10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Making Of Clue (1985)
- 10 September 2020
- Screen Rant
Jonathan Lynn's 1985 farcical whodunit murder-mystery Clue is one of the most beloved comedies of the 1980s. The first cinematic release to be based on a board game, the film stars a stellar ensemble including Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean, and Eileen Brennan.
Related: 10 80s Movies That Flopped At The Box Office, But Are Cult Classics Now
When six strangers are invited to Hill House mansion for a dinner party one stormy evening in 1954 New England, they soon learn they're involved in a complex blackmail/murder plot conducted by an unknown assailant. As the film celebrates its 35th anniversary this December, here are some behind-the-scenes facts about the making of it.
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Jonathan Lynn's film based on the Parker Brothers board game is a classic. The cast is amazing, with Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, Tim Curry as Wadsworth, Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum, Michael McKean as Mr. Green, Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard, Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet, Colleen Camp as Yvette (the maid), and Lee Ving as Mr. Boddy. Each of these actors fully commits to the silliness of the story, playing it like people normally act this way so that it's even funnier. They also work off of one another brilliantly. The story is the basic one of the game, with Mr. Boddy's death triggering a whodunnit, though the writing and acting make this a thoroughly enjoyable and creative film. Nearly every line is quotable and you may even miss some while laughing. In coming up with the story, John Landis and Jonathan Lynn made this film so much better than it had to be. This DVD includes two versions: the theatrical cut of the film, which has a single ending, and the home video release version, which includes three possible endings, thereby mimicking the possibility for different ways to win the game (and including even more great scenes). If you haven't seen this film, treat yourself and pick it up.
1985 film by Jonathan Lynn
Clue is a 1985 American black comedymystery film based on the popular board game of the same name. Directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and produced by Debra Hill, it stars the ensemble cast of Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren.
Inspired by the nature of the board game, the film's initial release featured various different endings, with one of three possibilities sent to movie theaters at the time. Home media releases include all three endings presented sequentially. 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 later developed a considerable cult following.
In 1954, six strangers arrive by ominous invitation at a secluded New England mansion, despite most of the guests being from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 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.
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. Suggesting 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 at first glance 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 with the knife. Mr. Boddy's body disappears, but the guests find his now bleeding body in the bathroom, having been struck on the head with the candlestick.
Wadsworth locks the weapons in a cupboard. He attempts to throw the key away, but 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, the head of the FBI, which Wadsworth takes alone. After distracting the cop successfully, the guests resume their search until another unknown person turns off the electricity. Yvette, the cop, and a singing telegram girl who arrived while the lights were out, 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, with one of three possible outcomes:[a]
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 a chandelier, narrowly missing Colonel 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 surprised by the evangelist, who is revealed to be the police chief, as the police raid the property. After the police chief assures her arrest, Wadsworth asks if anyone would care for some fruit or dessert.
Apart from Mr. Green, everyone has killed at least one person: Professor Plum missed Mr. Boddy with the revolver but later killed him with the candlestick; Mrs. Peacock stabbed the cook, her former employee; Colonel Mustard bludgeoned the motorist with the wrench, his driver during World War II; Mrs. White throttled Yvette out of jealousy and hatred for the latter's affair with her husband, whom she had also killed; and Miss Scarlet clubbed the cop, whom she was bribing. Wadsworth reveals that he shot the singing telegram girl (the patient Professor Plum had the affair with) and that he is the real Mr. Boddy; the person that Professor Plum killed was Mr. Boddy's butler. With his spies and informants disposed of, he plans to continue blackmailing the guests. Mr. Green then draws his own revolver, kills Wadsworth, and reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent, revealing his earlier admittance as a homosexual to be a ruse in order to get close to the real Mr. Boddy. Green then opens the front door, bringing in the authorities to arrest the others as the evangelist is revealed to be the police chief. After telling the police chief 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!"
In home media releases which include all three endings, Ending C is presented through title cards as the real ending.
Main article: List of Cluedo characters
- Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, the wife of a U.S. Senator who is accused of taking bribes.
- Colleen Camp as Yvette, a busty maid who formerly worked as a call girl for Miss Scarlet and was mistress to one of Mrs. White’s husbands.
- 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.
- Bill Henderson as The Cop, an unnamed police officer whom Miss Scarlet has been bribing.
- Howard Hesseman as The Evangelist / The Chief (uncredited), the unnamed chief of police who posed as an evangelist in all three endings.
- Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, the widow of a nuclear physicist and a magician, both of whom died under suspicious circumstances.
- Jeffrey Kramer as The Motorist, Col. Mustard's former driver during World War II.
- 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. He is revealed to be an undercover FBI agent (and married to a woman) in one of the three endings.
- Martin Mull as Col. Mustard, a war profiteer implied to be a client of Miss Scarlet's service.
- Kellye Nakahara as The Cook (Mrs. Ho), the former cook of Mr. Boddy and of Mrs. Peacock.
- 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.
- Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet, a sassy Washington, D.C. madam.
- Jane Wiedlin as The Singing Telegram Girl, a former patient of Professor Plum with whom he had an affair.
- Will Nye as Cop #1.
- Rick Goldman as Cop #2.
- Don Camp as Cop #3.
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; these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton in consultation with Albert Whitlock.
Mrs. White's famous "Flames" speech was improvised by Madeline Kahn.
The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. Each theater 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 is a children's adaptation titled 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 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. In 2015, to mark the film's 30th anniversary, Mondo issued a limited-edition vinyl pressed on six different colored 180 Gram Vinyl colors for each of the suspects. 
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 it has a "promising" cast, but 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 66% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 32 reviews, with an average score of 6.1/10. 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 39 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 and Daria Cercek 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 the remake, 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 and star the film, but was rejected shortly after. In February 2020, it was reported that James Bobin is in talks with 20th Century Studios to direct the film.
In other media
- The episode of Psych titled "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, though it features 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.
- Who Done It: The Clue Documentary was announced in production in 2018, covering the making of the film, its rise to cult status, and interviews with many key people.
- The episode "No Clue" of the 2020 SyFy series Vagrant Queen draws heavily on the movie, and the game to a lesser extent.
- ^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.
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- ^Matthews, pp. 57-9
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