Thursday, 4 February 2016

CLUE: An underrated comic gem

The only adaptation of a board game that manages to emerge from the shadow of its source as a great movie, Clue bombed on release but has since gained a dedicated cult following for its fast-paced mix of slapstick and screwball dialogue.

On a dark and stormy night in 1954, a group of disparate guests arrive to attend a party at a gothic mansion in New England. To disguise their identities, each guest has been given a code name. None of them know why they have been invited, and the butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) is unwilling to explain what is going on until after dinner.

As it turns out, each guest has been the victim of blackmail by Wadsworth's employer, Mr. Body.

When their loathsome host finally arrives, the estate's power fails. In the darkness, there is a shot and a cry. When the power comes back, the guests find Mr. Body dead. 

Frantic to leave, the guests and house staff try to figure out who killed Mr. Body. All the while, the body count rises as someone in the house begins to settle some scores...

Clue boasts a great cast: Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Colleen Camp, Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan and Tim Curry as the level-headed butler.
For a movie based on a board game, Clue works amazingly well on its own merits. The structure of the game is perfect for this kind of ensemble caper, and the filmmakers take great pains to make sure that the mystery is an integral part of the story. The characters all come with their own backstories, and the actors (particularly Curry and Kahn) have great fun pushing their eccentricities to the extreme, without turning into full-blown caricatures. The gags come thick and fast and -- surprisingly, for a movie set in the 50s -- all of them land.

The pace of the film is truly something to behold. There are entire scenes which feel like they could be pulled straight out of a 30s screwball comedy. This influence is evident in the penultimate revelation sequence, as a manic Curry leads the surviving cast around the house in a whirlwind re-telling of how each murder was committed, why the victim had to die, and who the culprit is. Curry deserves some kind of award for endurance for this sequence alone.

One wonders what the cinema experience was like -- each screening came with one of three different endings. All are featured at the end of the video release, adding another level of meta-nuttiness to the film that manages to tie it back to its source material.
Clue is a terrific comedy and is just as much fun as the game it is based on. Check it out.

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