Guess You’ll Never Grow a Clue


Clue – We saw this 1985 film at the Alamo Draft House on Tuesday. I don’t think I’d previously seen it all the way through, but I do remember seeing most of it. It had been a box office flop, but became quite popular on video and such. It has the dubious distinction of being the first board game to be made into a feature film, something that hasn’t happened all that much. They tried it with Battleship a few years ago, and I believe there’s an animated Candyland movie. You could also count the Ouija movies if you’re being generous. It’s generally a ridiculous idea, but Clue (Cluedo in the United Kingdom as a play on Ludo, a simplified version of Parcheesi that never caught on in the States) does have somewhat of a plot, as well as characters with distinct names and appearances, if not personalities per se.

It’s kind of weird that you play as the suspects, since surely the person who committed the murder would remember it. I seem to recall the rules trying to get around that by saying that the players were actually detectives rather than the pieces they move, but that’s a little complicated. In the film, a situation is set up where anyone could have killed Mr. Boddy, and we don’t know whether they’re telling the truth or bluffing. All six characters from the original release of the game appear, and there are some fairly famous people playing them, including Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull, Madeline Kahn, and Michael McKean. There are some new characters as well, most notably Tim Curry’s Wadsworth (I’ve seen mentions of the name’s resemblance to the game’s original publisher, Waddingtons), who sets up the whole thing. It turns out that the six guests all either work for or are somehow getting money from the federal government, and are all being blackmailed by Mr. Boddy. The actor playing Boddy is a punk musician named Lee Ving, which is appropriate to the character. (By the way, I looked it up, and that’s unsurprisingly not his birth name; he’s actually Lee Capallero).

Other people who work in or arrive at the mansion all turn out to be somehow connected to at least one of the guests. These are the flirtatious French maid Yvette, the cook Mrs. Ho, a motorist whose car breaks down, an off-duty cop, and a singing telegram girl.

They all end up dead, in the last case inexplicably and hilariously being shot immediately after starting to sing. All of the murder weapons appear (and are used), and I believe every room in the game is visited at some point, complete with the secret passages.

I know Mrs. White is sometimes dressed as a cook or a maid on box art, but here those roles are filled by two different characters, and White is played as a suspected black widow who’s survived at least two husbands. It’s set in New England in 1954, five years after the release of the board game, and incorporates the communist fear of the era. Three endings were shot, and at first different theaters would show different ones. For video releases, all three were included in sequence, and that’s what they showed at the Alamo. Not only are there different killers in each ending, but some character details are changed, particularly regarding Wadsworth. The third ending, where each of the six kills somebody, is introduced as “what really happened.” Ultimately, I think the film definitely succeeded in what it was trying to do, with a good cast, memorably funny exchanges, and a genuine sense of mystery.

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