Revisited: Clue

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1954, against a backdrop of McCarthyism, six strangers are invited to a party in a secluded New England mansion. They are met by the house butler, Wadsworth, who reminds them each that they have been given pseudonyms to protect their true identity. During dinner the seventh attendee, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving), arrives. After dinner, Wadsworth reveals the true nature of the party: all of the guests are being blackmailed to hide their secrets:

Professor Plum is a psychiatrist who lost his license because he had an affair with a female patient. He now works for the World Health Organization.

Mrs. Peacock is the wife of a Senator who has accepted bribes to deliver her husband’s vote.

Mrs. White is an alleged black widow who was drawn in to avoid a scandal regarding the mysterious death of her nuclear physicist husband. She was previously married to an illusionist, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Miss Scarlet is a madam who operates an illegal brothel in Washington, D.C.

Colonel Mustard is thought, at first, to have been blackmailed for scandalous pictures, but it is later revealed that he was a war profiteer who made his money from selling stolen radio components on the black market. He now works at the Pentagon.

Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his job with the State Department if it were widely known.

Finally, Wadsworth reveals Mr. Boddy’s secret: he is the one who has been blackmailing them. Wadsworth has gathered all the guests together to confront Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police, which he later reveals is his revenge against Mr. Boddy, who is his former employer, because Boddy’s blackmail had resulted in Wadsworth’s wife committing suicide.

Mr. Boddy reminds the guests that he can reveal their secrets in police custody and offers them an alternative proposition: by using weapons that he has provided to each of them, they can kill Wadsworth and destroy the evidence, keeping their secrets safe. Escape isn’t an option as Wadsworth holds the only key to the locked doors, and vicious dogs patrol the perimeter, thus Mr. Boddy turns out the lights in the room, creating a moment of chaos in which someone shoots the gun. When they are brought back up, Mr. Boddy is dead, seemingly murdered by an unknown cause in the study (there is no gunshot wound, just a bullet hole in the wall). The guests all quickly deny killing him, and are later proven right as Mr. Boddy (previously faking his death) is ultimately found murdered with the candlestick in the hall. Wadsworth and the guests try to deduce who killed Mr. Boddy by exploring the house. During their slapstick explorations, Mrs. Ho, the cook, has been murdered with the dagger in the kitchen. During the course of the evening three others who visit the house: a stranded motorist, a police officer investigating the motorist’s abandoned car, and a singing telegram girl, are all killed with the wrench, the lead pipe, and the revolver; in the lounge, the library, and the front hall, respectively. Yvette, the maid, is strangled in the billiard room with the rope as well.

Wadsworth comes to the conclusion that he knows who the murderer is, and runs through a frantic, madcap re-enactment of the entire evening with the guests in tow. Wadsworth points out that the victims were Boddy’s accomplices in blackmail. Each of them had a connection to one of the guests, enabling Boddy to find out what secrets to blackmail them over. In preparation to reveal the murderer of Mr. Boddy, Wadsworth turns off the electricity to the house. At this point, the story proceeds to one of three endings: A, B, or C. In the film’s initial theatrical run, some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see. In the VHS home video and releases, and most television broadcasts, the three endings are shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings, but ending C being the true one. The DVD home release also provides the option of a random single ending

Ending A

Miss Scarlet is the culprit in the first ending. Having used her former call girl, Yvette, to murder Mr. Boddy and the cook, she herself killed Yvette and the others to keep her true business of “secrets” safe, planning on using the information learned tonight for her own benefit. While Miss Scarlet holds the group at gunpoint with the revolver, Wadsworth tries to tell her that she used up all the bullets in the gun but she tells him she still has one and threatens to kill him. Wadsworth reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent and arrests Miss Scarlet as police secure the house. Finally, insisting to Miss Scarlet the revolver is empty, Wadsworth accidentally fires the last bullet into the air, hitting another chandelier, and causing it to crash closely behind Colonel Mustard.

