Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Lynn|
|Produced by||Debra Hill|
|Screenplay by||Jonathan Lynn|
|Story by||Jonathan Lynn|
by Anthony E. Pratt
|Music by||John Morris|
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Edited by||David Bretherton|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$14.6 million|
Clue is a 1985 American ensemble black comedy mystery film based on the board game of the same name. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and stars an ensemble cast of Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. The film was produced by Debra Hill.
In keeping with the nature of the board game, the theatrical release included three possible endings, with different theaters receiving one of the three endings. In the film's home video release, all three endings were included. The film initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, grossing $14.6 million in the United States against its budget of $15 million, but it later developed a considerable cult following.
In 1954, six strangers arrive at a secluded New England mansion. Greeted by Wadsworth the butler and Yvette the maid, each guest receives a pseudonym: Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet.
A seventh guest arrives—Mr. Boddy, whom Wadsworth reveals has been blackmailing the others: Mrs. Peacock is accused of taking bribes for her husband, a US senator, but denies any wrongdoing and claims she has paid the blackmail to keep the scandal quiet; Mrs. White is suspected in the death of her husband, a nuclear physicist; Professor Plum has lost his medical license due to an affair with a patient; Miss Scarlet runs an underground brothel in Washington, D.C.; Colonel Mustard, though initially suspected of being one of Miss Scarlet's patrons, is a war profiteer; and Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his State Department job if anyone found out.
While threatening to expose the guests if he is arrested, Mr. Boddy gives them each a weapon—a candlestick, a knife, a lead pipe, a revolver, a rope, and a wrench. Demanding that someone kill Wadsworth, Mr. Boddy turns out the lights. A gunshot rings out and the lights are turned back on to reveal Mr. Boddy apparently dead, without any indication as to how.
Wadsworth explains to the guests that his wife had committed suicide due to Mr. Boddy's blackmail (because she refused to name friends who were socialists) and he has summoned the guests to force a confession out of Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. The group suspects the cook, but they find her dead as well, having been stabbed by the dagger. Mr. Boddy's body disappears, but the guests find his blood-covered body in the lavatory, having been killed with the candlestick.
Wadsworth locks the weapons in a cupboard. A stranded motorist arrives and Wadsworth locks him in the lounge. While the guests search the mansion in pairs, an unknown individual burns the blackmail evidence, unlocks the cupboard, and kills the motorist with the wrench. Discovering a secret passage, Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet find themselves locked in the lounge with the motorist's corpse, until Yvette shoots the door open with the revolver.
A cop investigating the motorist's abandoned car arrives to use the phone. The mansion receives a call from J. Edgar Hoover, which Wadsworth takes alone. After distracting the cop successfully, the guests resume their search until another unknown figure turns off the electricity. Yvette, the cop, and a singing telegram girl are murdered with the rope, lead pipe, and revolver, respectively.
Wadsworth and the others regroup after he turns the electricity back on, and he reveals he knows who the murderer is. Recreating the night's events, Wadsworth explains that the five other victims were Mr. Boddy's informants. An evangelist interrupts the gathering, but Mrs. Peacock shuns him by closing the door and Wadsworth continues his explanation.
In the theatrical screening, audiences would be shown one of three endings. All three are included in the home media release, with interstitial title cards stating that "Ending A" and "Ending B" were possible endings, while "Ending C" was how events actually occurred.
Yvette murdered the cook and Mr. Boddy on orders from Miss Scarlet, for whom she once worked as a call girl. Scarlet then killed Yvette and the other victims. Planning to sell the guests’ secrets, Scarlet prepares to shoot Wadsworth, who asserts there are no more bullets, and disarms Scarlet as law enforcement raid the house. The evangelist, revealed to be the police chief, congratulates Wadsworth – an undercover FBI agent. Wadsworth attempts to demonstrate the revolver was empty, but a remaining bullet brings down the chandelier, narrowly missing Mustard.
Mrs. Peacock killed all the victims to conceal her taking bribes from foreign powers. She holds the others at gunpoint as they allow her to leave. Wadsworth reveals he is an undercover FBI agent sent to investigate her. While escaping to her car, Mrs. Peacock is caught by the evangelist who is revealed to be the police chief as the police raid the property. After the police chief congratulates him, Wadsworth asks if anyone would like some fruit and dessert.
