Wadsworth: That's what we're trying to find out! We're trying to find out who killed him, and where, and with what!Quite possibly the best movie based on a board game ever made in 1985, Clue is a murder mystery/comedy film based on the board game Clue (or Cluedo, depending on where you live). The movie justifies a large mansion full of people with silly names trying to solve a murder mystery by turning all of the characters from the board game into blackmail victims using predetermined aliases.The six guests travel to the remote mansion after receiving an invitation from Wadsworth (Tim Curry) to expose his employer, Mr. Boddy, as a blackmailer. Mr. Boddy turns the tables on the plan: he gives everyone a weapon and asks them to kill Wadsworth so no one will have their secrets exposed. When the lights go out, someone kills Mr. Boddy; since everyone has both the means and a motive to turn Boddy into a body, everyone becomes a suspect in his murder. The group opts to solve the case themselves rather than call the police, and Hilarity Ensues—and in a good way. While made in The '80s, the film sets its story in The '50s (and in New England) to justify both the large mansion and the politically-charged secrets of its main cast.That was one way the description could have ended. But how about this?Clue bombed in theaters, partly because of the movie's Multiple Endings. In theaters, the solution to the murders changed depending on where you saw the movie; viewers couldn't deduce the murderer from the clues presented, since other options had to remain viable in order to accomodate the other endings. The reviewers apparently didn't know a zany comedy couldn't have a real mystery happening. The home video and TV versions of the film play all three endings; these cuts mark two endings as "how it could have happened", while marking the third ending as "how it really happened". The DVD and Blu-Ray can play one ending at random or all three endings as described above.But here's what really happened.Although it bombed in theaters, Clue eventually became a Cult Classic. Fans regard it as a solid comedy with a mix of clever dialogue and slapstick, and the various solutions to the murders (mostly) hold up on repeat viewings.Do not confuse this film with the UK adaptation of the board game (which, unbelievably, was a Game Show).
Professor Plum: There's no need to shout!
Wadsworth: I'M NOT SHOUTING!...ALL RIGHT I AM. I'M SHOUTING I'M SHOUTING I'M SH- >CLUNK<
Professor Plum: There's no need to shout!
Wadsworth: I'M NOT SHOUTING!...ALL RIGHT I AM. I'M SHOUTING I'M SHOUTING I'M SH- >CLUNK<
Clue contains the following tropes:
- Acting Unnatural: When Miss Scarlet and Prof. Plum close the doors to the study and the lounge, they unconvincingly feign nonchalance in how they lean against the doors.
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Murder Mystery genre.
- Agent Peacock: "Mr. Green", depending on the version of the film you got, he's actually an FBI agent who spent the whole movie (plus whatever setup time the sting required) pretending to be gay to get into Mr. Boddy's blackmail ring. He is the one who finally killed Mr. Boddy. In the hallway. With the revolver.
- The Alcoholic: Strongly implied by Mrs. Peacock, who has an unsteady walk and slightly slurs her words. Tellingly, she "sobers up" in the second ending, wherein she committed all the murders - implying that she was Obfuscating Stupidity - but remains relatively addle-brained in the third, wherein she (and all the others) only killed one person.
- All Men Are Perverts: Col. Mustard:Col. Mustard: What room's this?Miss Scarlet: Search me.Col. Mustard: All right. [Mustard starts to frisk Miss Scarlet]Miss Scarlet: Get your hands off me!
Wadsworth: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry, specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.Prof. Plum: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.Wadsworth: Your work has not changed, but you don't practice medicine at the U.N.; his license to practice has been lifted, correct?Miss Scarlet: Why? What did he do?Wadsworth: You know what doctors aren't allowed to do with their lady patients?Miss Scarlet: Yeah?Wadsworth: Well, he did.
- And Professor Plum:
- All There in the Manual: Among the details not found in the final film, but in the shooting script and novelization are:
- The movie Mrs. White saw was From Here to Eternity.
- Ambiguous Syntax: Mrs. White's late husband's threat.Mrs. White: He had threatened to kill me in public.
Miss Scarlet: Why would he want to kill you in public?
Wadsworth: I think she means he threatened, in public, to kill her.
- And Then What?: Every Big Bad in each ending gets asked this by someone (usually Green) after admitting guilt. They always suggest, more or less, the same thing: stack the bodies in the cellar, have everyone leave at different times, pretend it never happened, and let the Big Bad continue to blackmail everyone, although not necessarily for the same reasons or by the same person.
- Angrish: Miss White lapses into a version of this when describing her feelings about Yvette in the third ending.
- Angry Guard Dog: Three of them. Two German shepherds by the house's main entrance, and a Doberman outside the conservatory.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Inverted when the cop starts listing their transgressions.Cop: I'll book you for false arrest, and wrongful imprisonment, and obstructing an officer in the course of his duty, and murder!
Wadsworth: (opening the door and chuckling nervously) What do you mean... murder?
Cop: I just said that so you'd open the door.
- Asshole Victim: Mr. Boddy is blackmailing everybody, and all the people who die are his informants. Played for Drama in the second ending, where Wadsworth points out to the murderer that, since they did the world a great service by getting rid of those people, he's willing to keep quiet about the murders. The other guests agree and even serenade the murderer with a version of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" as they leave the mansion.
- Audible Gleam: The soundtrack actually does one of these when, during The Summation, Wadsworth imitates Yvette smiling. (Which she doesn't actually ever do on camera, her back is to the audience when they are introduced so we only have Wadsworth's word she did so.)
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Wadsworth attempts this in the first ending by saying he kept track of how many times the revolver had gone off during the night and the killer has an empty gun. He miscounted.
- Bad Liar: Mrs. Peacock. Except in the second ending.
