ⓘ Clue (film)


ⓘ Clue (film)

Clue is a 1985 American ensemble black comedy mystery film based on the board game of the same name. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and stars Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. The film was produced by Debra Hill.

In keeping with the nature of the board game, the theatrical release included three possible endings, with different theaters receiving one of the three endings. In the films home video release, all three endings were included. 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, but it later developed a considerable cult following.


1. Plot

In 1954, six strangers are invited to a secluded New England mansion. Met by Wadsworth the butler and Yvette the sexy and busty maid, each guest is given a pseudonym: Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet.

A seventh guest arrives - Mr. Boddy, whom Wadsworth reveals has been blackmailing the others: Mrs. Peacock was accused of taking bribes for her husband, a US senator; Mrs. White is suspected in the death of her husband, a nuclear physicist; Professor Plum had an affair with a patient, losing his medical license; Miss Scarlet runs an underground brothel in Washington, D.C.; Colonel Mustard is a war profiteer; and Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his State Department job. Wadsworth explains he gathered everyone to confront Mr. Boddy.

Threatening to expose the guests if he is arrested, Mr. Boddy gives them each a weapon - a candlestick, dagger, lead pipe, revolver, rope, and wrench. Demanding that someone kill Wadsworth, he turns out the lights. A gunshot rings out, and the lights are turned on to reveal Mr. Boddy apparently dead, without any indication as to how.

Wadsworth explains that his wife committed suicide due to Mr. Boddys blackmail because she refused to name friends who were socialists, and he had summoned the guests to force a confession out of Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. The cook is found dead, stabbed by the dagger. Mr. Boddys body disappears but is rediscovered, killed with the candlestick.

The weapons are locked in the cupboard. A stranded motorist arrives and is locked in the lounge. While the guests search the mansion in pairs, someone burns the blackmail evidence, unlocks the cupboard, and kills the motorist with the wrench. Discovering a secret passage, Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet find themselves locked in the lounge with the motorist’s corpse, until Yvette shoots the door open with the revolver.

A police officer investigating the motorists abandoned car arrives to use the phone. The mansion receives a call from J. Edgar Hoover, which Wadsworth takes alone. Successfully distracting the cop, the guests resume their search until the electricity is turned off. Yvette, the cop, and a singing telegram girl are murdered with the rope, lead pipe, and revolver, respectively.

Wadsworth and the others regroup after he turns the electricity back on, and he reveals he knows who the murderer is. Recreating the night’s events, Wadsworth explains that the five other victims were Mr. Boddy’s informants. An evangelist interrupts the gathering, but Wadsworth continues his explanation.

In the theatrical screening, audiences would be shown one of three endings. All three are included in the home media release, with interstitial title cards stating that "Ending A" and "Ending B" were possible endings, while "Ending C" as how events actually occurred.


1.1. Plot Ending A

Yvette murdered the cook and Mr. Boddy on orders from Miss Scarlet, for whom she once worked as a call girl. Scarlet then killed Yvette and the other victims. Planning to sell the guests’ secrets, Scarlet prepares to shoot Wadsworth, who asserts there are no more bullets, and disarms Scarlet as law enforcement raid the house. The evangelist, revealed to be the police chief, congratulates Wadsworth – an undercover FBI agent. Wadsworth attempts to demonstrate the revolver was empty, but a remaining bullet brings down the chandelier, narrowly missing Mustard.


1.2. Plot Ending B

Mrs. Peacock killed all the victims to conceal her taking bribes from foreign powers. She holds the others at gunpoint while escaping to her car, but is caught by evangelist who is revealed to be the police chief. Wadsworth reveals he is an undercover FBI agent sent to investigate her.


1.3. Plot Ending C

Professor Plum missed Mr. Boddy with the gunshot but later killed him with the candlestick; Mrs. Peacock stabbed the cook, her former employee; Colonel Mustard bludgeoned the motorist, his driver during World War II; Mrs. White strangled Yvette out of jealousy and hatred for the latters affair with her husband; and Miss Scarlet clubbed the cop, whom she was bribing. Wadsworth reveals he shot the singing telegram girl, and is the real Mr. Boddy; Plum killed his butler. With his accomplices disposed of, he plans to continue blackmailing the guests. Mr. Green kills Mr. Boddy with another gun, revealing he is an undercover FBI agent. He brings in the chief to arrest the others declaring "Im gonna go home and sleep with my wife", revealing that his earlier stated homosexuality was merely part of his cover.