Apart from Mr. Green, everyone has killed at least one person: Professor Plum missed Mr. Boddy with the gunshot but later killed him with the candlestick; Mrs. Peacock stabbed the cook, her former employee; Colonel Mustard bludgeoned the motorist, his driver during World War II; Mrs. White strangled Yvette out of jealousy and hatred for the latter's affair with her husband; and Miss Scarlet clubbed the cop whom she was bribing. Wadsworth reveals he shot the singing telegram girl (the patient Professor Plum had the affair with) and is the real Mr. Boddy; the person that Plum killed was Mr. Boddy's butler. With his spies and informants indisposed, he plans to continue blackmailing the guests. Mr. Green then kills Mr. Boddy with his own revolver, revealing he is an undercover FBI agent. He states that he was a "plant" to get close to Mr. Boddy before bringing in the authorities to arrest the others as the evangelist is revealed to be the police chief. After mentioning to the police chief that he has killed Mr. Boddy in the hall with his revolver, Mr. Green says, "Okay, Chief, take 'em away! I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife!"
- Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, the wife of a U.S. Senator who is accused of taking bribes.
- Tim Curry as Wadsworth, a butler who once worked for Mr. Boddy and is seeking justice for his wife. He is revealed to be an undercover FBI agent in two of the endings, and the true Mr. Boddy in the third.
- Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, the widow of a nuclear physicist who died under suspicious circumstances.
- Christopher Lloyd as Prof. Plum, a disgraced former psychiatrist working for the World Health Organization.
- Michael McKean as Mr. Green, a State Department employee who is a closeted homosexual and an undercover FBI agent in one of the three endings.
- Martin Mull as Col. Mustard, a war profiteer implied to be a client of Ms. Scarlet's service.
- Lesley Ann Warren as Ms. Scarlet, a sassy Washington, D.C. madam.
- Colleen Camp as Yvette, a maid who formerly worked as a call girl for Miss Scarlet and was recognized by Mrs. White as the mistress of one of her husbands.
- Lee Ving as Mr. Boddy, a man who has been blackmailing the six guests of Hill House and Wadsworth's wife. He is revealed to be the true Mr. Boddy's butler in one of the three endings.
- Bill Henderson as The Cop, an unnamed police officer whom Ms. Scarlet has been bribing.
- Jane Wiedlin as The Singing Telegram Girl, a former patient of Professor Plum with whom he had an affair.
- Jeffrey Kramer as The Motorist, Col. Mustard's driver during World War II.
- Kellye Nakahara as The Cook (Mrs. Ho), Mrs. Peacock's former household cook.
- Will Nye as Cop #1.
- Rick Goldman as Cop #2.
- Don Camp as Cop #3.
- Howard Hesseman as The Evangelist / The Chief (uncredited), the unnamed chief of police who posed as an evangelist in all three endings.
The multiple-ending concept was developed by John Landis, who claimed in an interview to have invited playwright Tom Stoppard, writer and composer Stephen Sondheim, and actor Anthony Perkins to write the screenplay. The script was ultimately finished by director Jonathan Lynn.
A fourth ending was filmed, but Lynn removed it because as he later stated, "It really wasn't very good. I looked at it, and I thought, 'No, no, no, we've got to get rid of that.'" In the unused fourth ending, Wadsworth committed all of the murders. He was motivated by his desire for perfection. Having failed to be either the perfect husband or the perfect butler, he decided to be the perfect murderer instead. Wadsworth reports that he poisoned the champagne the guests had drunk earlier so they would soon die, leaving no witnesses. The police and the FBI arrive and Wadsworth is arrested. He breaks free and steals a police car, but his escape is thwarted when three police dogs lunge from the back seat. This ending is documented in Clue: The Storybook, a tie-in book released in conjunction with the film.