- Batman Gambit: Mr. Boddy attempts one, and it fails miserably, leading to his murder. In the third ending, Wadsworth reveals he is the blackmailer and his victims did all of his work for him in tying up loose ends.
- Battle Butler: Wadsworth doubles as both this and Mr. Exposition.
- Beneath Suspicion: In the first ending, everyone is thoroughly shocked to discover Yvette committed the first two murders.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: When the policeman inspects the body of the Motorist and says he's in no shape to drive:Miss Scarlet: Oh, we'll— we'll— we'll get him a car!
Professor Plum: A long black car! note
Miss Scarlet: (lightly jabs him in the stomach) A limousine!
- Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: It isn't physically possible that a bullet fired from inside the study could have grazed Mr. Boddy's ear and shattered a vase on a mantelpiece on the other side of the room from where Mr. Boddy was standing.
- It is possible, however, that after shutting off the lights Mr. Boddy started walking across the room, thus putting him between the murderer and the fireplace.
- Black Widow: Mrs. White. "Husbands should be like kleenex. Soft, strong, and disposable."Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum simultaneously cross their legs
- Blackmail: This serves as the driving force behind the plot, since Mr. Boddy had blackmailed all of the guests except possibly Mr. Green in the third ending. Also, the Motorist threatened to tell his superiors about Col. Mustard's black market dealings unless he got half the profit.
- Blatant Lies:
Wadsworth: Your first husband also disappeared.Mrs. White: But that was his job. He was an illusionist.Wadsworth: But he never reappeared!Mrs. White: He wasn't a very good illusionist.
- Mrs. White's explanation for what happened to her first husband.
- Also, the group Speaking in Unison to answer the cop's second question ("You all seem to have some kind of disagreement"), since Mr. Green's previous "Yes" would make any subsequent denial of disagreement an obvious lie.
- Bluffing the Authorities: When The Cop becomes understandably suspicious of the goings-on at the mansion, Mr. Green is commandeered to give a "tour" while the others set up the corpses to make it look as if they're still alive. The results are hilarious, partly because of the cop and Green's reactions to Mrs. White and Mr. Boddy apparently making out and Colonel Mustard romancing the dead cook (while poor Mrs. Peacock is stuck on her other side on a window ledge). Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet get off the lightest since they get to make out while pretending the motorist is "dead drunk" who will have "a long black car" sent to take him home.
- Body in a Breadbox: The Cook's body is found this way. The group heads into the kitchen to find her, but she doesn't appear to be there. Then she topples out of the freezer right on top of poor Mr. Green.
- Brain Food: Monkey brains is apparently popular as a dish in Cantonese cuisine.
- The Butler Did It: This trope gets zig-zagged all around. The third ending first seems to avert it by having Wasdworth reveal that almost everyone killed someone. It then plays it straight by revealing that Wadsworth killed the singing telegram girl. But Wadsworth then inverts the trope by revealing that he is Mr. Boddy, and Professor Plum killed the real butler.note Ultimately once Mr. Green kills Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy, the butler is the only guest who didn’t do it.
- The two other endings avert this trope altogether, when it’s revealed that Wadsworth is an FBI agent, and there was no butler at all.
- The deleted Ending D has Wadsworth revealing he committed all the murders, driven to insanity after failing to be the perfect husband and butler.
- Mr. Green lampshades this trope when he suggests Wadsworth may be the murderer, given he knows about all the secret passages. Wadsworth dismissively responds, “Don’t be ridiculous. If I was the murderer, why would I reveal how I did it?”
- Butt Monkey: Mr. Green. Colonel Mustard too, at times.
- Call Back: Mrs. White threatens Wadsworth if they're ever alone together; he says that no man in his right mind would end up alone with her. During the search for the killer, the two end up paired off with each other. And stare at each other quite meaningfully as a result.
- Everyone got paired up with the worst partner imaginable for that scene: Miss Scarlet with Colonel Mustard (one of her clients), Wadsworth and Mrs. White (see above), Mrs. Peacock and the lecherous Professor Plum (one's uptight and conservative, the other is a lech), and sex-kitten Yvette with alleged homosexual Mr. Green.
- "I didn't do it!" In the third ending, "I told you I didn't do it!" — even though he did shoot Mr. Boddy. In the Hall. With the revolver.
- The Cameo: Nurse Kellye and the rhythm guitarist of The Go-Go's are murder victims, while Dr. Johnny Fever puts in an uncredited appearance as a Jehovah's Witness/FBI chief.
- Lee Ving, who played Mr. Boddy, was also the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the punk band Fear.
- Canon Ending: On the home video version, it is the third ending. See Multiple Endings below.
- Canon Foreigner: Wadsworth (except in the third ending).
- Also Yvette, the cook, the motorist, and the cop.
- Captain Obvious:Wadsworth: I was in the Hall. (beat) I know because I was there.
- Casanova Wannabe: Professor Plum
- Casual Danger Dialogue: When the characters are checking on the room they left the bodies in, to make sure another one hasn't mysteriously disappeared.Mrs. Peacock: Everything all right?Colonel Mustard: Yep. Two corpses. Everything's fine.
- This is lampshaded in the Novelization where Wadsworth thinks to himself incredulously, "Everything's fine?"
- Catch Phrase:Mr. Green: I didn't do it!
- Call BackMr. Green: I told you I didn't do it!
- Call Back
- Chekhov's Armory: Like you wouldn't believe. Even the bit with the Jehovah's Witness, which seems irrelevant, is important later.
- The Chessmaster: Miss Scarlet in the first ending, Mrs. Peacock in the second ending, Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy in the third ending.
- Chewing the Scenery:
- Mrs. Peacock seems to do this nearly every time she opens her mouth.
- Wadsworth's exposition delves into this as well. Subverted with Mrs. White in the third ending in a rambling, stumbling speech.
