To answer your question, yes. For this week, I am reviewing an old movie. But this isn’t any ordinary movie. This is Clue, which was released way back in 1985. This is a movie based on the classic Parker Brothers board game featuring characters with names based on colors. This is a film that barely made it’s budget back during its theatrical run and received middling reviews when it was released more than three and a half decades ago.
All of the above is true but there is one fact that stands all above them. And that fact is Clue is of the best cult classic movies of all time.
If you played the Parker Bros. board game or have watched any classic whodunnit film before, you already know the basic gist of Clue. Several people who have a dark secret to hide are invited to an isolated mansion and someone is murdered. This makes everyone a suspect and the idea is to find out who the killer is. However, unlike every other classic murder mystery you’ve seen, Clue is actually a black comedy, featuring some of the best acting and line delivery I have ever seen.
Clue has one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled in one movie, with everyone carrying their own weight when it comes to delivering the hilarity. Martin Mull is great as the hapless and boorish Colonel Mustard. Michael McKean is simply fabulous as the high-strung Mr. Green. Madeline Khan’s deadpan delivery as Mrs. White is iconic. Christopher Lloyd’s subtle sliminess as Professor Plum is great. Lesley Ann Warren exudes hotness as Miss Scarlet. And Eileen Brennan as the social Mrs. Peacock is extremely memorable. Even Coleen Camp’s Yvette the Maid, the soon-to-be-deceased Mr. Boddy and even The Cook play small roles but work well enough with what they’re given.
The star of Clue is, hands-down, Tim Curry as Wadsworth, the butler. When I watched this film as a kid, I didn’t know who Tim Curry was but, by the time the film ended, I wanted to know what other films he was in! There’s just something very enigmatic about Tim Curry’s performance here (and, frankly, every other film he’s been in) that’s incredibly memorable but not something I can put my finger on. It’s just part of the magic that makes Tim Curry Tim Curry and it simply makes Wadsworth stand out.
However, while everyone is great in their role, what makes Clue’s cast stand out is how everyone just works well with each other. The chemistry between everyone is untouchable and near perfection. The way everyone manages to bounce their lines between each other with perfect comedic timing is outstanding! The amount of physical comedy also is perfectly executed. What makes it even more astounding is, from what I understand, each and every line was scripted! There was hardly anyone ad libbing throughout Clue’s breezy 93-minute runtime. This just goes to show you how funny the script is and how great the actors were as they were able to make each and every line sound incredibly natural and funny when they needed to do so.
This does segue nicely into my thought’s on Clue’s script. While the dialog is all brilliantly written, the actual story and the murder mystery does have a lot of problems. The start of the film is rather slow as this is the point of time where Clue introduces the main characters and does come off as a little to deadpan. It’s also here where the jokes are the weakest but things do pick up immediately once the body of Mr. Boddy drops.
Everyone does have a motive and opportunity for the first murder but things start to get really murky once the bodies start piling up. There is an attempt to connect the victims to the main players as well but they’re surface level at best. It’s also really hard to determine who had the opportunity to off who as they’re so much going on. There also aren’t any concrete clues a regular whodunnit would typically have. If you’re trying to actually figure out who the murderer is, you’re ultimately just guessing. It certainly doesn’t help that Clue has three different endings so, even if you do deduce who did the murders, there are two other endings that will prove you wrong.
Yes, Clue actually has three endings and, from what I understand, each theater only got one ending in an attempt to get people to re-watch the film at a different cinema in order to see the alternative reveals. Thank God the home release of the film has all the three endings because I wouldn’t want to buy three home videos just to get them all! It was a clever ruse but, honestly, the first two resolutions feel kind of empty and full of plot holes. Even the third ending, which comes off as the true ending thanks to the “But here’s what really happened…” blurb that pops up before its shown also has some inconsistencies that are hard to swallow. Basically, if you’re going to treat Clue as a serious murder mystery, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
I do have to also comment on the set and costume design. It’s obvious this wasn’t shot in a real mansion but a set of sound stages. It does make Clue look less grand, especially by today’s standards, but fits well with the time period it’s supposed to be set in. The layout of the mansion does seem to copy the board game rather faithfully, which makes some of the ways the rooms are supposed to be connected to each other impossible but that’s to be expected, I guess. I do love the costume designs for everyone. All the males are just in suits, which is just fine. However, the women have some incredibly stylish outfits on. I also will have to say, when I watched this as a kid, I had a crush on Miss Scarlet because she looked really sexy and sultry in that green dress. I do wish they had something on them to to signify their color, though. I mean, Colonel Mustard has a brown suit and not a yellow one? Come on, costume department!
I can sort of understand why Clue didn’t get good reviews when it came out. Most reviewers probably came in thinking it would be a homage to classic whodunnits by Agatha Christie and the like. The thought it would be a straightforward and serious murder mystery. But Clue is not a serious murder mystery. The whodunnit is just the setup for a great comedy film. Sure, it’s one with murder and scandal but it’s still a comedy. It’s a brilliant and hilarious comedy with some of the best acting, especially from Tim Curry, and some of the most quotable lines ever in a movie. I wholeheartedly recommend you watch Clue if you get the chance as it’s definitely a cult classic that deserves its status.
Oh, and, Hollywood, if you’re reading this, never ever try to remake Clue. You can’t improve on perfection.
Have you seen Clue? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!