PUBLISHED 1 AUG 2016
AS the first Hollywood movie based on a board game, all that could be expected from CLUE - an adaptation of Hasbro’s Cluedo - were secret passageways, an array of deadly weapons and a spooky manor. After its initially underwhelming performance at the US box office, what was not expected was that this recipe for a comedic whodunnit could uncover a massive cult following. Accompanied by the tagline “It’s not just a game anymore”, CLUE was an unprecedented adaptation and surprised audiences with its goofy interpretation of the ensemble of first-time detectives.
The guests arrive one by one, aware only of their pseudonyms - each matching a Cluedo character’s name - and the name of their host: Mr Boddy (Lee Ving). They are greeted by the butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry), who welcomes them to the eerily quiet manor and is assisted by the epitome of French maid stereotypes, Yvette (Colleen Camp). The connection between the party guests is revealed to be political blackmail, tying each of them to their host Mr Boddy who keeps their darkest secrets buried, for a fee.It should come as no surprise that the first casualty is Mr Boddy after a moment alone in the dark with his blackmail victims. With no reliable witnesses, fingers are pointed in every direction as this game of murder mystery gets truly underway.
As a narrative device within CLUE, murder is only ever presented as comedic; “Two corpses. Everything’s fine”, Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull) remarks after checking in on the first two victims. Though characters are brutally killed with a candlestick, revolver or lead pipe, the unyielding campiness of the film prevents us from feeling any tension or fear for the remaining characters.
CLUE prides itself on its slapstick approach to the otherwise serious world of murder mystery. It is packed with hyperbolic humour and a myriad of memorable one-liners, such as the serial-widow Mrs White’s (Madeline Khan) comments regarding her many former husbands: “Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable”. The only subdued aspect of the film involves the costuming. One would expect the characters to match their plastic precursors, but other than a glimmer of silver from Mrs White’s coat, the remaining suspects subvert Cluedo expectations, preferring to dress in drab blacks and browns. This creates further intrigue as the audience are now unaware of what else might have been twisted in the adaptation process.
Boasting a trio of alternative endings, CLUE’S cinema distribution is what created its legacy for mystery as cinemas randomly received a different ending, each yielding a very different result regarding the murderer’s identity. The array of endings reflects the unique power of a board game adaptation as Cluedo is designed to be replayed, resulting in a different ending with each play-through. Though CLUE does not rival equally thematic adaptations of the works of Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle, there are still enough surprises to have the audience guessing until the very end.