- Wadsworth is played by Tim Curry; what did you expect?
- Circular Reasoning: The blackmail against Mr. Green is that he's gay. He has no issue with it himself, but he'd be fired if his employers (the State Department) found out because they'd view him as a security risk... which he is solely because of that policy. His stating such is met with a quick beat. This is how the reasoning behind the real-life Lavender Scare worked. No, it didn't make more sense in the actual fifties, either.
- Well, a little more. Homosexuality was heavily stigmatized, and illegal in much of the country. And thirty years earlier, when the movie was set, things were even worse.
- Closed Circle: Once the characters get to the house, they can't leave. Not only is there a storm outside, but there's angry dogs loose near a couple possible exits, Wadsworth has all the keys, and if anyone leaves, they'll be blamed for the murders.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Everyone has their moments, but possibly the biggest offender is Mrs. Peacock, who spends a lot of time babbling about irrelevant things, especially when things get a bit too quiet for her tastes. Mr. Green is also a notable Cuckoolander, especially in the second ending.Mr. Green: Mrs. Peacock was a MAN?!
" I hated her so...much..i-it, the, it...flames, flames...on the sides of my face...breathing, breaths...heaving breaths...heaving—"
- Mrs. White has some moments, like her rambling of how much she hated Yvette for sleeping with her husband:
- Cold War: The politics of the '50s plays a part in the story, although mainly so the writers could make it look like there's a political conspiracy behind the murders. Communism was just a red herring.
- When Wadsworth enters the kitchen, there's a television set with the McCarthy inquiry playing, which took place June 6, 1954, and he later mentions the House Un-American Activities Committee. Shown Their Work indeed.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience / Color-Coded Characters: A very interesting case: like in the board game, the six main suspects each dress with one color, but those colors are de-emphasized.
- Colonel Mustard arrives in a yellow mustard coat and hat, which he takes off. Amusingly, his suit is a brown mustard color.
- Miss Scarlet's hair is a fiery red—and we soon learn that she is a scarlet woman.
- Mrs. Peacock sports peacock-plumage in her hair.
- Though not part of the above loop, Mrs. White is worth noting in that the inside of her coat actually is white, but we only see this for about five seconds, in the process Lampshading her alias. But for the majority of the film, she wears black. She does wear a striking white pearl choker and have a pale, dreary face, however.
- Prof. Plum's vest is purple.
- Green, however, never actually wears green. Possibly because, as we find out in the third ending, he isn't really Mr. Green.
- The women all wear the inverse of their color names. Ms. Scarlet wears green, Mrs. White wears black, and Mrs. Peacock wears orange.
- Comically Missing the Point: "Like the Mounties, we always get our man!" "Mrs. Peacock was a man?" (cue Dope Slap)
Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?Mustard: [Confidently] That's right!
- This becomes a Stealth Pun when you realize that the word "peacock" refers to the male of the species. (The females, which are called peahens, lack the bright blue plumage.) (Spoilered because of relevance to the murderer's name.)
- Colonel Mustard does this frequently while trying to appear intelligent.
- Confusing Multiple Negatives: Particularly when Mustard tries to hide his indiscretions. Which becomes a Double Entendre:Mustard: [to Scarlet] Well, you tell him it's not true.
Scarlet: It's not true.
Plum: Is that true?
Scarlet: No, it's not true.
Green: Ah ha! So it is true!
Wadsworth: A double negative!
Mustard: Double negative? You mean you have photographs?
- Cool Guns: The gun that Professor Plum is given is the Harrington & Richardson Model 642, which is used by several people throughout the film, and the gun that the FBI use in this film is the Smith and Wesson Model 10.
- The "revolver" from the board game (not counting the 2008 updated version) is also a pretty cool gun. It's not a revolver at all, in fact. Rather it's a sadly obscure piece of firearm history called a pepper box pistol.
- Corpsing: Wadsworth during Mrs. White's "flames on the side of my face" monologue.
- Counting Bullets: The first ending has Miss Scarlet and Wadsworth arguing over how many bullets are left in the revolver, the former insisting one, and the latter insisting none. Scarlet was right.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass/Obfuscating Stupidity: Mrs. Peacock in the second ending and Mr. Green in the third ending.
- Curtain Camouflage: Subverted. When the group splits up to search the house, Miss Scarlet thinks that there's someone hiding behind the curtains in the Ballroom. However, when she opens them, it's just the wind blowing through a crack in the balcony doors.
- Deadpan Snarker: Wadsworth.Colonel Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
Wadsworth: You don't need any help from me, sir.
Colonel Mustard: That's right. *Beat, starts frowning.*
Mr. Green: Why would someone kill the cook?
- Ms. Scarlet, to Colonel Mustard's disgust:
Ms. Scarlet: I know, dinner wasn't that bad.
Colonel Mustard: How can you joke at a time like this?!
Ms. Scarlet: It's my defense mechanism!
Colonel Mutard: Some defense mechanism! If I was the killer, I would kill you next!
The others gasp in shock.
Colonel Mustard: If! I said if!''
- Death as Comedy: The whole movie, especially as the murders pile up. This is particularly true of the Singing Telegram Girl, whose death and body disposal—dropped unceremoniously in the study—are played for laughs.“I am your singing telegram!” <<BANG!>> Drops dead, and the killer slams the door.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Thanks to being set in The '50s. Wadsworth saying that Mr. Boddy drove Mrs. Wadsworth to suicide by blackmailing her over being a socialist is perfectly plausible for a movie set during the Red Scare. But, although it's still not a mainstream political position, it is strange to watch the movie in The New '10s when there's a sitting member of the U.S. Senate who describes himself as a socialist. Likewise, Mr. Green's concern about being outed as a gay man comes off as if it's mere public embarrassment or scorn he'd deal with, but since the film is set in the fifties and Green has a government job it'd almost guarantee he'd be fired.
