My second reason is the delicious performance by Tim Curry (and seeing the Curry love in the comments for my write up of IT I couldn’t resist), the lastly was that it reamined unsulled by talks of a remake.
So, I began writing and in the course of my research came upon this article.
Resigned to the notion that every property is up for grabs (and being a film of a board game, I can’t really complain) I decided to come up with a list of films based on board games which I’ll be posting sometime soon.
Back to Clue (or Cluedo as we here in the UK call it).
The 1950s atmoshphere of McCarthyistic paranoia is the perfect period for a mystery film, and the twisted tales of blackmail and grisly revealation provide the perfect backdrop for a whodunnit. Like its 1976 forebear, the sublime Murder By Death, Clue offers a refreshingly silly take on the murder mystery genre and succeeds in maintaining the familiar tenets of the average whodunnit whilst sending it up mercilessly.
It is a fine line to walk, but Clue manages it. I’m going to look at the reasons why. Grab a brandy and join me, why don’t you? I’ll be in the Read More section with the stricken body of the article.
The performances are wonderful, there’s not a dud amongst them, standouts Tim Curry as Wadsworth (I’m merely the humble butler Sir. And what exactly do you do? I buttle.), Eileen Brennan (one of the Murder byDeath Alumni) as the peckish Mrs Peacock, a feather-brained harridan, Christopher Lloyd playing Prof Plum (should have been Doctor Brown – that would have worked) Madeline Kahn is outstanding as the stolid widow Mrs White, waspish and contained, witness her mental unravelling as she speaks of her hatred of Yvette, the maid (Flames, fla…fl…FLAMES….on the side of my face…Heaving…Breat…).
Each of the actors act up to the stereotype (the board game is purposefully stereotypical), yet they manage to imbue their characters with enough life to bring this comedy alive. The sheer enjoyment you get from this film belies its 94 minutes and the complexity of the interweaving pasts and the criss crossing paths of motivation draw you in and allow for genuine suspense to be created and wallowed in.
Given its humble beginnings the script by the film’s director Jonathan Lynn fizzes with witty banter and the film is never afraid to throw in a terrible pun (Oui, Oui? Come on…) or a pratfall or two and the input of the subtle twists of the knife provided by co-story writer John Landis (of the recent An American Werewolf in London) contribute greatly the fun this film has with itself. At no time does it take itself too seriously.
This is the epitome of Clue’s success. It sounds out the big laughs, plays up the slapstick, ushers in a shade of vaudeville, finds room for some drawing room farce, rejoices in the chance to turn the comedy dark and lets the subtle moments remain in the background while the boddy count rises and suspicions grow to tangible fear.
One of the film’s taglines was ‘Seven Suspects, Six Weapons, Five Bodies and Three Endings’ and this is another reason why the film succeeds. The cinema version of the film did indeed have three different endings, each with a different murderer and it was the luck of the draw which you got to see. Partly the reason for the film’s dire box office, this inventive trio of conclusions turned the limitations of VHS, which could not, unlike the DVD version, select an ending at random, into an advantage. and silent film title cards were inserted proclimaing ‘That’s how it could have happened…But what about this?’ and so on linking the alternative endings, so the three play out one by one.
This is incredibly satisftying and great for us fans of Tim Curry as he (Spoilers…etc) reveals himself to be the murderer and Mr Boddy himself, and as he does so gives the most devilshly serpentine grin, it positively oozes indiscretion and intrigue. The man is a class act. Giving the comment ‘Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.’ a charge of grace and wit undeserving of such a hammy line. And the man takes a candlestick to the head like no-one else in show business.
I urge you to see it as soon as possible, I’m bechippered with the news that this, like that other grand Curryfest The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has gained a cult following and is regularly screened with the audience encouraged to participate in similar Rocky Horror style. If you can get to see it like this I’d recommend it.
Until then, could I interest you in fruit or dessert?