Clue is a 1985 American black comedy mystery film based on the board game of the same name. Directed by Jonathan Lynn, who co-wrote the script with John Landis, and produced by Debra Hill, it stars the ensemble cast of Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren, with Colleen Camp and Lee Ving in supporting roles.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Lynn
Screenplay byJonathan Lynn
Story by
Based onCluedo
by Anthony E. Pratt
Produced byDebra Hill
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited by
Music byJohn Morris
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$14.6 million

Inspired by the nature of the board game, the film has multiple different endings: originally screening one of three possibilities at different theaters, home media releases include all three endings. The film initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, grossing $14.6 million in the United States against its budget of $15 million,[2] but later developed a considerable cult following.[3][4]

Plot edit

In 1954, six strangers are invited to a secluded New England mansion. Greeted by the butler Wadsworth and the maid Yvette, each guest receives a pseudonym to maintain confidentiality: "Colonel Mustard", "Mrs. White", "Mrs. Peacock", "Mr. Green", "Professor Plum", and "Miss Scarlet". During dinner, they discover they all hold government influence before being joined by Mr. Boddy, who has been blackmailing everyone for some time. Wadsworth has called the police to arrest Boddy, but Boddy threatens to expose everyone's secrets if they turn him in. He then presents the six guests with weapons — a candlestick, rope, lead pipe, wrench, revolver, and dagger — and suggests someone kill Wadsworth to protect their secrets before turning out the lights. After a gunshot rings out, Boddy is found on the floor, seemingly dead.

As the guests investigate Boddy's death, Wadsworth explains how he became indentured to Boddy and summoned the guests, hoping to force a confession from Boddy and turn him over to the police. As the group suspect the cook, only to find she was fatally stabbed with the dagger, someone discovers Boddy is alive before killing him with the candlestick. Wadsworth locks the weapons in a cupboard, but before he can throw away the key, a stranded motorist arrives and Wadsworth locks him in the lounge before throwing a key out the front door. The group draw lots to pair up before searching the manor. However, someone burns the blackmail evidence, unlocks the cupboard, and kills the motorist with the wrench. Discovering a secret passage, Mustard and Scarlet find themselves locked in the lounge with the motorist's corpse. When they scream for help, Yvette shoots the door open with the revolver. The group deduce that Wadsworth threw out the wrong key and the murderer pickpocketed the cupboard key from him.

A cop investigating the motorist's abandoned car arrives to use the phone. The mansion receives a call from FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, which Wadsworth takes alone. After successfully distracting the cop and concealing the bodies, the group resumes their search until someone turns off the electricity. In the darkness, Yvette, the cop, and an arriving singing telegram girl are murdered with the rope, pipe, and revolver, respectively. Wadsworth restores the power and gathers the group, having deduced what happened. Recreating the night's events and amidst a brief interruption from an evangelist, he explains how the other five victims were Boddy's informants who are each connected to one of the guests, which dovetails into one of three possible outcomes.

Ending A: "How It Could Have Happened" edit

Yvette murdered the cook and Boddy under orders from Scarlet, who then killed her and the other victims. Intending to sell the guests' secrets, Scarlet prepares to use the revolver to kill Wadsworth, who argues there are no bullets left before disarming her just as law enforcement raid the manor and the evangelist is revealed to be the chief of police. Wadsworth further reveals he is an undercover FBI agent before accidentally firing the last bullet in the revolver at a chandelier, which narrowly misses Mustard as it falls.

Ending B: "How About This?" edit

Peacock killed all the victims to prevent her exposure for taking bribes from foreign powers before holding the others at gunpoint to escape. To the others' confused relief, Wadsworth reveals he is an undercover FBI agent. Peacock is arrested outside before law enforcement raid the manor and the evangelist is revealed to be the chief of police.

