Set in a baroque country mansion in New England in 1954, and based on the Parker Brothers board game Cluedo (marketed as ‘Clue’ in America), the film opens with a butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry), checking that everything is prepared for guests who will soon be arriving.
First to show up is blustery Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), one of six people who have been summoned to the mansion by a mysterious letter. He is followed shortly by the others; black-hearted widow Mrs White (Madeline Kahn), supercilious Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), sexually ambiguous civil servant Mr Green (Michael McKean), psychiatrist Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd) and saucy Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) – who adds to the suspense with a gravity-defying cleavage-enhancing strapless gown.
Once seated around the dinner table, the guests learn about each other and it transpires that they are all connected to Washington DC in various ways.
A seventh guest ultimately shows up at the house, the none-too-subtly named Mr Boddy (Lee Ving), an obnoxious fellow who they discover is blackmailing each of them.
Boddy gives each of them gift-wrapped presents, which when opened are revealed to match the six weapons from the original board game (knife, revolver, rope, lead piping etc).
The lights go out unexpectedly, there is a commotion, and when the lights come back on, Mr Boddy is lying dead on the carpet. Shortly thereafter it is discovered that the cook has been stabbed to death in the kitchen . . .
Every weapon is used at some point in the six murders committed during the evening and – true to the game – the large mansion has various rooms in which the murders are committed; the Library, Dining Room, Study, Conservatory, Kitchen, and so on.
Clue was released in three versions in the USA, with three different endings. Frustratingly, though, it transpired that none of the six suspects were, in fact, the killer.
Turned out it was an unknown extra party behind the dastardly deeds, so when the culprit was revealed it had no impact.
The character of the Butler was invented for the film.
Lesley Ann Warren