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Clue Blu-ray Review

Clue (1985) movie poster Clue

Theatrical Release: December 13, 1985 / Running Time: 86-88 Minutes (Theatrical Cuts), 97 Minutes (Trilogy Ending Cut) / Rating: PG

Director: Jonathan Lynn / Writers: Jonathan Lynn (story & screenplay), John Landis (story)

Cast: Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Tim Curry (Wadsworth), Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlett), Colleen Camp (Yvette), Lee Ving (Mr. Boddy), Bill Henderson (The Cop), Jane Wiedlin (The Singing Telegram Girl), Jeffrey Kramer (The Motorist), Kellye Nakahara (The Cook), Howard Hesseman (The Chief - uncredited)

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Battleship drew laughs and criticism earlier this year for simply existing, but it was not the first movie adapted from a board game. That would be Clue, a comic caper released at the end of 1985 which did not welcome as much derision. A game of chance, Battleship involves picking coordinates along a grid and either hitting or missing an opponent's craft, thus requiring a standard alien invasion plot written for the film. By contrast, Parker Brothers' game (called Cluedo outside North America, including in the UK where a company named Waddingtons originally published it) was story-driven, a murder mystery that lent itself to faithful, albeit light-hearted interpretation.

The seven "Clue" leads (Tim Curry, Lesley Ann Warren, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull, Michael McKean, and Eileen Brennan) try to respond casually to an inquiring police officer.

The directing and theatrical film debut of English writer Jonathan Lynn, who had recently co-created the Britcom "Yes Minister", Clue assembles a group of strangers in a mansion for a dinner party in 1954 America. The guests are invited to Hill House under mysterious circumstances and each is given a color-based pseudonym (as in the game).
The attendees include Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), former doctor Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), excitable Senator's wife Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), widow Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), madam Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), and homosexual state official Mr. Green (Michael McKean). Unbeknownst to them is the connection they share: each is being blackmailed by their host, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving) for a secret transgression. Rounding out the party are the butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry), who seems to know a little more than everyone else, and the busty French maid Yvette (Colleen Camp).

The film proceeds, as it must, with a murder not easily explained. Mr. Boddy winds up dead, with each of the guests having an obvious motive yet claiming innocence. The plot thickens when the cook (Kellye Nakahara) gets a knife in her back. Others follow, as random individuals show up at the house and are disposed of in shrouded scenarios.

Everyone harbors suspicions towards one another as they perform the real-life equivalent of the board game's actions: investigating the numerous rooms of the Gothic premises in search of clues. Also in accordance with the game, each guest has been assigned a lethal weapon (a rope, a lead pipe, etc.).

Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd) and Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan) draw matching matches, meaning they'll explore part of the mansion together. The dinner party moves to the kitchen, where a second dead body is found.

Clue unfolds with the fun you'd expect of its colorful ensemble and its atypical source material. There are a dizzying amount of wrong turns, which are robbed of some meaning by the film's bold and creative choice to have three different endings. In theaters, you could end up seeing the puzzle pieces put together in one of three ways. Next week's Blu-ray debut upholds that tradition by treating you to one of the three outcomes at random. It's a clever gimmick which it's tough to believe has never been aped, as easy as it would be to achieve with digital distribution.

The silliness of Clue is appealing, especially when one enters familiar with the game. Despite the largely American cast and creative contributions by the likes of John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London) and Debra Hill (Halloween and other John Carpenter thrillers), some British sensibilities seep through in wordplay and innuendo. It is a chipper comedy, more enjoyable for its playful atmosphere than for unraveling a coherent whodunit. Comprised of performers recognized for supporting turns, the cast elevates the material, steering it away from camp and into the cinematic equivalent of a parlor game.

Clue opened to mixed reviews and, despite its repeat business potential, underperformed at the box office, with a gross just shy of its estimated $15 million budget. Nonetheless, the film has endured, aided by no shortage of television broadcasts and the ongoing popularity of the game bearing its name. As Paramount continues to release its film catalog to Blu-ray on a monthly basis, it is little surprise that Clue is already making the cut this summer.

Clue Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
2.0 DTS-HD Mono (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $22.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($8.99; June 27, 2000) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Blu-ray's 1.78:1 print is clean throughout, although the film's age does show through in its dated look. A reasonable amount of grain features, but sharpness and detail are satisfactory. This is not the most stunning film visually, although it does boast a killer setting that 1080p allows you to appreciate more than anything since theatrical showings. The night rain is a regular presence on the 2.0 monaural DTS-HD master audio, giving the illusion of a crackly mix. The dialogue is crisp and complemented by five subtitle streams. Like the picture, the sound isn't clear enough to mistake Clue for a brand new production, but it likely improves upon the movie's 12-year-old DVD and should satisfy viewers with ordinary expectations.

The Trilogy Ending of VHS and television broadcasts presents all three solutions in succession with titles designating one as the film's true ending. It's not just a game...anymore, proclaims the tagline in the Clue movie's theatrical trailer.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As on DVD, Clue's main bonus is its unorthodox conclusion. The Blu-ray fittingly gives you the option to view the film with one of the three theatrical endings picked at random or the home entertainment version with all three played in succession.

No matter what you get the first way, you needn't play the entire movie again to see the other possibilities. You can choose to view "Ending A" (8:36), "Ending B" (8:47), or "Ending C" (7:24), each of which provides one conclusion to the film, complete with the end credits scroll.
The only differences lie in the first 4-5 minutes, which supply different motives, different findings, and different murderers. It doesn't ever matter all that much who killed whom and why, but it is fun to not know for certain what edit you'll get. I can understand a desire to pick your favorite conclusion and though that isn't an option, it can easily be achieved by trial and error, once you figure out the runtime of your preferred cut.

The "Trilogy Ending" (17:53), employed on VHS and in most television airings, merely plays the three in succession, with intertitles presenting each as one possible solution, settling on Ending A as what "really happened"

The only other extra is the film's original theatrical trailer (1:33), a little worn but presented in high definition like everything else on the disc.

As is the norm for Paramount, the static, silent menu merely reproduces the cover art at a wider ratio.

The disc supports bookmarks, but the seamless branching of the random ending playback renders them of little use, as odds are they won't apply to the version you were last watching. That makes it a little more than annoying that, like all Paramount BDs, this one does not resume playback after powering down.

Suspicion momentarily turns to Yvette the maid (Coleen Camp). With randomly assigned lethal weapons in hand, Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) have a fright.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Translating a mystery board game into a black comedy movie seems like such an unlikely mission that Clue's moderate success stands as a truly impressive achievement. While no classic, this 1980s farce holds up pretty well as an entertaining time in the spirit of the game. Paramount's Blu-ray release is basic but satisfying, offering virtually all the viewing options it should and with commendable quality. Though it's a missed opportunity to dig up or produce worthwhile additional bonus material, it should still suit the many fans of the film just fine.

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Reviewed August 1, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1985 Paramount Pictures, Guber-Peters Productions, PolyGram Pictures, Debra Hill Productions, and 2012 Paramount Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.