Ending C: "Here's What Really Happened" edit

Apart from Green, everyone committed one murder — Peacock killed the cook, Plum killed Boddy, Mustard killed the motorist, Scarlet killed the cop, White killed Yvette, and Wadsworth killed the singing telegram. Holding the guests at gunpoint, Wadsworth then reveals he is the real Boddy, Plum killed the real butler, and announces his intent to continue blackmailing them until Green draws his own revolver and kills him. Green further reveals he is an undercover FBI agent sent to investigate Boddy before letting in law enforcement and the evangelist, the chief of police, to arrest everyone.

Cast edit

Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Wadsworth (Tim Curry), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan)

Additionally, Howard Hesseman makes an uncredited appearance as the Chief of Police who works undercover as an evangelist.

Production edit

Development edit

Producer Debra Hill initially acquired the rights to adapt the game from Parker Brothers and intended to distribute through Universal Pictures.[5] As early as 1981 Hill mentioned plans to adapt the game into a movie, with P. D. James reported to be writing the screenplay with multiple endings.[6]

Screenplay edit

The multiple-endings were developed by John Landis, who had initially been set to direct, and who claimed in an interview to have invited playwright Tom Stoppard, writer and composer Stephen Sondheim, and actor Anthony Perkins to write the screenplay. The script was ultimately finished by Jonathan Lynn, who was invited to direct as a result.[3][5]

Scrapped ending edit

A fourth ending was filmed, but Lynn removed it because, he later said, "It really wasn't very good. I looked at it, and I thought, 'No, no, no, we've got to get rid of that.'"[7] In that ending, Wadsworth committed all the murders. He was motivated by his desire for perfection. Having failed to be either the perfect husband or the perfect butler, he decided to be the perfect murderer instead. Wadsworth reports that he poisoned the champagne the guests drank so they would soon die, leaving no witnesses. The police and the FBI arrive and Wadsworth is arrested. He breaks free and steals a police car, but his escape is thwarted when three police dogs lunge from the back seat. This ending is documented in Clue: The Storybook, a tie-in book released in conjunction with the film.[8]

Casting edit

Carrie Fisher was originally cast to portray Miss Scarlet, but withdrew to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction; she was replaced with Lesley Ann Warren.[9][10] Jonathan Lynn's first choice for Wadsworth was Leonard Rossiter, but he died before filming commenced.[11] The second choice was Rowan Atkinson, but it was decided that he was not sufficiently well known at the time, so Tim Curry was cast.[11] The entire cast received the same salary and billing, despite their different levels of notability at the time.[5]

Filming edit

Clue was filmed on sound stages 17 and 18 at the Paramount Pictures film studios in Hollywood.[12] The set design is credited to Les Gobruegge, Gene Nollmanwas, and William B. Majorand, with set decoration by Thomas L. Roysden.[13][better source needed] To decorate the interior sets, authentic 18th- and 19th-century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt.[14] After completion, the set was bought by the producers of Dynasty, who used it as the fictional hotel The Carlton.

All interior scenes were filmed at the Paramount lot, except the ballroom scene. The ballroom, as well two driveway exteriors, were filmed on location at a mansion in South Pasadena, California. This site was destroyed in a fire on October 5, 2005.[15] The driveway and fountain were recreated on the Paramount lot and used for most shots, including the guests' arrivals. Exterior shots of the South Pasadena mansion were enhanced with matte paintings to make the house appear much larger; these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton in consultation with Albert Whitlock.

Jonathan Lynn screened His Girl Friday for the cast as inspiration for how to deliver their lines.[5] Madeline Kahn improvised Mrs. White's famous "flames" speech.[3]

Release edit

The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. Each theater received one of the three endings, and some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see.[16]

Novelizations edit

The novelization is by Michael McDowell, based on the screenplay. Landis, Lynn, and Ann Matthews wrote a children's adaptation, Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook. Both adaptations were published in 1985, and differ from the film in that they feature a fourth ending cut from the film.[17] In this ending, Wadsworth says that he killed Boddy as well as the other victims, and then reveals to the guests that he has poisoned them all so that there will be no witnesses and he will have committed the perfect crime. As he runs through the house to disable the phones and lock the doors, the chief of police – who had been posing as an evangelist – returns, followed by the police, who disarm Wadsworth. Wadsworth then repeats the confession he gave the guests, physically acting out each scene himself. When he arrives at the part about meeting Colonel Mustard at the door, he steps through the door, closes it, and locks it, leaving all the guests trapped inside. The police and guests escape through a window while Wadsworth attempts to make a getaway in a police car, only to hear the growling of a Dobermann from the back seat.[18][19]