- Demoted to Extra/Out of Focus: Not for the characters, but the rooms. While the six characters and six weapons all play equal roles and get equal screen time, very little time is spent some of the nine rooms. Most of the action takes place in the Hall, Lounge, Study, Dining Room, and Library, with additional scenes in the Billiard Room and Kitchen. The Conservatory is featured in just two scenes, and the Ballroom gets The Cameo.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Wadsworth beginning The Summation:Yvette was here, waiting to offer you champagne. I was in the Hall. (beat) I know because I was there.
- Depraved Homosexual: Inverted. Mr. Green says he is being blackmailed for being gay, but is the only one of the main characters who was never involved in any illegal activity. While the others were being blackmailed for things like war profiteering, political corruption, and murder, his only "crime" was being homosexual. Even in the third ending, wherein everyone killed someone, his only victim was the villain, Wadsworth...and then he says he's not really gay.
- Dies Wide Open:
- Boddy dies with his eyes open, which bothers Mustard while he's trying to develop a plan, so he closes them.
- The cook apparently dies with her eyes closed, so forcefully so that Peacock has to keep them pried open during the lounge dancing scene.
- In the third ending, Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy dies this way when shot by Mr. Green.
- Disconnected by Death: Twice. Both the Motorist and the Cop are killed while on the phone.
- The Motorist gets bonus points for being killed mid-sentence just before revealing which of the suspects he was connected to.
- Discontinuity Nod: Whether nor not the brandy's been poisoned is a running point of concern for the characters. In the original edition of Cluedo, poison was included among the possible weapons.
- It also has the distinction of being the added feature to the 50th Anniversary Edition.
- In the unused D ending, it really was poisoned.
- The third ending does this as a subtle joke. Nobody murdered Mr. Boddy, he was shot in self-defense.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Professor Plum.
- The Ditz: Colonel Mustard.
- Does Not Like Men: Mrs. White has some male issues. She has two husbands who died under mysterious circumstances.Mrs White: Husbands should be like Kleenex. Soft, strong, and disposable.Miss Scarlet: I think most men could use a little practice.
- Dope Slap: Mr. Green, twice in the second ending. by Col. Mustard and Wadsworth.
- Double Entendre: Throughout the movie, but two StealthPuns in this dialogue between Mustard and White:Col. Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies.Mrs. White: Fliesnote are where men are most vulnerable.
Wadsworth: But if those payments were made by slipping used greenbacks under the door of the men's room outside the Senate chamber, how would you describe that transaction?Scarlet: I'd say it stinks.Peacock: Oh, how would you know, when were you in that men's room!
- Not all of them are outright sexual, but a little crass:
- Dramatic Curtain Toss: When Miss Scarlet is searching the Ballroom.
- Drawing Straws: Used with fireplace matches to determine who gets paired up with whom while searching the house.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Mrs. Peacock in the cellar.
- The End... Or Is It?: How the story ends ... or is it?
- Eureka Moment: Played with. Mr. Green has two, but one ("Maybe Mr. Boddy killed the cook!") is immediately exposed as false and the other ("And Yvette is a link between them!") turns out to be a Red Herring.
- Everybody Did It: In the third ending, all the suspects turn out to have committed a murder each, except for Mr. Green, who ends up killing the Big Bad.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even though they're a room full of morally-dubious, underhanded folks (and Mr. Green), everyone's disgusted by Mustard's deep, dark secret. Stealing essential airplane parts and selling them on the black market.Mustard: That does not make me a murderer!
Peacock: Well, a lot of our airmen died because their radios didn't work!
- Mrs. Peacock, a corrupt politician's wife, also tries to pull this a few times on the other guests with exclamations of disgust, and is usually called out on it.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: This is true throughout the entire film, but only the third ending takes the trope to its full extent. Though, Mr. Green excludes himself from it since he "didn't do it".
- Exact Words: This is used twice to refer to people who are dead.
- Mrs. White states that her husband simply “lies on his back all day.” When it’s later revealed that her husband is dead, Ms. Scarlet lampshades White’s exact wording (and very much enjoys the joke).
- Professor Plum assures the cop that the murdered motorist, who the cop believes is simply drunk (dead drunk!), will not be driving home. Plum even promises to call a car for him—a long, black one.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie takes place in one evening. Possibly Real Time.
- Eye Poke: Boddy vs. Mustard.
- Faking the Dead: Mr. Boddy does this, pretending to be dead after realizing that the shot in the dark was intended for him, not Wadsworth. It doesn't work for him. Depending on the ending, Yvette, Mrs. Peacock or Professor Plum realizes the fake and kills him for real.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: Colonel Mustard is almost killed by one when Yvette accidentally shoots it down. At the end of the first ending, it happens again.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Namechecked by Plum.Plum: What are you afraid of?! A fate worse than death?!
Peacock: No, just death, isn't that enough?
- Faux Yay: Mr. Green in the third ending. Maybe.
- Femme Fatale: Yvette, and Miss Scarlet in the first ending.
- One of the few tropes played straight. Each ending qualifies.
- The '50s: The communism (though in all three endings it's just a "Red Herring"), nuclear arms race, J. Edgar Hoover, and homosexuals-not-being-allowed-to-hold-government-jobs part of the Fifties, in particular.
- The soundtrack also establishes the time period from the very beginning. Seeing as how most of the action takes place in an old, creepy house, music is vital to pinning the atmosphere to the subtext of the McCarthy era.
- Foreign Queasine: The contents of the dinner (monkey's brain) is an important clue tying Mrs. Peacock to the Cook. When the other guests find out what it is, they react with disgust and horror.
- In the novelization (3 times, it's part of all the endings). "Is that what we ate?" said Mr Green, green.
