36 years ago ‘Clue’ flopped. Why is this so awesome?


Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend delves into adjacent queer and queer headlines from the past that deserve a watch or re-watch.

The cult: clue

Board games don’t have a good track record of translating on the big screen. Ouija someone? Battleship? Forget a rewatch; these films make us want to never play the games that inspired them again.

The exception – although no one knows it based on box office receipts – is Clue, the 1985 adaptation of the classic mystery board game. Tim Curry plays Wadsworth, the Body Mansion butler tasked with accommodating six anonymous strangers on a stormy night in 1954. Said strangers adopt the names of the characters from the board game – Miss Scarlet, Professor Plumb, Mr. Green and. al. – only to realize that Mr. Body lured them all there as part of a blackmail plan. When Body is found dead, Wadsworth and the guests set out to root out the murderer.

It’s a simple premise, à la Agatha Christie, but with a very rustic sensibility. Clue is considered the rarest of the dialogue-focused films that actually work without feeling too ‘talking’; the film’s brand of joke, cantilever, and wacky comedy generally performs best on stage. Here it works, in large part thanks to a very cheerful and knowledgeable cast. In addition to Curry star Eileen Brennan, Colleen Camp, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren, each relishing their wacky dialogue and overblown characters, with each actor trying to steal their scenes from their co-stars. -stars. Clue’s campy sensibility has long endeared the film to queer audiences. The presence of gay favorites Curry and Kahn (of whom the latter manages to steal the show), as well as a cameo from bisexual rock star Jane Weidlin also help.

An editing fiasco involving the film’s multiple endings hampered Clue’s box office performance upon release. We also suspect that audiences in 1985 didn’t quite understand why someone would want to see a movie based, essentially, on a toy (they didn’t know where we were going… Transformers, GI Joe, Bratz, Jem and the Holograms… the list continues), as well as stiff box office competition, also hampered the film’s performance. Thank goodness then, this Paramount studio fixed the ending issues for a home video release, where the film ultimately found unconditional worship. Energetic, playful and endlessly quotable, we suggest you give Clue a watch. It’s a delicious game with some of the craziest dialogue ever.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube, and VUDU.

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