Home media edit

The film was released to home video for both VHS and Betamax videocassette formats in Canada and the United States on August 20, 1986, and to other countries on February 11, 1991.[20] It was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment in June 17, 2000,[21] and on Blu-ray by Paramount Home Media Distribution on August 7, 2012.[22]

On December 12, 2023, Shout! Factory released a 4K UHD Blu-ray collector's edition of Clue. It includes new interviews with director Jonathan Lynn and production manager Jeffrey Chernov.[23]

The home video, television broadcasts, and on-demand streaming by services such as Netflix include all three endings shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings but the third (Ending C) being the only true one. All Blu-ray and DVD versions offer viewers the option to watch the endings separately (chosen randomly by the player), as well as the "home entertainment version" ending with all three of them stitched together.[24]

Soundtrack edit

In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris's score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.[25] In 2015, for the film's 30th anniversary, Mondo issued a limited-edition vinyl pressed on six different colored 180 Gram Vinyl colors for each of the suspects.[26]

Stage adaptations edit

The screenplay for the film was adapted for stage performances in 2017 by the original screenwriter Jonathan Lynn.[27][28] Clue: On Stage premiered in 2017 at Bucks County Playhouse, adapted by Hunter Foster with additional material by Eric Price. It was directed by Foster and starred Sally Struthers and Erin Dilly.[29] A revised adaptation by Sandy Rustin, incorporating material from Foster and Price, was first performed in 2020. Juan Ramirez described a performance of Rustin's adaptation as "a welcome throwback to an era of physical comedy".[30] The stage adaptations have been performed widely.[31] A national tour of the mystery-comedy play launched in 2024, directed by Casey Hushion.[32][33]

Reception edit

Critical response edit

The film initially received mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times panned it, writing that the beginning "is the only part of the film that is remotely engaging. After that, it begins to drag".[34] Similarly, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, writing, "Clue offers a few big laughs early on followed by a lot of characters running around on a treadmill to nowhere."[35] Siskel particularly criticized the decision to release the film to theaters with three separate endings, calling it a "gimmick" that would distract audiences from the rest of the film, and concluding, "Clue is a movie that needs three different middles rather than three different endings."[35]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, writing that it has a "promising" cast but the "screenplay is so very, very thin that [the actors] spend most of their time looking frustrated, as if they'd just been cut off right before they were about to say something interesting."[16] On Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, both agreed that the "A" ending was the best while the "C" ending was the worst.[36]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 71% based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "A robust ensemble of game actors elevate Clue above its schematic source material, but this farce's reliance on novelty over organic wit makes its entertainment value a roll of the dice."[21] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 41 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[37]

Box office edit

Clue has grossed $14.6 million in North America, just short of its $15 million budget.[2]

Remake edit

Universal Studios announced in 2011 that a new film based on the game was being developed. The film was initially dropped,[38] then resumed as Hasbro teamed up with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct.[39]

In August 2016, The Tracking Board reported that Hasbro had landed at 20th Century Fox with Josh Feldman producing for Hasbro, Ryan Jones serving as the executive producer and Daria Cercek overseeing the project. The film was to be a "worldwide mystery" with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally.[40] Ryan Reynolds established a three-year first-look deal with 20th Century Fox in January 2018, planning to star in the remake, with a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.[41] Jason Bateman was in talks to direct and star in the film in September 2019, but was rejected shortly after.[42] James Bobin was in talks to direct the film in February 2020.[43] Oren Uziel was hired to rewrite the script in August 2022.[44]

Hasbro sought a new rights deal for a Clue film in February 2024.[45]

