I don’t go to dinner theaters, but were I to go I imagine I would find a film much like Clue? Based on the Parker Brother’s board game the notion of a film drawing its inspiration from a known success represents an uninspired Hollywood that grows increasingly more dependent upon borrowing ideas. In 1985 when I first saw Clue I was to young to know the shallow depths for Hollywood’s creative well or to have predication towards whodunit dinner theater productions. Watching Clue today, I wondered if my youthful admiration for the film would have lessen over the past twenty years. Would Clue now stand as a prime example of all that I abhor?
Just as in the board game a murder must be solved. Clue – The Movie starts with six guest, the classic characters from the game: Col. Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. Peacock (Elieen Brennan), Mrs. White (Madelinne Kahn), Prof. Plum (Christopher Llyod), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) being invited to dinner by Mr. Boddy. For years Mr. Boddy has been blackmailing each guest. Everyone has a reason to kill him, and someone does. Servants and unannounced guests start dropping like flies. With the cops on their way, the guests and Mr Boddy’s butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry) have to find the killer to clear their names. Trying to figure out whodunit becomes impossible as the guests point fingers and hysterically run about the mansion – itself a mock-up of the famous board upon which the game Clue is played.
It is to the credit of the screenwriters and comedic timing of the cast that Clue rises above the damning evidence that should convict it to a death sentence. Less curious about whodunit and more focused on each individual performance, each line of barbed dialog, and each bad pun the true joy of watching Clue is not solving the mystery, but in playing along. When it originally played in the theaters Clue had three separate endings, here on video I can witness all three without having to travel out of the tri-county area. I leave the running to Tim Curry’s frantic summation – not content to verbally explain each murder he runs from room-to-room re-enacting each – of the night’s events which is far more pleasing than any one ending. By the time the credits roll I could careless about who killed whom and how – each explanation seems highly implausible and the motives are too many to comprehend. Instead of worrying about guilty parties I could only think of all the great lines I must have missed.
Today, were someone to tell me that a studio was developing a motion picture based on The Game of Life or Hungry, Hungry Hippos I would surely sneer. Without a doubt Clue is a fluke, a marvelous fluke that does not deserve high critical praise, but does deserve a second look. With its setting in a spooky mansion, on a dark and stormy night, and its use of Tim Curry as a central figure Clue feels much like The Rocky Horror Picture show, minus the singing, dancing, and transexuals. Even with musician cameos from Fear’s Lee Ving and The Go-Go’s Wiedlen and an endless parade of in-jokes, I don’t expect Clue to gain such a cult following. There’s a lot more to be said for singing, dancing, and transexuals than their is a film based on a board game.