A Clue remake is coming, the 1985 version is genius

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
The 1985 Clue movie.
The 1985 Clue movie. Credit: Supplied

Was it Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick or Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the lead pipe? We’re about to find out because another round of Clue (also known as Cluedo) is in the works.

Sony is reportedly about to close a deal with Hasbro for the movie and TV rights for a new screen adaptation of the classic board game, and if the last attempt is a measure, we could be in for a rollicking ride.

The 1985 comedy starring comedy legends Tim Curry, Madeline Khan, Christopher Lloyd, Colleen Camp, Martin Mull and Michael McKean wasn’t appreciated in its time (it didn’t make back its production budget in its original release) but in the past four decades, has become a cult favourite.

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If you haven’t seen it in a while, put it on your list. If you’ve never seen it before, remedy this immediately. It’s a fantastically chaotic murder mystery comedy that makes the best use of Curry’s mischievous talents and boasts witty wordplay, slapstick and a puzzling story with three alternative endings.

For the uninitiated, the film knitted together the basic elements of the game – six suspects (Mrs Peacock, Mrs White, Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, Mr Green and Professor Plum), six weapons (revolver, rope, lead pipe, candlestick, dagger and wrench) – with a story about a gathering of strangers in an isolated old mansion. And everyone has a motive to kill the first victim, Mr Boddy.

The 1985 Clue movie.
The 1985 Clue movie has killer zingers. Credit: Supplied

The film, directed by Jonathan Lynn and written by Lynn and John Landis, is a masterclass in building energy so that by the time it reaches its farcical climax — the scenes of Curry running around the mansion are indelible — it makes perfect sense instead of being utterly ridiculous. It’s kind of ridiculous too, but in the way it’s intended.

Plus, it has zingers including, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn”, “life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage” and “Husbands should be like Kleenex, soft, strong and disposable”. The back-and-form rhythm of some of its exchanges (“Am I right in thinking there’s nobody else in this house?”) is sing-song perfection.

Clue may have been intended as something of a spoof of the closed-house murder mystery, complete with red herrings about communists, but it’s been highly influential in some of the best examples of the genre that followed.

It’s hard to imagine Rian Johnson didn’t look to Clue when he made Knives Out and perhaps even more so Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, the latter being more embracing of dance-like physical comedy. There’s also the now-cancelled series The Afterparty. American TV series Psych dedicated a whole episode, “100 Clues”, as a pastiche to Clue, even inviting Warren and Mull into its guest cast.

If another screen version of Clue should come to fruition, we have a suggestion of who could make it: The filmmaking duo of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. The pair directed the very funny Game Night, a movie that arguably owes a bit to Clue, and already has experience with Hasbro adaptations, having made the surprisingly enjoyable 2023 Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves. They know how to balance the ludicrous and kooky with a story that clips along.

Hasbro is also developing a Monopoly movie with Margot Robbie’s production company, but it’s harder to get excited about a real estate movie.

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