Perhaps not the best start, as it has gained a notable cult following over the years; but it certainly IS a concept that sounds terrible but isn’t. The skepticism from readers who have not seen it, but understand the concept, is audible…even over the internet.
Readers: Clue? You mean like the board game?
Author of this Piece: Yes.
Readers: I hate that game.
Author: As you should.
Readers: They made a movie out of it?
Author: Yes, a good one.
Readers: And it’s a comedy?
Readers: And you like this comedy movie?
Author: Yes, very much.
Readers: You’re stupid.
But, no, gentle readers, the author is NOT stupid. (A statement which is under review by my editors…)
To understand how great this movie is, it has to be broken down into its component parts.
“Clue” came out in 1985. Some of the most notable comedians of the era are in this movie including Madeline Kahn, Micheal McKean, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull… if readers are unfamiliar with these names, then they clearly did not grow up in the ’80s or watch “Nick at Nite“ before the year 2000. However, even if one is not familiar with the core cast, their performances speak for themselves. Every actor, even those not mentioned, delivers a performance of the highest caliber.
Readers: Okay, so it’s got good acting…So what? Lots of stupid movies have that.
Author: Right you are! (*cough* “Rachel Getting Married” *cough cough*) However, this movie has more than just brilliant actors.
So, much like the game, the movie follows a similar story. A group of people are invited to a creepy mansion. The music and opening sequences draw out that theme with dramatic pauses and silent tension. In a house with all of the rooms from the game, and all of the incidental characters from the game, it sounds like it’s going to be another Saturday afternoon with Aunt Mildred playing, “Where are the dice? This game sucks.”
However, the similarities to the game end there.
Though the tension still exists, even from the beginning there are interspersed bits of comedy. Tim Curry‘s character is almost attacked by dogs, but after calming them and going to enter the house, he realizes he has stepped on a “land mine” and has to stop and wipe his shoe. At first, these bits of comedy seem out of place. It’s actually the most clever foreshadowing. It’s the movie telling its viewers, “Trust us, this is a comedy, just hold tight.” While at first the comedy is dry, almost dead pan, as the movie goes on it gets more and more slapstick and physical. The best part is, viewers barely notice. It takes a certain amount of genius to go from deadpan to slapstick and NOT HAVE IT FEEL OUT OF PLACE. It’s like going from a British comedy to a “Three Stooges” episode and not noticing that someone changed the channel. That’s how great the story flows.
Readers: Okay, that sounds weird but it could be good.
Author: But that’s not even the best part…
Without giving anything away, the end is probably one of the coolest ideas in movies. Even if it didn’t work as it was intended. Three separate endings were filmed and different endings were given to different theaters. The intent (presumably) being that two people that saw the film at different theaters would see different endings, talk about the film, and then when they realized that they’d seen different endings, go see the film again to see the ending they’d missed. It didn’t work out that way, apparently because some theaters were listing the endings with the show times. However, to film three different endings, not as it’s done now as, “alternate endings,” but “intended endings that were misleading” (there’s one “true” ending and two misleading ones) is really really entertaining. The DVD has an option to show all the endings in a string, or one random ending like viewers would get in the theater. It’s a great concept and to this author’s knowledge (and no research done) has not been repeated.
So, “Clue” starts with deadpan comedy, has a plot that leaves viewers guessing as it develops into a slapstick extravaganza, has fantastic acting, and has three different theatrical endings. This is why “Clue” is a concept that sounds terrible but is actually amazing.