In other media edit

  • The 2010 Family Guy episode "And Then There Were Fewer" parodies Clue alongside elements of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
  • The 2011 Adventure Time episode "The Creeps" sees Finn and company as guests to a mysterious masquerade hosted by a homicidal ghost in a spoof of the film.
  • The 2012 CSI: NY episode "Clue: SI" makes several references to the film and game.
  • The 2013 Psych episode "100 Clues" features Clue stars Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and Lesley Ann Warren as suspects in a series of murders at a mansion. The episode, in addition to many jokes and themes in homage to the film, includes multiple endings in which the audience (separately for East and West Coast viewership) decides who is the real killer. The episode was dedicated to the memory of Madeline Kahn.[46]
  • Writer-director Jonathan Lynn recorded a feature-length commentary for the film, independently produced by writer and devoted Clue fan Joshua Brandon. First released on episode 377 of the SModcast with Kevin Smith on June 17, 2017, the director's audio commentary has been distributed on multiple popular platforms.
  • Warren guest starred on a 2019 episode of Mull's sitcom The Cool Kids as a love interest for his character. Her role announcement in November 2018 was initially touted by the press as a Clue reunion, though only Mull and Warren appear.[47]
  • The retrospective tribute film Who Done It: The Clue Documentary debuted in November 2022, followed by an ETR Media Blu-ray release in February 2023, then streaming on Screambox in August 2023. The film details the making of Clue and its rise to cult status, based on interviews with surviving cast and crew.[48]