- Foreshadowing: Colonel Mustard's quoting Rudyard Kipling. The women in the house are significantly more dangerous and threatening than the men. No matter which ending you watch, a woman is the/a killer, and in the first two they commit all the murders.
- A rather more blatant example occurs several lines earlier when Wadsworth is quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson:Wadsworth: "Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do and die."note
- Also Colonel Mustard looks up at the chandelier that later almost kills him.
- Mr. Green reveals he's a homosexual, Wadsworth reacts with shock, staring at him and the notes he was about to read, implying that what Green said was not what he expected. This foreshadows the third ending with Mr. Green being an FBI agent.
- The Cook (innocently) points a large knife at Wadsworth when he asks if everything is alright. She is killed with The Knife.
- And a nice subtle one early one when Wadsworth states that "Nobody here is being addressed by their real name", including himself.
- Plum claims during dinner he helps with "family planning". However, he's a psychiatrist. We later find out he's having sex with patients.
- An odd one in the beginning, in that it was a Bookend for the fourth ending which was never used, when Wadsworth has a very tense moment with the attack dogs. The lack of the fourth ending makes it a Red Herring instead.
- During The Summation, when they reach the point of the cop's arrival, the doorbell rings for real. The Jehovah's Witness that's at the door is really a federal agent himself, a cop of sorts.
- A rather more blatant example occurs several lines earlier when Wadsworth is quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
- French Maid: Yvette who isn't really French or a maid (although she says "it's you!" with her French accent, so it may be that the American accent was fake). But that's okay. This is currently the image for the trope.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the killer is collecting the evidence to throw it in the fire, you can see a picture of Col. Mustard and his driver, The Motorist. Extra points for it being right before the The Motorist himself is killed after saying on the phone that one of the guests was his old boss.
- Funny Background Event: Pick a character. Any character. Watch that character the whole movie, even (sometimes, especially) when they're out of focus, and you can depend upon seeing this trope in action. For example, when Mrs. White knees Mr. Boddy in the crotch you can see the normally uptight Mrs. Peacock in the background wildly cheering her on.
- Gag Boobs: Yvette.
- Gainaxing: A rare live action example courtesy of Yvette.
- Gallows Humor: Spread throughout the movie as the body count rises, but briefly deconstructed in this dialogue:Green: Who would want to kill the cook?Scarlet: Dinner wasn’t that bad.Scarlet: It’s my defense mechanism.
- Gambit Roulette, with a Spanner in the Works: Mr. Boddy presents all of his blackmail victims with a lethal weapon, tells them to kill the guy who isn't blackmailing them, and then turns off all the lights, while still in the room. To the shock of no one, it doesn't end well for him. Of course, depending on the ending, it was a successful Roulette - in the third ending "Mr. Boddy" was really the blackmailer's butler, and the guy he was telling everyone to kill was, in fact, Mr. Boddy. If anybody had actually done what they were told to, The Chessmaster would have been killed, just as the butler wanted.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: "Well, I had to stop her screaming."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:Mr. Green: So it was you. I was going to expose you.noteWadsworth: I know, so I choose to expose myself.Col. Mustard: Please, there are ladies present!
Col. Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies.Mrs. White: Flies are where men are most vulnerable.Col. Mustard: Right!
- Between Col. Mustard and Mrs. White:
Wadsworth: I can explain everything.Cop: You don't have to.Wadsworth: I don't?Cop: Don't worry, there's nothing illegal about any of this.Wadsworth: Are you sure?Cop: Of course, this is America.Wadsworth: I see.Cop: It's a free country, don't you know that?Wadsworth: I didn't know it was that free.
- With Wadsworth and the cop:
Mrs. Peacock: So, what does your husband do?Mrs. White [quickly]: Nothing!Mrs. Peacock: Nothing?Mrs. White: Well, he just lies around on his back all day.Miss Scarlet: Sounds like hard work to me.
- Between the ladies:
- The Glasses Come Off: When Wadsworth accuses Mrs. Peacock in the second ending, she takes off her glasses. This is the only time she does this in any of the endings, because she's the murderer.
- Nicely Foreshadowed in the dinner scene: When Mr. Green says he recognizes Mrs. Peacock, she takes off her glasses and demands sharply, "How do you know who I am?"—indicating that not only the glasses but her scatterbrained behavior are just a disguise.
- In the third ending, Mr. Green takes his glasses off before shooting Wadsworth / Boddy to hide the fact that he's reaching for his gun. He never puts them back on, either.
- Groin Attack: Administered to Mr. Boddy by Mrs. White. Normally-prim Mrs. Peacock cheers.Mr. Green: Was that really necessary, Mrs. White?
Colonel Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies!
- Also alluded to later in a conversation with Colonel Mustard.
Mrs. White: Flies are where men are most vulnerable!
Mrs. White: His head had been cut off. And so had his... you know...
- And mentioned earlier:
Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum simultaneously cross their legs
- Guilt by Association Gag: While everyone else is being blackmailed for some crime or unscrupulous activity that they know they shouldn't've done, Mr. Green's just a closeted gay man who's afraid of being outed. This plays into the endings as he's the only one in all of them who never commits any of the murders, and in one is revealed to be a badass undercover Fed. And not a homosexual.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, and Michael McKean are all in the same movie. It's inevitable.
- Hand of Death: Black gloves allow the identity/sex of the murderer to remain anonymous until the endings.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: In the third ending, the final line from Mr. Green has him declaring loudly, in front of his boss, that he's going to sleep with his wife. Some viewers take this line at face value, making this an inversion, and thus makes Green a Faux Yay. But the ostentatiousness of his loud announcement (even his boss snickers in discomfort) — in the 1950s, mind you — suggests to others that the line is played straight as this trope.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: "Oh my. Nobody can get into that position." Plum is eager to show White just how, however.
