Clue (1985)

(On DVD, November 2017) There is something almost instantly comfortable in the way Clue sets up the clichés that make up its initial premise: the 1954 New England manor setting; the thunderstorm outside; the various characters taken from classic crime literature; the knowing butler (“I buttle, sir”) and, of course, Murder! The rest is just pure fun, as various mystery clichés are confronted, dropped, turned upside down and played with. Who knew that the brutal death of a singing telegram girl could be so funny? And yet—Clue, with savvy dialogue, knowing references to its board game origins, daring performances and decent physical comedy, hits whatever we’d expect from a talky comedy—writer/director Jonathan Lynn clearly knew what he was doing. Tim Curry is fantastic as the butler, growing more and more frantic until he hits a sustained high note of manic exposition (“Too Late!”) that is hard to forget. Alongside him, Coleen Camp is poured in a maid’s low-cut blouse, Lesley Ann Warren looks a lot like Susan Sarandon and Michael McKean delivers a sleeper performance that builds and builds until the end. It’s best to watch the film as a comedy first, and as a murder mystery as a distant second, as the film offers three contradictory endings to explain it all (the final one is most satisfying). Clue isn’t a great movie, but it’s definitely a good comedy, and its minor cult movie status is well deserved.

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