References edit

  1. ^ "Clue". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Clue (1985)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 9, 2020. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Vary, Adam B. (September 2, 2013). "'Something Terrible Has Happened Here': The Crazy Story of How 'Clue' Went from Forgotten Flop to Cult Triumph". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  4. ^ Frank, Priscilla (August 6, 2015). "30 Years Later and 'Clue' the Movie Is Still a Work of Cult Genius". HuffPost. Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d Farber, Stephen (August 25, 1985). "OFF THE BOARD, ONTO THE SCREEN FOR CLUE". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 3, 2023.
  6. ^ Freedman, Richard (October 30, 1981). "Double Bill: Tonight's 'Halloween' horrorthon based on writer's teen memories". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  7. ^ Farr, Nick (March 13, 2012). "Abnormal Interviews: My Cousin Vinny Director Jonathan Lynn". Abnormal Use. Archived from the original on June 17, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  8. ^ Matthews, Landis & Lynn 1985, pp. 57–59.
  9. ^ "Bad Movies We Love: Clue". Movieline. December 14, 2011. Archived from the original on May 22, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  10. ^ "An oral history of 'Clue,' the classic whodunnit". Entertainment Weekly.
  11. ^ a b Jackson, Matthew (April 1, 2016). "13 Mysterious Facts About Clue". Mental Floss. Archived from the original on May 3, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  12. ^ Hatch, John (November 7, 2023). "What Do You Mean, Murder?" Clue and the Making of a Cult Classic. Fayetteville Mafia Press. ISBN 978-1949024609.
  13. ^ "Full cast and crew for Clue (1985)". IMDb. Archived from the original on January 5, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  14. ^ "Clue (1985) Movie Filming Locations". The 80s Movies Rewind. Archived from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  15. ^ "Photos from Filming Location – 2003". The Art of Murder. Archived from the original on August 10, 2022. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  16. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (December 12, 1985). "Clue". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on May 12, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2014 – via
  17. ^ Matthews, Landis & Lynn 1985.
  18. ^ McDowell, Michael (1985). Paramount Pictures Presents Clue. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-4491-3049-0.
  19. ^ Matthews, Landis & Lynn 1985, p. 61.
  20. ^ Hatch, John (November 7, 2023). "What Do You Mean, Murder?" Clue and the Making of a Cult Classic. Fayetteville Mafia Press. ISBN 978-1949024609.
  21. ^ a b "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. December 13, 1985. Archived from the original on October 20, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  22. ^ Katz, Josh (January 18, 2012). "Paramount Teases Four Upcoming Blu-ray Releases". Archived from the original on September 26, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  23. ^ "Clue Collector's Edition". Shout! Factory. Retrieved December 21, 2023.
  24. ^ "Clue Blu-ray". Archived from the original on June 19, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  25. ^ "Clue: The Movie: Limited Edition". La-La Land Records. Archived from the original on February 4, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
  26. ^ "Clue: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP". Mondo. Retrieved July 17, 2021.
  27. ^ Vary, Adam B. (September 2, 2013). "'Something Terrible Has Happened Here': The Crazy Story of How 'Clue' Went from Forgotten Flop to Cult Triumph". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2022. Landis recounts the time a class of eighth-graders reached out to him for permission to stage Clue as a play. "I advised them to do it and not ask Paramount for permission — just don't charge money," he says. "It was somewhere in the Midwest. And then I got a very cute home video of the production." When a semi-professional troupe based in Los Angeles made the same request, however, Landis told them to get in touch with Lynn and Paramount. Lynn dropped by the performance and was as astonished with what he was seeing offstage as on it.
  28. ^ Cox, Gordon (October 11, 2016). "'Clue' on Stage: Play by Movie's Writer-Director to Bow in 2017 (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  29. ^ ""Clue: On Stage" Premieres at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope May 2". New Hope Free Press. 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  30. ^ Ramírez, Juan A. (February 8, 2022). "'Clue' Review: A Whodunit That Looks a Lot Like a Board Game". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 16, 2022. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  31. ^ Weinert-Kendt, Rob (September 23, 2022). "'Clyde's' Is Most-Produced Play, and Lynn Nottage Most-Produced Playwright, of 2022-23 Season". American Theater.
  32. ^ Cullwell-Block, Logan. "Clue Will Embark on National Tour in 2024". Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  33. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe (April 9, 2024). "CLUE North American Tour". Broadway World. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
  34. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 13, 1985). "Screen: 'Clue,' from Game to Film". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 22, 2020. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  35. ^ a b Siskel, Gene (December 13, 1985). "Did The Butler Do It? Clue Offers 3 Answers". Chicago Tribune. p. A. Archived from the original on May 3, 2021. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  36. ^ Siskel, Gene; Ebert, Roger (December 1985). "At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert". Archived from the original on June 20, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2018 – via YouTube. The best "A"...stay away from the worst which is "C".
  37. ^ "Clue Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  38. ^ Rich, Katey (August 3, 2011). "Clue Movie Dropped By Universal, But Hasbro Is Still Making It On Their Own". CinemaBlend. Archived from the original on September 20, 2020. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  39. ^ Fleming, Michael (February 24, 2009). "Gore Verbinski to develop 'Clue'". Variety. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  40. ^ Lyons, Josh (August 16, 2016). "20th Century Fox Gets A "Clue" And Will Produce Classic Board Game Remake With Hasbro (EXCLUSIVE)". The Tracking Board. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  41. ^ McNary, Dave (January 22, 2018). "Ryan Reynolds Signs First-Look Deal at Fox With 'Clue' Movie in the Works". Variety. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  42. ^ Welk, Brian (September 25, 2019). "Jason Bateman in Talks to Direct and Star in 'Clue' Reboot With Ryan Reynolds". TheWrap. Archived from the original on September 26, 2019. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  43. ^ Hipes, Patrick (February 10, 2020). "James Bobin In Talks To Direct 'Clue' Movie At 20th Century". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 11, 2020. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  44. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 23, 2022). "Oren Uziel Stepping In To Write Ryan Reynolds 'Clue' Movie At 20th Century Studios". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  45. ^ Bolt, Neil (February 19, 2024). "Hasbro Shopping Rights to a New Clue Movie". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  46. ^ McFarland, Kevin (May 28, 2013). "Psych: "100 Clues"". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on August 22, 2017. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  47. ^ Swift, Andy (November 9, 2018). "The Cool Kids Staging Clue Reunion With Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull". TVLine. Archived from the original on November 10, 2018. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  48. ^ Smith, Jeff C. (October 13, 2018). "Who Done It: The Clue Documentary". IMDb. It Looks So Fake Productions. Archived from the original on July 31, 2019. Retrieved January 12, 2021.

Bibliography edit

External links edit