Carrie Fisher was originally contracted to portray Miss Scarlet, but withdrew to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Jonathan Lynn's first choice for the role of Wadsworth was Leonard Rossiter, but he died before filming commenced. The second choice was Rowan Atkinson, but it was decided that he wasn't well known enough at the time, so Tim Curry was eventually cast.
Clue was filmed on sound stages at the Paramount Pictures film studios in Hollywood. The set design is credited to Les Gobruegge, Gene Nollmanwas, and William B. Majorand, with set decoration by Thomas L. Roysden. To decorate the interior sets, authentic 18th- and 19th-century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt. After completion, the set was bought by the producers of Dynasty, who used it as the fictional hotel The Carlton.
All interior scenes were filmed at the Paramount lot, with the exception of the ballroom scene. The ballroom, as well as the driveway gate exteriors, were filmed on location at a mansion located in South Pasadena, California. This site was destroyed in a fire on October 5, 2005. Exterior shots of the Pasadena mansion were enhanced with matte paintings to make the house appear much larger, and these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton, in consultation with Albert Whitlock.
The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. Theaters received one of the three endings, and some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see.
The novelization was written by Michael McDowell based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn. There was also a children's adaptation entitled Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook written by Landis, Lynn, and Ann Matthews. Both adaptations were published in 1985, and differ from the movie in that they feature a fourth ending cut from the final film. In this ending, Wadsworth says that he killed Boddy as well as the other victims, and then reveals to the guests that he has poisoned them all so that there will be no witnesses and he will have committed the perfect crime. As he runs through the house to disable the phones and lock the doors, the chief detective – who had earlier been posing as an evangelist (Howard Hesseman) – returns, followed by the police, who disarm Wadsworth. Wadsworth then repeats the confession that he had given earlier to the guests, physically acting out each scene himself. When he arrives at the part about meeting Colonel Mustard at the door, he steps through the door, closes it, and locks it, leaving all the guests trapped inside. The police and guests escape through a window, while Wadsworth attempts to make a getaway in a police squad car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.
The movie was released to home video in VHS format in Canada and the United States in 1986 and, on February 11, 1991, to other countries. The film was released on DVD in June 2000 and Blu-ray on August 7, 2012.
The home video, television broadcasts, and on-demand streaming by services such as Netflix include all three endings shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings but the third (Ending C) being the true one. The Blu-ray and DVD however, gives viewers the option to watch the endings separately (chosen randomly by the player), as well as the "home entertainment version" ending with all three of them stitched together.
In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris's score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.
The film initially received mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote negatively of the film and stated that the beginning "is the only part of the film that is remotely engaging. After that, it begins to drag." Similarly, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, writing, "Clue offers a few big laughs early on followed by a lot of characters running around on a treadmill to nowhere." Siskel particularly criticized the decision to release the film to theaters with three separate endings, calling it a "gimmick" that would distract audiences from the rest of the film, concluding that "Clue is a movie that needs three different middles rather than three different endings."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a 2 out of 4 stars review, writing that despite a "promising" cast, the film's "screenplay is so very, very thin that [the actors] spend most of their time looking frustrated, as if they'd just been cut off right before they were about to say something interesting." On Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, both agreed that the "A" ending was the best while the "C" ending was the worst.
The film-critics aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 65% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 31 reviews, with an average score of 6.06/10. The critics consensus reads: "A robust ensemble of game actors elevate Clue above its schematic source material, but this farce's reliance on novelty over organic wit makes its entertainment value a roll of the dice." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 36 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Clue has grossed $14.6 million in North America, just short of its $15 million budget.
Universal Studios announced in 2011 that a new film based on the game was being developed. The film was initially dropped, then resumed as Hasbro teamed up with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct.
In August 2016, The Tracking Board reported that Hasbro had landed at 20th Century Fox with Josh Feldman producing for Hasbro Studios and Ryan Jones serving as the executive producer while Daria Cercek was overseeing for Fox. The film will be a "worldwide mystery" with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally. In January 2018, Fox announced that Ryan Reynolds, who had established a three-year first-look deal with the studio, would star in a live-action remake of Clue, with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, writers for the Reynolds-led Deadpool, its sequel, and Life, as scriptwriters. In September 2019, The Wrap reported that Jason Bateman was in talks to direct the film, but by February 2020, Bateman was no longer attached to it, and instead, James Bobin had been in talks with 20th Century Studios for directing the film.