2. Cast

  • Howard Hesseman as The Evangelist/The Chief uncredited, the chief of police who posed as an evangelist in all three endings.
  • Michael McKean as Mr. Green, a State Department employee and closeted gay man.
  • Don Camp as Cop #3.
  • Martin Mull as Col. Mustard, a war profiteer implied to be a client of Ms. Scarlets service.
  • Tim Curry as Wadsworth, a butler who once worked for Mr. Boddy and is seeking justice for his wife.
  • Kellye Nakahara as The Cook Mrs. Ho, Mrs. Peacocks former household cook.
  • Colleen Camp as Yvette, a maid who didn’t like Mrs. White and formerly worked as a call girl for Ms. Scarlet.
  • Lee Ving as Mr. Boddy, who has been blackmailing the six guests of Hill House and Wadsworths wife.
  • Lesley Ann Warren as Ms. Scarlet, a sassy Washington, D.C. madam.
  • Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, the wife of a U.S. Senator who is accused of taking bribes.
  • Jane Wiedlin as The Singing Telegram Girl, a former patient of Professor Plum with whom he had an affair.
  • Will Nye as Cop #1.
  • Christopher Lloyd as Prof. Plum, a disgraced former psychiatrist working for the World Health Organization.
  • Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, the widow of a nuclear physicist who died under suspicious circumstances.
  • Bill Henderson as The Cop, an unnamed police officer whom Ms. Scarlet has been bribing.
  • Rick Goldman as Cop #2.
  • Jeffrey Kramer as The Motorist, Col. Mustards driver during World War II.


3.1. Production Development

The multiple-ending concept was developed by John Landis, 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 director Jonathan Lynn.

A fourth ending was filmed, but Lynn removed it because as he later stated, "it really wasnt very good. I looked at it, and I thought, No, no, no, weve got to get rid of that." In the unused fourth ending, Wadsworth committed all of 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 had drunk earlier 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.


3.2. Production Casting

Carrie Fisher was originally contracted to portray Miss Scarlet, but withdrew to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Jonathan Lynns first choice for the role of Wadsworth was Leonard Rossiter, but he died before filming commenced. The second choice was Rowan Atkinson, but it was decided that he wasnt well known enough at the time, so Tim Curry was eventually cast.


3.3. Production Filming

Clue was filmed on sound stages at the Paramount Pictures film studios in Hollywood. The set design is credited to Les Gobruegge, Gene Nollmanwas, and William B. Majorand, with set decoration by Thomas L. Roysden. To decorate the interior sets, authentic 18th and 19th century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt. 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, with the exception of the ballroom scene. The ballroom, as well as the driveway gate exteriors, were filmed on location at a mansion located in South Pasadena, California. This site was destroyed in a fire on October 5, 2005. Exterior shots of the Pasadena mansion were enhanced with matte paintings to make the house appear much larger, and these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton, in consultation with Albert Whitlock.

Mrs. White’s famous "Flames" speech was improvised by Madeline Kahn.


4. Release

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


In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.


4.1. Release Novelizations

The novelization was written by Michael McDowell based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn. There was also a childrens adaptation entitled, Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook written by Landis, Lynn, and Ann Matthews. Both adaptations were published in 1985, and differ from the movie in that they feature a fourth ending cut from the final film. 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 detective – who had earlier been posing as an evangelist Howard Hesseman – returns, followed by the police, who disarm Wadsworth. Wadsworth then repeats the confession that he had given earlier to 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 squad car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.


4.2. Release Home media

The movie was released to home video in VHS format in Canada and the United States in 1986 and, on February 11, 1991, to other countries. The film was released on DVD in June 2000 and Blu-ray on August 7, 2012.

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 true one. The Blu-ray and DVD however, gives you 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.


4.3. Release Soundtrack

In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.


5.1. Reception Critical response

The film was initially received with mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote negatively of the film and stated that the beginning "is the only part of the film that is remotely engaging. After that, it begins to drag." 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." 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, concluding that Clue is a movie that needs three different middles rather than three different endings."

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

The film-critics aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 61% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 28 reviews, with an average score of 5.95/10. The critics consensus reads: "A robust ensemble of game actors elevate Clue above its schematic source material, but this farces reliance on novelty over organic wit makes its entertainment value a roll of the dice." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 36 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".


5.2. Reception Box office

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


6. Remake

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

In August 2016, The Tracking Board reported that Hasbro had landed at 20th Century Fox with Josh Feldman producing for Hasbro Studios and Ryan Jones serving as the executive producer while Daria Cercek was overseeing for Fox. The film will be a "worldwide mystery" with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally. In January 2018, Fox announced that Ryan Reynolds, who had established a three-year first-look deal with the studio, would star in a live-action remake of Clue, with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, writers for the Reynolds-led Deadpool, its sequel, and Life, as scriptwriters. In September 2019, The Wrap reported that Jason Bateman was in talks to direct the film, but by February 2020, Bateman was no longer attached to it, and instead, James Bobin had been in talks with 20th Century Studios for directing the film.


7. References in other media

  • The episode of Psych entitled "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.
  • Warren guest starred on a 2019 episode of Mulls sitcom The Cool Kids as a love interest for his character. At the time her role was announced in November 2018, it was largely touted by the press as a Clue reunion, despite it featuring only Mull and Warren.
  • A Documentary about the movie is being made, including interviews already filmed with the director, writer, and several cast members including Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean, Colleen Camp, and Lee Ving.