19 June 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: Clue

So here's the first in my own little mini series, a profile and reviews of the films of Jonathan Lynn, known in the UK for the series "Yes Minister", sadly unappreciated in the United States despite his two decades of film directing, hopefully, this will make more sense as I go along. First up, is Clue.

Here's some obligatory fan art of Lesley Ann Warren.

Released 1985 by Paramount pictures, Screenplay by Jonathan Lynn and John Landis, based on the board game.

Six blackmail victims are given color-coded pseudonyms and collected at a New England mansion for an intervention by Wadsworth , a Butler, then people die. The movie was released with multiple endings so that, like the board game, the culprits are interchangeable, also notable is the all-star cast which includes Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd and freaking Tim Curry at what may be the height of their comedic prowess.

Clue has great rising action. The first fifteen minutes are deliberate, complete with awkward- pause gags. By the end of the film, the pacing is frenetic with everyone running at full speed around the mansion as Wadsworth explains the whole damn movie at fever pitch.

However, the different endings screw everything up. Only the third ending is satisfactory and logical: every murder is committed by a different guest, Wadsworth is really Mr. Boddy, and Mr. Green is a government agent. In the other versions, the rest of the cast goes sadly unused as the plot hones in on a single murderer. The VHS release and TV cut of the film play all three endings in succession, extending the finale longer than it should (and screwing up the pacing). Though the film seems to make some solid observations about the nature of reconciling a private and political life, the whole point of the film gets lost in the conflicting resolutions.


By the way, Michael Kaplan’s costumes kick ass! Everybody’s wardrobe reveals information about their character, from the obvious (Mrs. White is in mourning) to the subtle (Col. Mustard wears a tailored suit, indicating undeclared income). Kaplan works the character’s namesakes into their appearance without being over-the-top; Professor Plum’s vest, for instance. The only character unlike his game piece is Mr. Green, who dresses in navy blue. Going by the third ending, this is positively brilliant: he’s not really Mr. Green.

Though Clue didn’t make a domestic profit in it’s initial release, the movie has since developed a fan following, and remains popular enough to warrant never-ceasing rumors of a remake. Clue is smart and hilarious, but will never be remembered as a “classic” since the multi-endings confuse the hell out of everybody.

But this movie rocks, anyway.

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