It was… Miss Scarlett, in the Kitchen, with the knife! Or was it? Clue (1985) is a murder mystery comedy based on the children’s game of the same name. The murder mystery genre is probably the genre with the most tropes. The butler did it. The lights go out only for them to come back and somebody is dead. People die one by one. Red Herrings. All this and more are stables of the genre. A genre that Clue expertly satirizes while still manages to be a compelling mystery.
For those who might not know, Clue is a board game where the objective is to find clues and deduce who is a murderer, what the weapon was, and where the murder happened. It’s a pretty fun game. Especially when you get really into the roll play of pretending to be detectives. But, now that I think about it, it’s kind of a weird game to have kids play right? I mean the objective is to be the first to solve a murder with you only sharing evidence with others when the rules of the game dictate it. Which in a real-life scenario would be pretty messed up? Regardless, the game is fun and so is the movie.
When Mr. Boddy dies mysteriously during a dinner party, all six of his guests have a motive. Miss. Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Professor Plum, Mr. Green, and Colonel Mustard where all being blackmailed by Mr. Boddy. With the help of the butler Wadsworth, they must find out who among them is the murder. Throughout the story, Clue manages to satirize the big tropes of the murder mystery genre.
For starters, this movie is most famous for its mocking of the “everyone is a suspect” trope. Not only are all the character’s established to have motives, but with the film’s three alternate ending, anybody quite literally could have done it. For anyone who doesn’t know, when Clue was originally in theaters, movie goers had the chance to see three different endings, depending on what theater they went to. If you watch it today on Amazon Prime, as I did, you will be able to see all three endings. I don’t want to spoil any of the endings but with these alternate endings, anything is possible and anyone can be guilty. This movie also does the classic thing where one by one people start dying. With one character even doing the “Wait, you’re the murderer?” right before dying trope. The character’s also all split up to search the house, making it easier for the murderer to… well murder. The movie twice does the schtick where someone opens a closet and a dead body falls out. I don’t want to spoil much more about the movie, because the mystery is half the fun, but just know that this barely scratches the service of the tropes satirized.
Like I said before, through all the satirizing, this movie manages to be a compelling mystery. Again, I won’t spoil but I loved how, in all three endings, the revile of the murderer made sense, at least to me. It also takes the opportunity to satirize the trope of the final explanation of the murders to be overly complicated without also being confusing. That’s as much as I will say about the mystery, so that I don’t spoil it.
Lastly, through all the mystery and satirizing, this film manages to be very funny in its own right. With equal parts slapstick and clever writing. I couldn’t help but chuckle as the surviving party guests struggled to move the dead bodies all into one room. Also, the writing is incredible clever with my personal favorite interactions being:
(Colonel Mustard looks in a room)
Colonel Mustard: Just checking.
Mrs. Peacock: Everything all right?
Colonel Mustard: Yep. Two corpses. Everything’s fine.
Wadsworth: But, he was your second husband. Your first husband also disappeared.
Mrs. White: But that was his job. He was an illusionist.
Wadsworth: But he never reappeared!
Mrs. White: [admittedly] He wasn’t a very good illusionist.
To summarize, Clue is a very cleverly written film that manages to satirize the murder mystery genre while itself being a compelling murder mystery. Although, I understand that the constant jokes might be a turn off for some people, I love it. So, I give it 6 Tim Curry monologues out of 10.