Clue (1985)

Halloween viewing recommendation:

By Zach Owens

ZopzHbw_wp0.movieposter.jpgThe fact that I enjoy “Clue” is a complete mystery to me. I typically think of myself as a critic with taste for good writing, stylish filmmaking and moving performances. “Clue” is none of those things, yet I love it no matter how many times I see it.

It’s exactly the kind of movie you’d use to illustrate what a guilty pleasure is. It’s not smart, sophisticated or clever in anything it sets out to do. The whodunit, though fun to watch playout, won’t leave you debating the finer points with your friends. The comedy is mainly the screwball variety relying primarily on slapstick and quick, dumb dialogue. Yet, so help me, sometimes things can be just silly enough to be downright hilarious. This is pure camp, like the ridiculous yet beloved 1960’s, Adam West “Batman” TV series. Everything is intentionally exaggerated.

Yet somehow or another “Clue” remains as entertaining today as it ever has been. That could be because of Tim Curry’s manic performance or Madeline Kahn’s hilariously off-the-wall moments. It could be because of all the over-the-top one-liners. It could be that every scene has so much word play and corny jokes that you’ll have to see the movie more than once to catch them all.  But I suspect it simply has to do with the fact that each actor approaches this ridiculous material with just enough earnestness to make it work. One way or another there are enough laughs to keep me coming back even after having seen the mystery’s solution playout multiple times, because when it comes down to it, the central mystery doesn’t really matter at all.

When you’re playing the board game, at the end you just reset and start another game. Paramount tried to encapsulate the feeling by including multiple endings. At the time of the film’s original theatrical release, different theaters received three different endings to encourage moviegoers to attend multiple showings at multiple theaters.

Now, through the power of home video, each ending is included and separated by title cards suggesting that what you’re seeing is only one possible way things could have played out. DVD copies of the movie even had a “play random ending” feature to make it feel like playing multiple rounds of the game.

Everything it does seems to be encouraging multiple viewings. And no matter which ending you prefer, the twisty plot holds up. That’s no small feat considering how many characters and moving parts are involved. 

The script for a movie like this would have to be silly. This is a movie based on a board game after all. And it came out long before Disney made “Pirates of the Caribbean” to prove something as unexpected as an amusement park ride could make for blockbuster material.

All the board game characters are present, there’s Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), the butler (Tim Curry) and, of course, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving). And as you’d expect, just like the game all six of the guests are suspects working with the butler to solve the murder of Mr. Boddy. And much like you might do with your friends playing the game, the movie has a lot of fun solving the murder.

This is one of my not so typical Halloween recommendations. It isn’t a horror film, but if you’re like me and your example of ideal Halloween movies are Tim Burton films or the bizarre combination of horror and comedy, like “What We Do in the Shadows,” then this is a film for you. At least it takes place on a dark, stormy night with a murderer on the loose and a house full of guests being terrorized. So, there’s that.


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