Spoilers are still not sure if there’s anybody else in this house.
The typical detective whodunit is usually played straight, although the game for the viewer is to play couch detective and figure it out before the reveal. That being said, this film captures both the game and parodies the classic mystery mansion with a group of strangers premise of novels and movies from another era. You can see shades of Clue in Knives Out (2019). I dare say it’s hard to try to get the aura of mystery-comedy and the hilarious dialog as good as Clue did. Although technically you’re not really meant to solve the mystery, every one of its outcomes feels plausible – although none of them are solid.
Clue (1985) was directed by Jonathan Lynn based on the story and screenplay written by John Landis and Jonathan Lynn. The original Parker Brothers game (Cluedo/Clue) was devised by Anthony E. Pratt back in 1943. The film is set in New England of 1954 where six strangers arrive at a mysterious mansion. Awaiting them is the butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry) who has instructions from their mystery host to only address them by their pseudonyms: Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Professor Plum (Cristopher Lloyd), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren). Also in the house are the maid Yvette (Colleen Camp) and the cook Mrs. Ho (Kelley Nakahara).
Dodging questions and demands, Wadsworth leads the group into the dining room for an awkward meal. As Mrs. Peacock attempts to break the ice, she gives herself away as Mr. Green remembers she’s the wife of someone important. Professor Plum admits he works for the World Health Organization. Soon enough it becomes apparent everyone lives in Washington D.C. and/or makes their living from the government. The conversation stops once a seventh guest, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving) arrives. Contrary to what everyone assumes, he’s not the host of the party.
Wadsworth convinces everyone to reconvene in the study, where he opens an envelope and reveals that they’ve all been summoned here because they’re all been blackmailed for a personal secret that would ruin their reputations if it were to go public. As each of the guests admit, deny or dance around the truth, the final question arrives. What about Mr. Boddy? Well… He’s the blackmailer. After an awkward confrontation, Mr. Boddy has another suggestion. He brings a suitcase from the entrance hall and reveals six lethal objects: A candlestick, a lead pipe, a rope with a noose, a dagger, a wrench and a loaded gun. He expects one of the guests to kill Wadsworth and turns off the lights. After a scuffle and a gunshot, the lights come on… And we have our first murder.
Here’s where the mystery begins. One of our guests is a murderer. Soon more bodies start dropping and the crazy antics really begin in earnest. The plot keeps bringing in more people showing up that might have something to do with one of the guests’ secrets. With the imminent police presence on its way and time running out, the guests realize they have to solve the mystery themselves before they become the killer’s next victim.
The film has a bit of a slow start, which works for it. It also seems to get better with its comedic timing the moment that all guests drop their pretense of civility and become frantic to solve the mystery, stay alive or plain get out of the house. Everyone of these actors seem at the top of their game. Tim Curry’s Wadsworth is just a whirlwind of manic energy. Martin Mull’s Colonel Mustard is brilliantly stupid plus the only one that gets hurt in a fight. Lesley Ann Warren’s Miss Scarlet is sassy with a sharp wit. Cristopher’s Lloyd’s Professor Plum is full of sarcastic quotes. Madeline Kahn’s Mrs. White is just delightfully wicked.
Very highly recommended. I think casuals might need some encouragement to stick with it as the humour starts slow until it escalates. The multiple endings used to factor in because you’d only get one at your screening, but you’ll get all three endings in Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV. Once the bodies start dropping and the cast starts running around the place, it’s a non-stop rollercoaster. The ending(s) are so out there that you will find yourself coming up with your own theory. After all, that’s the way it could’ve happened.
That will do for now.