Bad Movies We Love: Clue

For once in Bad Movies We Love history, I'm both speechless and teary-eyed. The holiday season is here, and as far as I'm concerned, that means it's time to wheel out the movies that are fucking dependable -- the ones that enrich our families, provide nourishment for our newborns, and encourage Jesus to be more of a hilarious character actress. For me, this means one movie -- my favorite movie -- and one that could be considered bad if you are a heartless, freakish, braindead moviegoer who thinks that skittish ensemble comedies based on board games might be stupid. I would strangle those people in a poorly lit billiard room. The movie is Clue, it's the one thing on Earth I'm positive I love, and I want to hug you as I write this. Girl, let's hold our candlesticks high, our dignities low, and bludgeon the daylights out of Mr. Boddy.

Where to begin, darlings? Even in terms of campy, overpopulated '80s comedies, Clue is an anomaly. It resembles the (pretty unwatchable) Peter Sellers murder mystery Murder By Death in appearance and tone -- and Eileen Brennan flaps about in both -- but Clue defies the familiar whodunit genre with three strange attributes:

1. A rigid adherence to the characters, gameplay, and vaguely glamorous world inside Clue's 2-D mansion;

2. An excess of jokes concerning Communism, J. Edgar Hoover, and shady politicians of the 1950s;

3. A cast that is trying so hard to sell every one-liner, aside, and petty plot machination that we see steam fly up from Lesley Ann Warren's décolletage every four minutes.

For a frothy mystery comedy, it is deeply labored effort. I can't gauge how or if a first-time viewer will appreciate the charismatic brio I so deeply cherish here. In fact, to an amateur, Clue may just seem like a barrage of underwritten jokes.

But I don't care. I am an indoctrinated attendee in Clue's sprawling manor, and I can't limit myself to choosing five fabulous parts of the movie. Since I ruined your life last week with Who's That Girl, I'll edify you with a lengthier tribute to Clue's greatness. I'm picking its 25 most amazing moments. You can't stop me -- not with your revolver, your Jell-O rendering of Colleen Camp, or your Academy Award nomination for Private Benjamin. Sit back and giggle at the splendor.

(I realize that some of this won't make sense to first-timers, but please just let me freestyle here. True Clue lovers can't blather enough about their adoration. Spoilers everywhere.)

25. The absolute lamest joke about Communism possible -- repeated twice.

Allow Miss Scarlet (the ravishing, Oscar-nominated Sarandon doppelganger Lesley Ann Warren) to define Communism for you. Pretty fishy!

24. The shamelessly hacky plot

For the uninformed: Clue is about the game's six familiar characters (Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, etc.) who are invited to a dinner party. Their host Wadsworth (Tim-effing-Curry) introduces them to a man named Mr. Boddy, who Wadsworth reveals is blackmailing all of them. Boddy turns up dead. Then other peripheral characters turn up dead. Wadsworth solves the murders and begins to explain how he figured them out. Then the movie treats us to -- pay attention now -- three separate endings, each with a different explanation for the 6-7 murders that occur in the mansion. Vamping and jokes ensue. Credits. It's "Choose Your Own Adventure" for an Agatha Christie crowd. You're hooked or you're not a person.

23. Unnecessarily fantastic and nonsensical cameo #1: A character from Madeline Kahn's past

Wadsworth, in the throes of explaining how each of the murders occurred in ending #3, accuses the dark and mysterious Mrs. White of strangling Yvette the maid. He declares, "You were jealous that your husband was schtupping Yvette -- that's why you killed him, too!" The word "schtupping" is no accident. Madeline Kahn earned her second Oscar nom for playing Lili von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles. And Clue, of course, knows that you know that. Because it loves us.

22. Mr. Boddy is played by a notorious SNL musical guest.

Lee Ving, the aptly monikered actor who plays Clue's famously offed victim, possesses a hotheaded, Sean Penn-adjacent grit as Mr. Boddy. Indeed, he's a true showbiz rioter: As the lead singer of the L.A. punk outfit Fear, Ving led a Saturday Night Live musical performance that devolved into audience stage-diving and thrashing. Producer Dick Ebersol stopped the performance midway through and cut to a pre-taped rehearsal performance in its place. That's about as rock n' roll as Clue gets. Because ahem:

21. The soundtrack -- for white people who love white people who rip off black people

Clue is set in 1954 New England, and the hilariously pre-Elvis soundtrack reflects that. The two key records playing throughout the manor are Bill Haley and the Comets' tidy rendition of Big Joe Turner's much more libidinous "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" and the white doo-wop group the Crew Cuts' version of The Chords' "Sh-Boom." Go back to the Delta and whine about it, black innovators! The whites are loving their un-syncopated good times. Shake it, Yvette.

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Comments

  • lgagafan1313 says:

    oh yeah by the way... "Communism is just a red herring." is repeated once in all 3 endings: once by Miss Scarlet and twice by Wadsworth. Just correcting your facts... Otherwise I love the intro!!! yes I shall bludgeon the daylights out of Mr. Boddy and strangle stupid people. peace.

  • Lloyd says:

    I knew from the start the Madeline Kahn's scene would have to be number 1 on this list. Far and away the greatest comedic actress in film history.

  • Stephanie says:

    I'm in love with you and this post! As a big fan of this movie, I appreciated each item in the list. Great blog post ;)

  • Glenn says:

    I'm shocked -- Shocked, I tell you! -- that this was a box-office failure! Critics are an academic bunch, and don't appreciate real-people's humor. That's why they're called critics!

    I'm 45 and just downloaded this flick from Netflix. Had seen it on VHS years ago and loved it then. It's a classic, regardless of what the critics said. Or say!

    Glenn

  • Dave R. says:

    And there's no way Carrie Fisher could've filled out that dress like Lesley Ann Warren did.

    Great review.

  • ClueRocks says:

    Found this by accident tonight. Clue rocks! One thing though - the illusionist was not Mrs. White's third husband, he was her first husband.

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