Clue (1985)

[9.0]

Six guests are summoned to a mansion on a stormy night where they discover each is being blackmailed by their mysterious host. Not even before dinner is over, the host is murdered and mystery is afoot. But who did (done?) it, and why?

Clue is one of those films that was disregarded upon its initial release, but has since become a cult sensation. The screenplay, written by director Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run, My Cousin Vinny) with story credit given to John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Coming to America), is packed with witty banter, terrific one-liners, physical comedy, and sight gags. More importantly, it gives the film’s stellar ensemble cast the opportunity to create fully fleshed out, indelible characters.

Tim Curry, already a cult icon from the infamous Rocky Horror Picture Show, is the perfect man to play the film’s butler — the man leading the story and mayhem. Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael McKean are ever reliable, but it’s the women that stand out the most for me. I adore Madeline Kahn and lament her early death every year. But here she leaves us one of her most cold and controlled comedy performances as Mrs. White. On the other end of the comedy spectrum is Elieen Brennan, whose Mrs. Peacock is manically over-the-top. The underrated Lesley Ann Warren plays the vampish Miss Scarlett with ample slink and deviousness. And let’s not forget Colleen Camp as the frightened maid, Yvette. Yvette’s a bit of a one-note joke, but it’s a hell of a good joke.

Clue is a movie I watch at least once a year, and it never gets old. Upon my most recent viewing, I marveled at how quickly and how well the cast work off one another. Watching some of the back and forth among them is like being caught in a kinetic energy storm. All of them nail every opportunity for stupendous comic timing. I would love to have been there during rehearsal to see how easily the repartee came to them, or how much Lynn was involved in directing them toward that end.

Clue is far better than any movie based on a board game has any right to be. I’m so glad it fell into the hands of a writer/director and cast who took the opportunity to make something more than passable. Clue is a comedy classic.

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