who framed roger rabbit, little shop of horrors, and ...clue. The great 80s queer kid canon)
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on March 15, 2016


If you like "Clue" and haven't seen Murder By Death, do yourself a favor...
posted by Clustercuss at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


As a side note, for some reason my parents bought the Clue VCR Mystery Game when I was a kid. I don't think we played it even once, and it was totally baffling looking at the rulebook and artifacts. I do, however, have fond memories of watching the completely ridiculous VHS tape that came with it (scenes all out of order).

It's not Clue, to be sure, but there's something "so bad it's good" about it. At least, that's how I remember it.
posted by tocts at 10:20 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Clue might not be the best movie of all time (MIGHT) but if you tell me you know of a better final line I'll call you a liar to your face.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Agree with Clustercuss. Murder by Death has such a crazy cast: Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Falk, Truman Capote (!). Also Eileen Brennan is in both.
posted by juv3nal at 12:46 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Capote as the mysterious millionaire and murder victim definitely trumps Lee Ving.

(Plus it's not up to the level of Clue, but "killed good weekend!" is no slouch.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:59 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Once I grew some stones I discovered that if I were in a group of people that I thought might become my people, I could belt out " Dah duh Dah duh DAH DUH " and get a response of "I. AM. Your singing tele-GRAM" to better suss them out.
Best icebreaker ever.
posted by jacy at 7:23 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I cherish this movie to bits. I too have forced people to watch it, and they always love it, and I am always smug.

"He was always a rather stupidly optimistic man. I mean, I'm afraid it came as a great shock to him when he died."

Madeline Kahn's performance is a glorious education in the perfect deadpan.
posted by angeline at 9:55 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


. His manic running around at the end is amazing.

My favourite part of the film!
posted by smoke at 2:45 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


In some sort of frequency mapping of things I say far too often, "FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE" is probably way up there in the rankings. Oh, this lovely, glorious movie.
posted by Stacey at 5:50 AM on March 16, 2016


"Oh Mrs. Peacock? - The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Buzzfeed updated with quotes from Curry.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Man, Cartie Fisher was the first choice for for Ms. Scarlett can you IMAGINE
posted by The Whelk at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Carrie Fisher would have been hysterical. But Lesley Ann Warren was really fantastic and I just love her in this.

The last time I watched, I finally noticed the clever joke in the women's costumes: Each character wears the color opposite/complement to her name. Mrs. White wears black, Miss Scarlet is in deep green, Mrs. Peacock is dressed in a sickly golden hue.
posted by mochapickle at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


"I butle, sir."
 
posted by Herodios at 11:02 AM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Please.

Communism is a red herring
posted by schmod at 8:43 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not the cognac, just in case!
posted by harriet vane at 2:21 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm attending an expensive! Clue-based dinner at a fancy hotel this Saturday and they have a STRICT DRESS CODE where you have to be close to the characters and this is my Professor Plum
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]




Recently went to a Clue screening/LGBT benefit at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery hosted by the one and only Lesley Ann Warren, who shared a few happy memories including this very imporant piece of costuming information: Miss Scarlet had three identical dresses, two of which were too restrictive for anything besides baby steps and one that had a stealth side-zipper for running scenes.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:09 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


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