References in other media
- The episode of Psych entitled "100 Clues" features Clue stars Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and Lesley Ann Warren as suspects in a series of murders at a mansion. The episode, in addition to many jokes and themes in homage to the film, includes multiple endings in which the audience (separately for East and West Coast viewership) decides who is the real killer. The episode was dedicated to the memory of Madeline Kahn.
- Warren guest starred on a 2019 episode of Mull's sitcom The Cool Kids as a love interest for his character. At the time her role was announced in November 2018, it was largely touted by the press as a Clue reunion, despite it featuring only Mull and Warren.
- The Family Guy episode "And Then There Were Fewer" is based on the movie along with Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
- A documentary about the movie is being made, including interviews already filmed with the director, writer, and several cast members including Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean, Colleen Camp, and Lee Ving.
- The episode "No Clue" of the 2020 SyFy series Vagrant Queen draws heavily on the movie, and the game to a lesser extent.
- "Clue (1985)". Boxofficemojo.com. July 5, 1988. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "'Something Terrible Has Happened Here': The Crazy Story of How 'Clue' Went from Forgotten Flop to Cult Triumph". Buzzfeed.com. September 2, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- Farr, Nick (March 13, 2012). "Abnormal Interviews: My Cousin Vinny Director Jonathan Lynn". Abnormal Use: An Unreasonably Dangerous Products Liability Blog. Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Matthews, pp. 57-9
- Bad Movies We Love: Clue
- Jackson, Matthew (April 1, 2016). "13 Mysterious Facts About Clue". Mental Floss. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- "Full cast and crew for Clue (1985)". www.imdb.com. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
- "80s Rewind, Clue (1985)". www.fast-rewind.com. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
- "Photos from Filming Location - 2003". www.theartofmurder.com. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
- Clue Review - Roger Ebert. December 12, 1985.
- Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook. Google Books. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
- McDowell, Michael (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal. p. 188. ISBN 0-449-13049-5.
- Matthews, Ann; Lynn, Jonathan; Landis, John (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue: The Storybook. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 61. ISBN 0-671-61867-9.
- "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Paramount Teases Four Upcoming Blu-ray Releases". Blu-ray.com. January 18, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
- Clue Blu-ray, retrieved December 3, 2017
- "La-La Land Records Clue Soundtrack". La-La Land Records. Archived from the original on February 4, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
- "'Clue,' from Game to Film". The New York Times. December 13, 1985. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Siskel, Gene (December 13, 1985). "Did The Butler Do It? Clue Offers 3 Answers". The Chicago Tribune. p. A.
- Ebert, Roger (1985). "", retrieved 2014-06-05
- Siskel, Gene; Ebert, Roger (December 1985). "At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert".
The best ending...is "A"...stay away from the worst which is "C".
- "Clue (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- "Clue Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Katey Rich. "Clue Movie Dropped By Universal, But Hasbro Is Still Making It On Their Own". Cinema Blend. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- Michael Fleming (February 24, 2009). "Gore Verbinski to develop 'Clue'". Variety. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Lyons, Josh (August 16, 2016). "20TH CENTURY FOX GETS A "CLUE" AND WILL PRODUCE CLASSIC BOARD GAME REMAKE WITH HASBRO (EXCLUSIVE)". The Tracking Board.
- Dave McNary (January 22, 2018). "Ryan Reynolds Signs First-Look Deal at Fox With 'Clue' Movie in the Works". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
- Welk, Brian (September 25, 2019). "Jason Bateman in Talks to Direct and Star in 'Clue' Reboot With Ryan Reynolds". The Tracking Board.
- Hipes, Patrick (February 10, 2020). "James Bobin In Talks To Direct 'Clue' Movie At 20th Century". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
- McFarland, Kevin (May 28, 2013). "Psych: "100 Clues"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
- Swift, Andy (November 9, 2018). "The Cool Kids Staging Clue Reunion With Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull". TVLine. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
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