Daily Archives: April 14, 2020

Clue (1985)

*. Clue is a movie that nobody much liked when it came out but which has gone on to attract a small following. I don’t think it rises to the level of a cult, but Adam B. Vary in a BuzzFeed article on the subject makes the case, calling it “a true cult sensation, a prime example of how a discarded scrap of Hollywood commerce can, through the transubstantiation of time and word-of-mouth, become one of the most beloved films of the 1980s.”
*. While I don’t think it’s a true cult film, at least yet, it does have some of that flavour with its general campiness and bad dialogue that is easily recalled. And Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White has one genuinely bizarre bit of improvisation that stands out. So it may achieve cult status some day, if we still have cult movies in the future.
*. Why do people like Clue now? I think for the same reason they still play the game. Nostalgia. I played the board game Clue a lot when I was a kid. But compared to the board games made today it doesn’t hold up. In fact, it’s pretty bad. I don’t dislike it, certainly not as much as I hate Monopoly, but it doesn’t work for me any more. Still, it has that nostalgic charm to it, that breath of one’s childhood.
*. I think people who like Clue the movie are responding to something similar. Though it was made in 1985 it’s set in 1954 and has that ’50s air of a screwball comedy. It’s a family game, or movie, without anything offensive about it.
*. Nothing offensive, but nothing very funny or clever either. Apparently Tom Stoppard was originally approached to write the script but backed out. Stoppard might have made it work. As it stands, we begin with a gag involving the butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) stepping in some dog shit that drags on forever. It’s a terrible way to start a movie, and while things get better they don’t get a lot better. And then after a while they get worse again.
*. One of the things the movie is known for is the gimmick of being released with three different endings that played in different theatres. Normally I think that a movie that has alternative endings (usually included with the DVD) indicates a fundamental problem, since it means the movie has no ending. But in this case it’s fair enough. Since the question of who did it is just random in the game it makes sense that it’s essentially a random draw here as well. Though I’d agree with what I think is the critical consensus in saying that the first or A ending (where Miss Scarlett is the killer) is the best.

*. This is not to say that any of the endings is particularly good. Reports are that there was a fourth ending where Wadsworth does all the murders but it was rejected as no good, meaning it must have been really, really bad.
*. The talent in front of the camera is capable enough, but none of the characters come to life with any distinct personality, despite the fact that they’re all playing wild caricatures. There are a few funny lines, but the plot never catches your attention and gets you interested in the question of whodunit. So the only way director Jonathan Lynn can keep us from being bored is to have the characters run around and yell and scream, or have the lights go off or a chandelier fall. All of which gets kind of tiring pretty fast. When the cast keep yelling at Wadsworth to “get on with it” at the end you want to yell along with them. Or when a character tries to make a long story short and someone tells him it’s “too late.” It’s a movie that knows it’s spinning its wheels but can’t think of anything else to do.
*. I’ve heard it described as a satire on the genre, but it seems to me that the game itself did just as good a job, or better, than this. And so did Murder By Death, which had been ten years earlier. What’s even stranger is that it doesn’t play any interesting riffs on the game itself either. The different rooms don’t have much of a role and there are no serial declarations of who did it where with what. That might have been fun. But then, there never was any logic about the murder weapon anyway since aside from the blunt force objects (candlestick, wrench, lead pipe) each weapon would leave a different, obvious signature.
*. I sort of liked this movie when it came out. And I enjoyed seeing it again. But if you ask me why I can only point to nostalgia. I can’t say there’s anything worthwhile in it, only that it passes the time in a mostly genial way.