- Here We Go Again: Mr. Green being tossed around by Wadsworth during The Reveal.Green: WILL YOU STOP THAT!
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: After the power is restored, the entire group gathers together and wanders around the house, noting every new corpse with absolutely no reaction whatsoever, mentally putting more checks on the list. Wadsworth deadpans, "Three more murders... This is getting serious."
- He's Dead, Jim: Subverted, as Plum gets it wrong. Zigzagged in the third ending because Plum did know, but lied.
- High Class Gloves: Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlet both wear long satin gloves, standard accessories for women's formal wear in the 1950's, when they arrive at the Boddy mansion, though they soon take them off and remain bare-handed for the balance of the movie.
- Hypocritical Humor: A running gag is Mrs. Peacock's moral outrage at the discovery of the other guests' indiscretions, even though she herself is guilty of taking bribes on behalf of her husband. And of murder, in two of the endings.
- I Ate WHAT?!: In the second and third ending, Wadsworth revealed what they ate earlier in the film.Wadsworth: Monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington, DC.
Mr. Green: That's what we ate? (covers his mouth and runs to the bathroom)
- Impossibly-Low Neckline: Yvette, Ms. Scarlet, and Mrs. White.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Not the cognac - just in case.
- I Resemble That Remark!: "What do you mean, don't deny it? I'm not denying anything."
- Idiot Ball:
- Mr. Boddy hands lethal weapons out to a half dozen people he's been blackmailing into poverty for years (at least one of whom he already knows to be a murderer), turns out the lights, and expects them to use the weapons on the guy who's trying to help them out of their fix.
- For that matter: Yvette, in the first ending, is knowingly working for someone who's been killing off all of Mr. Boddy's other accomplices. What did she think would happen?
- Instant Death Bullet: See Killed Mid-Sentence just below. Inverted in the 3rd ending when Wadsworth/Boddy is fatally shot, but keeps on talking.
- It Gets Easier: The characters are wildly hysterical about Boddy's death, then the cook's, but they quickly get hardened ("Everything normal, two corpses"), and finally, "Three more murders... this is getting serious.")
- Killed Mid-Sentence:
- The Singing Telegram Girl.
- Also the motorist who is bludgeoned while talking on the phone, just before revealing which one of the guests is his old boss.
- Wadsworth/Boddy, in the third ending, who doesn't manage to get out the last word of his sentence before dying.
- Inverted when the cop's killer hangs up his phone call before killing him.
- Knocking on Heathens' Door: Appears as a throwaway gag during Wadsworth's summation.Evangelist: Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Scarlet: You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!
Evangelist: Armageddon is almost upon us!
Plum: I've got news for you; it's already here!
Peacock: Go away!
Evangelist: But your souls are in danger!
Peacock: Our lives are in danger, ya beatnik! (slams door)
- This is yet another cover. The Jehovah's Witness is really the FBI agent's - whether Wadsworth or Mr. Green - boss. And judging by Green's reactions (backing up, removing his glasses), a number of these lines were code words revealing the Feds were nearby and ready to move in. As the Jehovah's Witness says, "Mr. Hoover is an expert on Armageddon".
- Large Ham: See Tim Curry, below. Especially during The Summation, which could be summed up as "Wadsworth reenacts the entire movie by himself, but in the silliest way possible."
- Mrs. Peacock too.
- Martin Mull as Col. Mustard has his moments. "You could've killed us! I could've been killed! I can't take any more scares!"
- Let's face it, this is a movie almost entirely cast with character actors who are having a blast hamming it up.
- Left Hanging / Aborted Arc: Of a sort. While the movie is... decent at consistently making sure all the points of each ending work, there is one that doesn't: before she dies, Yvette the Maid has a very ominous, suspicious conversation with her killer that makes absolutely no sense unless you get a specific ending, where it's revealed the two were working together. Without that ending, it instead becomes a plot point that is never elaborated on.
- Yvette, however, is surprised by the identity of the person she's speaking to ("It's you!"), so she thought it was someone else.note note
- There was a fourth ending written and shot, but ultimately left out in the final cut.
- Let's Split Up, Gang: Invoked by Colonel Mustard. Played with in that the cast makes a point to pair off and search separate floors; in theory this will make it easy to figure out who the murderer is if someone else dies.
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Mr. Boddy's murder. He's actually the one who turns off the lights, expecting everyone in the room to attempt to murder someone else. It Makes Sense in Context. And he was actually faking his death because he realized someone was trying to kill him instead. Said guest succeeds later, but not in the dark.
- Logic Bomb: The questions Mustard asks Wadsworth in the library are self-inverted as to be effectively unanswerable, which leads to a comedic interchange. In the third ending, it's revealed he did this on purpose, hoping splitting everyone up to search the house would give him an opportunity to kill the Motorist.Mustard: Am I right in thinking there is no one else in this house?
Mustard: So there is someone else in this house?
Wadsworth: No, sorry, I said no meaning yes.
Mustard: I want a straight answer, is there someone else or isn't there, yes or no?
Wadsworth: Um, no.
Mustard: No, there is? Or no, there isn't?
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Professor Plum tries to put the moves on every woman in the film including Mrs. Peacock ("It's just you and me now, honeybunch!") and the singing telegram girl who, it turns out, he had an affair with. Even his hand somehow ends up on the dead cook's ass.
- Male Gaze: Professor Plum not so subtly gazes at Yvette's cleavage.
- Also All Men Are Perverts between Boddy and Yvette.
- Meaningful Name:
- Mr. Boddy, naturally. All of the other guests (except Mr. Green) have these as well, as their pseudonyms reflect their attire or appearance: Ms. Scarlet has red hair, Professor Plum wears a plum-colored vest, Mrs. Peacock's outfit and headdress are loud and multicolored, Ms. White looking pale and tragic.
