Film: Clue (1985) Rated: PG Directed by: Jonathan Lynn Written by: John Landis and Jonathan Lynn Starring: Tim Curry as Wadsworth Martin Mull as Col. Mustard Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum Michael McKean as Mr. Green Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet Colleen Camp as Yvette
Pre-screeening memories: It’s not often we get to say that a movie is utterly and completely unique, is it? There was simply nothing out there at all similar to Cluewhen it was first released, and that fact (along with my love of the boardgame and Christopher ‘Reverend Jim’ Lloyd) made it something I absolutely had to track down and see. Today, in the age of special features an alternate ending isn’t shocking or unusual, in fact, coming from a Hollywood production, we now almost think of it as odd if a film’s climax doesn’t go through two or three different iterations. But in 1985, the whole concept of multiple endings was unheard-of, and impossibly enthralling – going to see a movie a second time and having the ending change? Impossible! Does science even allow for that?
Which makes it a little funny that it wasn’t until years after seeing the film that I ever actually got to see those multiple endings. Residing solidly in the lower of the middle classes, I didn’t get out to movies much, and the concept of going to see the same movie twice was on the hilarious side. Strangely I have no real memory of the lack of two extra endings ruining the film for me at all. In many ways it was a perfect film to see at a really young age, full of capering and slapstick, and wordplay just clever enough that while I didn’t understand the naughtier bits, I could tell that something risque was definitely going on, which engaged my curiosity. Even the one solution I saw, in which (SPOILER ALERT) Miss Scarlet was the killer and Wadsworth worked for the FBI was perfectly satisfying, leaving me happy enough with the result that I didn’t really question what the other endings might have been.
New memories: If there’s one thing I learned from my second viewing, however, it’s that I shouldn’t have been as complacent as a child. I should have demanded to be taken to another viewing and see the other endings, because it’s only once I’d seen all three that I could really appreciate what a masterpiece of comic construction this film is. The movie has to accomplish something almost miraculous – it has to not only work both as a comedy, keeping people laughing all the way through, and as a mystery, keeping them guessing, but it has to drop hints and leave enough clue that three separate endings all work perfectly without a plot hole in sight. The fact that it succeeds at all of these things is an amazing compliment to the writer/director Jonathan Lynn, who keeps the movie speeding along so that the audience never has a chance to do anything marvel at how entertained they are.
I could talk about one of the greatest comedic ensemble casts I’ve ever seen, or the Tim Curry performance that anchored the film and turned me into a lifelong fan of the actor, or how satisfying it was to finally see the film in its intended form, with all the endings intact – but I think my favorite thing about the film was that it entertained me exactly as much as an adult as it had on my first viewing all those years ago. And not just because I finally got all the jokes, but because it’s one of those rare movies with as much to offer adults as it does children, a comedy that anyone can enjoy, which doesn’t stop being funny on repeated viewings. I’m a little ashamed to have taken as long to get back to clue as I did, but it’s a mistake I won’t make again.
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Our featured guest: Writer/ Director Jonathan Lynn
Now in his fourth decade of film, Mr. Lynn has served in almost every facet of the entertainment industry — stage, television, film, books, and shows no signs of slowing, having recently wrapped Wild Target with Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett and Martin Freeman.
His cinematic contributions prior to this include The Fighting Temptations (with Cuba Gooding Jr and some chick named Beyonce?), The Whole Nine Yards (starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry), Nuns on the Run (with Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane), and directed a young Marisa Tomei to an Oscar win in My Cousin Vinny.
Early in his distinguished career, from 1977 to 1981 Lynn served as Artistic Director of The Cambridge Theatre Company, where he produced more than forty plays, twenty of which he directed. The company’s production of Macbeth featuring Brian Cox toured the United Kingdom and India and staged a special performance for then Prime Minister Mrs Ghandi. Lynn went on to direct one of the companies at the National Theatre of Great Britain, which performed his Society of West End Theatres award-winning production of Three Men on a Horse (1987).
And the acclaim from that series brought him to our shores to write Clue, a 1985 comedic murder-mystery based on the beloved board game, and starring a sterling comedic cast. It was his first forray into feature films, and Mr. Lynn has many a story to share about the experience.
Cheers, Mr. Lynn, and thank you for allowing us choose our weapon with which to pick your brain and solve some of the behind-the-scenes mysteries of Clue.