Clue, by Albert W. Vogt III

Who does not like a good murder mystery?  Actually, I am not overly fond of them.  For starters, they obviously involve somebody’s death.  That is never ideal.  Secondly, they have a tendency to become convoluted.  I suppose that is the nature of something that is a mystery.  If it were clearer, there would be no need for all the accoutrements that come with these kinds of stories.  Those aspects are part of my third reason for not being the biggest fan of this sub-genre.  Like horror films, they tend to be formulaic.  Everyone seems to have prescribed role to play.  This is why the boardgame Clue became so popular, so much so that in 1985 they released a major motion picture based on it.  What makes the movie good, however, is that they poked fun at the stereotypes used in such films.

Speaking of stereotypes, it is a dark and stormy night when Wadsworth (Tim Curry) arrives at the bleak New England mansion that will serve as the backdrop for these events.  He there is in his butler’s attire to prepare for a fancy dinner party to be hosted by his employer, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving).  With a name like that, the title, and what I have already said, I am sure you can guess his fate.  We will get to that part later.  Awaiting Wadsworth’s arrival, and supposedly tidying up the place, is Yvette (Colleen Camp), the, er, maid.  One by one, the guests come through the doors.  Because this is an ensemble cast, I will not be introducing each character.  Instead, I will mention them as needed.  Still, if you have played the boardgame, they should all be familiar faces.  It is while they are all sitting down for their meal that their host, Mr. Boddy, enters the room.  Shortly thereafter, they discover that he is blackmailing all of them, each with some connection to powerful goings-on in Washington, D.C.  Now, why anyone involved in such activities would invite all their targets to the house for a meal at the same time, I do not know.  Then again, I am not a blackmailer.  The movie does give him a motive, and it is something about faking his death in order to gain more leverage on them.  This is his secret plan.  To their faces, he hands them each the classic weapons from the game and tells them if they want to leave, they must kill Wadsworth.  Mr. Boddy then turns out the lights and that is when he apparently dies.  Wadsworth assures the panicking guests that the police are on the way.  Yet, because they all could be guilty, they set out to investigate on their own and potentially clear their names.  The first person they suspect is the cook (Kellye Nakahara), who had an unpleasant disposition and a penchant for sharpening knives.  Yet, when they get to the kitchen they find her with the knife Mr. Boddy had handed out embedded in her back, killing her.  This is not their only grisly discovery.  Upon returning to the study, Mr. Boddy’s, um, body is gone, only to be found again in a bathroom now completely dead from being struck by the candlestick.  Worried that there is now a mass murderer on the loose, they decide to split into twos and search the various sections of the mansion.  As they fumble around, a motorist (Jeffrey Kramer), rings the bell and is greeted by a skittish house party and is ushered into one of the rooms that does not contain a corpse.  An unseen hand offs him, too.  The process is repeated with the police officer (Bill Henderson).  There is one more late arriving victim, this time a singing telegram girl (Jane Wiedlin), who is casually shot in the chest before she can properly enter the premises.  The final person to be killed is Yvette, who is about to reveal the identity of the killer before she, too, suffers a gruesome fate.  All the bodies stacking up make the guests increasingly frantic because they do not want to be the ones implicated for all these deaths, not to mention their own illicit affairs.  It all comes down to Wadsworth, who seems to have all the inside information the entire time.  He explains that all those who had died tonight, aside from Mr. Boddy, had some kind of connection to an individual guest.  Just when you are thinking that you are getting to the end of this awful evening, Wadsworth begins explaining who did it, and that he knew it all along.  Actually, there are three different endings.  The first has Yvette taking care of Mr. Boddy and the cook on orders from Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren).  She then kills the others and essentially intends to take Mr. Boddy’s place as their blackmailer.  What saves the day is the bursting onto the scene of the evangelist (Howard Hesseman), who had dropped in before but had been ignored, but who turns out to be the chief of police.  In this scenario, Wadsworth had been working undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and is congratulated for his work.  The second conclusion still has Wadsworth as an FBI agent, but this time it is Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan) who did the dirty work to cover the bribes she took from foreign powers.  The last ending is a bit more complicated.  Basically, everyone had some role to play in the death of another, except for Mr. Green (Michael McKean).  He had supposedly been a homosexual, but he turns out to be the FBI agent this time.  His hands are not completely clean, though, as he had been the one to kill Mr. Boddy in the hall with the revolver.

Clue is another one of those movies that is hard to pin down as a Catholic reviewer.  I try to give you all some insight into how an aspect of the film, or a character, can be redeemed through the lens of faith.  All of the characters are problematic in some way, though that is kind of the point.  You are not supposed to know who did it until the end.  However, even that is complicated by the fact that there are three different endings.  In the final one, even Wadsworth, who you are kind of rooting for throughout, is revealed to have some motive for murder.  The only one who does not seem to have any issue is Mr. Green, though his sexuality would be an issue for his job in the State Department if that is revealed.  But is he a homosexual in the end?  He has the final words of the film, telling the chief that he is now going to go home and sleep with his wife.  This is meant to be a joke given what we are told about him throughout the movie.  Homosexuality is not a lifestyle the Church supports, but that is not why I would say that he is the best character.  It is because he is, indeed, the only who appears not to be a murderer.  He does kill Mr. Boddy, but I suppose that is in the line of duty.  Taking the life of another is also frowned upon by the Church, but It at least understands that police officers have a difficult duty.

This is all makes for a complicated film in Clue.  It is not meant to be so.  There are some pretty genuinely funny lines in it, particularly the one about Mr. Green killing Mr. Boddy in the hall with the revolver.  Given this complexity, I am not sure whether or not I recommend it.  There is a fair bit of innuendo in it, but it is not as bad as some more modern films.  Still, I would be cautious.

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