- Mr. Green being a plant in the third ending. Also, it could refer to his clumsy nature, as green is often used as a slang term for an incompetent novice. He also is the only one who turns a metaphorical green in the second ending on learning what they ate for dinner.
- The more obsessive viewer will have picked up on the fact that their names match the colors of their cars (though admittedly Mrs. Peacock's isn't peacock blue, and Professor Plum's car is closer to maroon. Maybe. His vest is still purple, though.)
- For those looking even further into it, Mrs. Peacock has a peacock pin on her and her browns could be seen as matching the more modest plumage of female peafowls.
- Also, the lining of Ms. White's black coat is dazzlingly white.
- Minsky Pickup: The singing telegram girl.
- Ms. Fanservice: Colleen Camp as Yvette. This is even justified, as she's actually one of Miss Scarlet's prostitutes.
- For that matter, Miss Scarlet.
- Motor Mouth: Wadsworth, summarizing the evening's events at the end of the film.
- Mrs Peacock, when she tries to break the ice at the dinner. The rest of the group just stare as she goes on and on.
- Multiple Endings: The film has three of them. If you watch the film while keeping each ending's evidence in mind—as well as noting the absences of certain characters in certain scenes and specific character interactions—you'll see that all three are at least plausible to an extent. In the "home video" order, they are:
- 1. Miss Scarlet and Yvette are responsible for all the murders, and Wadsworth is an FBI agent.
- 2. Mrs. Peacock killed everyone, and Wadsworth is an FBI agent.
- 3. Everyone except Mr. Green killed someone and Wadsworth is actually Mr. Boddy (and "Mr. Boddy" was actually Wadsworth's butler). Mr. Green kills Wadsworth, reveals he's an FBI plant, has all the others arrested, and says, "I'm going home to sleep with my wife." (The "home video" order shows this one last with a tag before it that says, "But here's what really happened.")
- The Novelization includes a fourth ending left out of the finished film: The brandy was poisoned. Wadsworth knew that inviting the guests to the house, presenting them with their enemies, and supplying them with the means and opportunity to kill would prove too powerful a temptation to resist, so he dosed them with a slow-acting poison and allowed them to do his dirty work for him, knowing they would all drop dead at the end of the night.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Mr. Boddy insists to the party guests that killing Wadsworth is the best way for them to keep their various secrets from being exposed. He even gives them the weapons to do it. Needless to say, that didn't quite work out for him.
- My Car Hates MeScarlet: Why has the car stopped?
Plum: It's frightened.
- Mythology Gag: Several, referencing the original board game.
- In the quote at the top of the page, Wadsworth describes the primary objective of the game: to find out who's the murderer, where the murder took place, and what weapon was used.
- And one character eventually gives an answer to each of these, mostly in the form players are supposed to give in the game: "...I did. In the hall, with the revolver."
- The Creative Closing Credits show the guests, Wadsworth, Mr. Boddy, and Yvette on playing cards patterned after those in the game. (The guests are even holding all the murder weapons, something which also appears on some versions of the game cover.)
- During The Summation, Wadsworth leads the group in running from room to room to explain his theory of the crime. In the game, players must place their pawns in the room they intend to speak about if they want to name a suspect.
- In the quote at the top of the page, Wadsworth describes the primary objective of the game: to find out who's the murderer, where the murder took place, and what weapon was used.
- Nasty Party: All the guests are invited to the house to face Mr. Boddy, who—unbeknownst to them—is the person blackmailing all of them. Boddy gives each guest a weapon, and suggests they kill Wadsworth so all the dirty little secrets that led to the blackmail won't be exposed. This degenerates into psychosis, with more murders over the course of the movie.
- Never One Murder: The film has six deaths in total. Seven if you take the third ending into account.
- No Name Given: The names of the guests (Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, etc.) are justified as aliases used to protect their real identities.Mustard: That's not my name, my name is Colonel—
Wadsworth: Forgive me, sire, but tonight you may feel obliged... for the use of an alias.
White: Do you know who I am?
Wadsworth: Only that you are to be known as Mrs. White.
White: Yes, it said so in the letter. But why?
- This happens with almost every character. Most of the minor characters are called by what they are (The Cop, The Motorist, The Singing Telegram). Yvette, Wadsworth, and Mr. Boddy are the only characters given actual names, and it's implied that those names are also pseudonyms. The only time we get an actual name for a character is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line early in the movie where Wadsworth refers to the cook as "Mrs. Ho." Which, per Wadsworth's line about no one being addressed by their real name, might not be her real name either.
- Non-Indicative Name: See Colour-Coded for Your Convenience above.
- This is subverted with Mr. Green in the last ending: plants are green. He also turn a more metaphorical green at the concept of eating monkey's brains. Furthermore, "green" as a slang term can refer to someone who is new, inexperienced, and makes a lot of mistakes—which would seem to describe the klutzy Mr. Green very well.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Mrs. Peacock in the second ending.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Professor Plum evaluates Mr. Boddy after he "dies".Green: How did he die?!
Plum: I don't know! I'm not a forensic expert!
- In Ending C, Wadsworth sneers that it doesn't even take a doctor to tell if a patient is dead or alive.
- Nothing Is Scarier: There is a genuinely eerie scene where Ms. Scarlet, left alone in the ballroom, nervously checks to see if the mystery killer is hiding behind the curtains. This is made even better by the brief tracking shot over her shoulder, which lends to the sensation that we're about to see someone come up behind her.
