Before board game-based cinema was tainted by the likes of Battleship, there was the unassuming Clue. A murder mystery with a random selection of three endings (all chewed up by a Tim Curry performance that is one of the most under appreciated of the decade) made Clue brilliant.
John Landis didn’t direct, but he did write this clever, often dark adaptation of what is in reality, a rather grim board game. With the backdrop of 1950s communism, guests are invited to a mansion that is pure movie magic in its design, all with a secret that ties them together. Lights go out, storms roll in, and the bodies pile.
Clue is kooky enough in tone to be mistaken as a kids movie, morbid enough to be found offensive. It’s totally a Landis outing. This is a PG-film that works in necrophilia as a key gag, a distraction tactic that forces this outstanding cast roster into what might be their grandest gross outs.
Snappy comedy kicks off – and establishes the wholly unique tone – with a poop joke. That takes skill. Tim Curry’s butler inadvertently plants his shoe where the dog roams, and invited guests that follow can’t seem to find the origin of the odor. The play on the cheesy is immediately stupid yet satisfying, the guests trying to maintain a level of politeness amongst the unknown others even if they all experienced the same.
Interplay keeps Clue fresh, the script mashing the cast into awkward duos or a little sexual deviance. There’s something odd when viewing Christopher Lloyd as a doctor who became a little too friendly with his female patients, pulling veterans a bit out of their comfort zones. It makes them easier to suspect.
Clue’s greatest achievement remains the triple decker ending, brilliant in that it works in such varied ways, hilarious in how they each play out. It’s more than a matter of character names swapped in and out, but a fresh take with new gags that creates instant rewatchability. Short of the die-hard fans who are aware of which ending is which, Clue can remain fresh on multiple viewings, even 30 years later.
Paramount delivers Clue on a disc worthy of this ’80s classic, beginning with what looks to be a relatively modern scan. With a hard working AVC encode pushing through a heavy grain structure, Clue appears exquisitely textured and precise. Medium shots maintain as much integrity as the close-ups, with a crispness that only the higher end side of catalog titles are destined for.
Rare occasions will see the film collapse into mush, the encode losing a piece of the battle, while maintaining a grip on the war. Minor elements, from the texture of the wood around the house to the expensive looking tiling used on the floor, are able to be appreciated here with the level of definition afforded to this release. That’s a fair trade for an occasional breakdown.
The print used carries a speck or two that barely registers as any kind of a visual impediment. Those one frame glimpses of source damage aren’t even worthy of discussion. Clean up has removed any ill effects of age, including scratches or dirt. Clue appears mint.
Colors have been splashed with a vibrancy that doesn’t feel as if it betrays the original source. Primaries are heavy, locked away only by some apparent black crush. Despite a chipper tone, Clue is secluded in darkness and dim lighting schemes which forever will suck shadow detail from the source. That’s passable by design, giving the piece a deep, rich look that is laid out consistently across the entire running time.
Parmount doesn’t lavishly rework the audio in any spectacular way, leaving the film saddled with a DTS-HD mono effort with a creaky opening. Clue’s immediately weighty and high lifting score comes across as screechy, lacking a genuine fidelity. For most of the feature – and to the relief of audiophiles – Clue doesn’t reach for those lofty highs again. It’s restrained and laid back, settling down into an acceptable range that doesn’t draw attention to itself.
Dialogue carries a bright quality that dates the film, but never renders it flat. The house allows for a spacious echo that can dry things out aurally, while integrity is maintained. No lines are lost to defect or age. Any hissing or popping has been dealt with, leaving things sounding vintage flavored.
Extras are sparse, boiled down to different viewing options. Each ending can be selected individually, or you can go in randomly. The endings are also available separately, along with a trailer.
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