Family game night at the Brooks household was no joke. Board games were a prominent fixture in our family room; Monopoly® games left untouched for days at a time, ready for resume play at a moment’s notice, and blue and pink Life® people were permanently embedded in the carpet. When our parents unearthed a tattered box with the word ‘Clue’ on the top, my sister and I had no idea what was in store. This antique relic (it was probably an 80’s edition, but as kids, anything older than you is an antique) would begin a lifelong obsession with a unique game of deception and secrecy. I still remember our combined delight when a trusted video store clerk pointed us in the direction of Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 adaptation of the game. How could this possibly be a thing, and why didn’t we already know about it? We grabbed the VHS, and headed home. That night changed us forever, and our love for Clue singlehandedly kept that video store in business (one of the last holdouts against Blockbuster in the neighborhood). As the crowning jewel atop our Halloween marathon, Clue was a yearly event that we anticipated as much as the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, or the Thanksgiving Bond-a-thon (albeit that one was more me than my little sister). And before you say, “Clue isn’t a Halloween movie, much less a Horror movie;” any movie that takes place in a spooky mansion and surrounds six murders is damn close enough.
A sublime concoction of comedy and suspense, Clue is one of those uncommon films that gets better every time you see it. The character framework is exquisitely simplistic – each “suspect” serving a singular purpose then passing along the narrative baton in a balletic jaunt to an unknown conclusion. Lynn and co-writer John Landis’ script is overflowing with sexual innuendo and buffoonery – the latter hooks you while you’re young, the former keeps you coming back as an adult. Muttered ripostes, waves of 1950’s/80’s cultural references, and an overabundance of double entendre flood the senses, allowing each subsequent viewing to feel like a fresh experience.
More than clever dialogue, Clue is an aural feast. I know that I will never commit the panicked squawkings of Mrs. Peacock, or Wadsworth’s incessant chatter to memory, but am held in continual amazement at how so many of the foley cues seem to jump into my mind. Leather-soled shoes tapping across vast marble hallways, the weighty click of the lead pipe connecting with a wedding ring, lever-lock keys fumbling inside their tumblers; Clue plays like the greatest Halloween sound effects tape ever recorded. Heightened by a whimsical score from John Morris (that evokes images of Bugs Bunny at the opera) and choice pieces from The Crew Cuts and Bill Haley and the Comets, the film’s sounds are every bit as important as the dialogue or Tim Curry’s light-as-air dynamism.
Having seen Clue more than I care to admit, a self-imposed limit restricts viewing to the month of October. As much as I love John Carpenter, Wes Craven, or David Cronenberg, nothing quite matches the excitement of pulling my trusty copy of Clue off the shelf and popping it into the DVD player.