Flames, flames, on the side of my face. Breathing-breathl- heaving breaths. Heaving breaths…
If you are not familiar with the above quote and consider yourself a fan of comedy, well then, shame on you.
Set in 1954, Clue brings the popular board game it’s based on to life as six guests are invited to a dinner party in a large creepy mansion. None of the guests know why they’ve received an invitation or who the host, Mr. Boddy, is. They all have one thing in common though, they are all being blackmailed for their shady pasts.
Each guest is given a pseudonym to protect their real identity. They’re also each given a weapon to use on the person that has blackmailed them, revealed to be in attendance. Things don’t exactly go as planned and soon the body count begins to add up as secrets come out, suspicions arise, and the guests must attempt to figure out who the murderer is while trying to avoid being killed themselves.
Clue has, quite possibly, the greatest ensemble of comedic actors in a film ever.
That’s a bold statement, but I can’t personally think of a better example of a talented and funny cast. Tim Curry (Wadsworth), Madeline Kahn (Miss White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), and Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard) are all at the top of their game and embody their roles delectably with perfect comic timing. Their over-the-top exaggerations of the board game’s characters fit in well with the stage play-esque rhythm of the script.
Colleen Camp’s breasts deserve a mention as well.
Tim Curry camps it up as only he can as Wadsworth, the butler. As much as I love Dr. Frank-N-Furter, this is my favorite performance of his. A scene late in the film in which he recaps the entire night’s events is nothing short of a tour de force. And he says the word “no” better than any human being has ever said the word “no.”
As fabulous as Curry and the rest of the cast are (and every one is a standout) the late, great Madeline Kahn as Miss White manages to steal the film with her master improvisational skills. Besides the “Flames” scene (which was completely ad-libbed by the way) just watch her in the background every time she is on camera, particularly during the “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” sing-a-long. She was a goddamn genius and taken from us far too soon.
We miss you.
Director John Lynn, along with writer John Landis, constructed a pitch-perfect screenplay chock full of fast-paced, pun-filled, witty dialogue. There are countless great quotable lines–to this day I can’t stop myself from adding “Too late!” whenever anyone says “To make a long story short…” At the same time, the story also works as a pretty suspenseful whodunit. It’s fun trying to figure out who the murderer is and all three possible endings make sense both within the plot of the film and also as a nod to the board game since every game has a different killer. (During its theatrical run, depending on the screening, a different ending was shown. I’m surprised this marketing idea never caught on after Clue, it’s a pretty clever way of getting audiences to see the same movie more than once.)
Let’s start with this one. How about an alternate ending where THEY BOTH FIT ON THE DAMN DOOR?!
The feel of the film is just right thanks to the set design which flawlessly replicates the mansion from the board game and to the brilliant score by John Morris which ties everything together.
Clue is a delightful romp that stands up to repeat viewings nearly 30 years after its release. Its longevity as a beloved cult classic makes it hard to believe it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office all those years ago. I guess it’s one of those love-it or hate-it movies. Personally I adore it. Every time I watch it, which is in the dozens by now, I manage to notice something new: a joke I never caught, a great reaction shot by one of the actors, a detail in the set. If you’ve somehow managed to miss out on this gem, correct that right away. It’s a masterpiece in screwball comedy and the sole example of a film based on a board game that was done right.
Insert joke here.
(Suggestion: have a Clue party where everyone dresses as their favorite character and drink cognac out of fancy glasses.)
Take a Drink: every time someone smells dogshit.
Take a Drink: every time “monkey brains” is mentioned.
Take a Drink: every time the doorbell rings.
Take a Drink: at every gunshot.
Take a Drink: every time Mrs. Peacock screams.
Take a Drink: whenever a character is slapped.
Take a Drink: every time you see Yvette’s panties
Take a Drink: whenever anyone goes through a secret passageway.
Take a Drink: every time Mr. Green says “I didn’t do it!”
Do a Shot: whenever the lights go off.
Do a Shot: “Dah-it-dah-dah-dah-dah, I, am, your singing telegram.” BANG! (Fun Fact: the singing telegram girl is Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s)
Do a Shot: when the chandelier crashes.