Ending B

Mrs. Peacock is revealed as the murderer of all the victims, and escapes after holding the others at gunpoint. However, Wadsworth reveals himself as an FBI agent with the night’s activities set up to spy on Mrs. Peacock’s activities, believing her to be taking bribes by foreign powers, and the police quickly capture her as she flees.

Ending C:

It is revealed that everybody (except Mr. Green) committed all of the murders. Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy; Mrs. Peacock killed the cook, who had been informing on her to Mr. Boddy; Colonel Mustard killed the motorist, who was his driver during the war; Mrs. White killed Yvette for having an affair with her husband; Miss Scarlet killed the cop, whom she had been paying bribes to in order to stay in business; and Wadsworth killed the singing telegram girl. It is revealed that Wadsworth is the true Mr. Boddy, and that the man who was killed by Plum was actually just his butler. He had brought the other victims (his accomplices in the blackmail scheme) to the house to be killed by the guests, and thus plans to continue to extort his blackmail scheme over them. Mr. Green then draws a revolver and kills Mr. Boddy in the Hall. Mr. Green reveals that he is actually an undercover FBI agent and that the whole thing was a set-up to catch the criminals. The police raid the house and arrest the other guests for murder. It is revealed that Mr. Green’s earlier stated homosexuality was just part of his cover, signified by his final line in the movie: “I’m gonna go home and sleep with my wife.”

REVIEW:

Last weekend, ABC debuted a new show, Whodunnit?, which is a murder mystery…and unfortunate reality show. As I was forcing myself to sit through the never-ending hour that passes for “entertainment”, I thought back to an episode of Saved By the Bell where they were involved in a murder mystery weekend. This brought to mind the movie based on the board game Clue.

What is this about?

Director Jonathan Lynn’s board game-inspired campfest finds six colorful dinner guests gathered at a mansion, where they all become suspects in the death of the house’s owner, who had been blackmailing each of them.

What did I like?

Multiple endings. When this was released, I wasn’t old enough to see it in theaters. Hell, I couldn’t even cross the street by myself back then. I read that in each theater this was shown in, one of the three different endings was shown. That is a way to make keep people coming back and make some money. That was a stroke of brilliance that we don’t see today. I think they tried something similar with one of the Iron Man movies and then this year with the trailers to Man of Steel, but the sad fact is the internet and social media have ruined any notion of surprise that we once had.

Game. I was telling someone a little while ago that this is how you do a movie about a board game. Keep it as close to the spirit of the game as possible. There is no need to bring in aliens and what not. Yes, I’m looking at you, Battleship!

Funny. Nothing beats a comedy that actually makes the audience laugh, especially if that is the intention. This flick will leave you in stitches more often than it won’t. The great cast of comedic actors and a terrifically funny script help that happen.

What didn’t I like?

Uneven. The pacing of this film is pretty decent, but there are times where it just seems quite erratic. The beginning is a great exercise in introducing and developing the characters and as we near the end, the frantic pace is perfect for the madness that is going on. The middle, though, seems to drag on a bit. I felt that is sort of disengaged the audience. I know that I lost a bit of interest during that part, but it was only temporary.

Forget the gag. When the film starts, Wadsworth is tending to the dogs and accidentally steps in something. When he comes inside and passes by the staff, they all take a moment and sniff the air. However, they seem to drop this gag. Sure, he could very well have changed shoes between then and the time the guests arrive, but for some reason, I think keeping that gag running would have paid off.

Endings. This is a small complaint that is more about the way the endings are packaged. As it stands right now, you get all three endings with the film. I wonder if perhaps in a future edition if they could have the ending be randomly chosen. It seems to me that would give the viewer the experience they may have had when seeing this in the theater.

There is nothing like a campy 80s comedy to brighten your day and put a smile on your face. Clue is one of those films. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one of those pictures that you can pop in the DVD player and lose yourself if the madcap hijinks. I highly recommend this, if for no other reason than just as a fun departure from all the dark, depressing, violent, sex-crazed films that are out there today. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

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