Clue

Clue is one of those movies that you’ve either never heard of or you can quote at the drop of a hat. It features an ensemble cast of some of the best comedic character actors in film history and is a fairly well crafted murder mystery. While the game it’s based on has some semblance of a plot, they create distinct characters out what was just six colored pegs, twists and turns that can be solved in three separate endings, throw in some cold war paranoia for good measure, and didn’t even have to resort to sticking aliens In there like some other movies based on a board game.

Six strangers are invited to a mysterious mansion and quickly learn they all share one thing in common, they have been blackmailed by the same man for various transgressions. The blackmailer hands out weapons (the familiar pieces from the game) and challenges them to kill his loyal butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) who gathered them together and is also a victim of his abuse of power. He promises that with Wadsworth dead, they can all go their separate ways, but he is the one that ends up shot. The guests all deny they were the shooter and as the night goes on, the mansion’s staff and random passerbys begin dropping like flies, with no clear killer. Even though they can’t completely trust each other, the group bands together to try to keep what’s going on a secret. When a cop stops by, questioning an abandoned car close to the property, the guests animate the dead bodies to avoid suspicion.  In the end, Wadsworth solves the mystery in three separate endings, which were used as a box office draw, with audiences having no clue which finale they would get. All three are included on the home video versions, but really, the final one not only has some of the film’s best lines, it makes the most sense as well, making it the true ending. There was a fourth ending where Wadsworth poisons the group and is killed by guard dogs but it was cut due to its dark tone.

The cast is perfection. Tim Curry is born to buttle as Wadsworth with Christopher Lloyd as the lecherous Professor Plum, Michael McKean as the nervous Mr. Green, Martin Mull as the military minded Colonel Mustard, Lesley Ann Warren as the sexy Miss Scarlett, Eileen Brennan as the hysterical Mrs. Peacock, and Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White – the cold widow with the hot temper. It’s an impressive line-up but Kahn steals the show. I’ve seen people fight over who gets to deliver her perfect melt down which was ad libbed by Kahn. She really is one of the most underrated comediennes of all-time and was rarely given material that lived up to her greatness.

This film is a little known treasure. It was a big part of my childhood but I’d encourage anyone who’s unfamiliar with it to check it out. While it has a somewhat slow beginning, by the end, it’s going a mile a minute. It has some of my favorite lines ever which I still quote whenever I’m given an opportunity.


This is Spinal Tap

I lost a loved one this month who was always a great person to talk to about movies so I decided to partially honor him by writing about some films he loved and will always make me think of him. My uncle was a drummer and toured with many big acts in the 80s so This is Spinal Tap was an all-time favorite. This film totally got what it was like to be a rock band in the 80s, specifically an aging one. My uncle told me that many rockers walked out of the film in anger claiming “That’s not a comedy! That’s my life!”

The influence of this film is still felt. The mockumentary format can be found in popular television shows like The Office and Park and Recreation. And while the film’s main players had to prove they could make a film with heavy improv, today it is expected that comedy films will allow the cast to ad lib. This film has such a dry humor that you really have to listen closely. They smartly chose a subject to lampoon who doesn’t realize how naturally hilarious they are. They really don’t have to tweek anything too much to make it funny. The “small bread” scene is a take off on the old legend about Van Halen demanding only brown M&Ms, so Spinal Tap was actually less insane than the band they were spoofing. However Van Halen claimed that they only put the brown M&M thing in their rider to see if anyone actually read it.

Michael Mckean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer are all musicians and played all of Spinal Tap songs (something they did again for A Mighty Wind). What I love is that Spinal Tap’s songs get worse (or at least more ridiculous) as the band progresses. The best written song is the song they wrote as children called “All The Way Home”. “Give Me Some Money” is another great one and was recently used in a commercial, like it was a real song or something! However, no matter how silly songs like “Big Bottom” or “Sex Farm” are, I dare you to watch the movie and not get one of the songs stuck in your head.

The leads never turn down the opportunity to return to their Spinal Tap counterparts. They have performed at high profile events like Live Aid 25 and did the DVD audio commentary in character. If you were to listen to only one audio commentary in your lifetime, make it the in character commentary. I really have trouble deciding whether to just watch the movie or listen to the commentary, because the commentary has some amazing lines in it. The band watches their film and comments on all that has changed since it was made. Spoiler alert: everybody died or is semi-retired (in a whole in the ground). Also, Harry Shearer pipes up way more in the commentary than in the film itself.

This is Spinal Tap is one of those films that many probably quote without knowing the source. “This one goes to eleven” is so iconic and completely embraced by the rock community. Spinal Tap later accused Metallica for stealing the all-black album. It’s funny how a movie that made so many rockers uncomfortable became a defining love letter to metal. Also, lots of fun cameos so keep your eyes open if you’re a first time viewer.   It’s also great to see a few now familiar faces like Dana Carvey and Fran Drescher before they were famous. So stick a cucumber in your pants and get ready to “Rock And Roll!”

Favorite Quote:

David St. Hubbins: I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*.