- The fourth and fifth murders qualify. First, Yvette walks into a dark room. An unknown voice tells them to lock the door, and asks them if anyone saw them. Yvette answers in an different accent, only to switch back to scream "It's you!" as they're strangled with the rope. Then we cut to The Cop telling someone on the phone that they are genuinely afraid, only for the murderer to use the lead pipe to hang up the phone, then bash their head in.
- The third murder too, to some degree. While the Motorist talks very quietly into the phone about everyone having a party and recognizing one of them as his old boss, the camera lets the viewer see the fireplace rotate behind him so the murderer can come into the Lounge from the secret passage. Then all focus is on the Wrench in their gloved hand, approaching nearer and nearer, all while accompanied by a superb usage of Psycho Strings, until...
- Obfuscating Stupidity: This is zig-zagged with Colonel Mustard in the third ending. On one hand, he was bright enough to pick Wadsworth's pocket for the key to the weapons cupboard, substitute the lounge door key to be thrown away, then suggest everyone split up in order to get at the witness against him. On the other hand, he assumes that something perverted is about to happen when Wadsworth declares that, rather than be exposed as the killer, "I choose to expose myself!"
- Mrs. Peacock in the second ending.
- Mr. Green in the third ending.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: When The Cop becomes understandably suspicious of the goings-on at the mansion, Mr. Green is commandeered to give a "tour" while the others set up the corpses to make it look as if they're still alive. The results are hilarious, partly because of the cop and Green's reactions to Mrs. White and Mr. Boddy apparently making out and Colonel Mustard romancing the dead cook (while poor Mrs. Peacock is stuck on her other side on a window ledge). Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet get off the lightest since they get to make out while pretending the motorist is "dead drunk" who will have "a long black car" sent to take him home.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Yvette and Ms. Scarlet again.
- Oh, Crap!: When Professor Plum finds out he didn't kill Mr. Boddy, but his butler, in the third ending he says, "Oh, shucks".
- Wadsworth's face when Boddy says that each of the six guests are only going to be able to keep their secrets if they kill Wadsworth at once. This makes perfect sense in the third ending. Since Wadsworth is really the blackmailer, the butler he's dressed up as Mr. Boddy is about to bump him off to end the scheme.
- The Oldest Profession: Miss Scarlet runs a "house of ill fame". Prof. Plum asks for the phone number.
- Once Per Ending: Several lines and events happen in all three endings, in similar ways and to similar effect.
- Someone expresses with surprise that the murder plot had nothing to do with the various characters' government contacts, to which the killer replies, "Communism is just a red herring."
- After the summation and confrontation, someone says, "There's just one thing I don't understand," to which someone else will quip, "One thing?"
- "To make a long story short..." "Too late!"
- "The gun is missing! Gentlemen, turn out your pockets! Ladies, empty your purses! Whoever has the gun is the murderer!" after which the killer will reveal themselves and attempt to escape. Said by Wadsworth in all but the last ending, where he has the gun and Green speaks the line.
- Wadsworth saying they'll stack the bodies in the basement, leave, and pretend nothing ever happened.
- One Crazy Night: The movie, like the game it's based on, features a cast of colorful characters trying to solve a murder before they're all killed. Hijinks ensue as everyone from a singing telegram to a high-ranking Federal agent show up to interrupt them.
- One Degree of Separation: The guests aren't supposed to know each other and they're all addressed by aliases, but a little conversation turns up a connection: most of them live in Washington D.C. and all of them make their living from the government "one way or another", which naturally alarms them.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- Yvette's French accent occasionally gets shaky. Yvette drops the accent completely right before she's killed, implying her accent was fake. Her last words are said in her fake accent, which is a bit of a Mind Screw.
- Mrs. White starts off with some sort of accent, which gradually disappears as the movie wears on. This is possibly intentional by the character for concealment.
- Panty Shot: Yvette has a few.
- Patriotic Fervor: Wadsworth says this is Mr. Boddy's motivation for the blackmail.Mr. Green: This is ridiculous. If he was such a patriotic American, why didn't he just report us to the authorities?
Wadsworth: He thought he'd put the information to good use and make a little money off of it. What could be more American than that?
- The Perry Mason Method: Wadsworth uses this in the third ending to compel all the guests to confess to their respective murders. Miss Scarlet even lampshades Wadsworth’s use of this method.Wadsworth: True or false?Miss Scarlet: True! Who are you, Perry Mason?
- Pet the Dog:
- Mrs. Peacock was concerned about the cook since she wasn't involved in the blackmail conspiracy, but Wadsworth tells her she was involved. Why else would she even be in the mansion? She was one of Mr. Boddy's accomplices. In the second and third endings, Mrs. Peacock is revealed to have killed the cook, subverting this apparent concern.
- Ice Queen Mrs. White is the most sympathetic when Wadsworth sobs that his wife was a socialist.
- Despite his being a pervy Casanova Wannabe and Loveable Sex Maniac being played up throughout the movie, the moment when Professor Plum confesses that the Singing Telegram Girl was a patient he slept with and that was how he lost his license to practice psychiatry is played with genuine sympathy, and it seems likely he had real feelings for her.
- Plucky Comic Relief: The cowardly Mr. Green, except in the third ending."Sorry, I'm a bit accident-prone."
- Pretty in Mink: Mrs. Peacock shows up wearing a fur wrap. She only wears it for a few minutes in the film, but far more often in promotional shots.
- Pun: "Is the FBI in the habit of cleaning up after multiple murders?" "Of course. Why do you think it's run by a man called Hoover?"
- Of course, the first one to die is Mr. Boddy.
- The Cop examining the motorist and saying, "This man's drunk. Dead drunk." This is followed by "Dead right."
- "Communism was just a red herring."
- Professor Plum works for UNO (the United Nations Organization), specifically for a branch of them called the World Heath Organization. In other words, he works for UNO WHO. The best part? That actually exists.
- Police Are Useless: The Cop, who shows up to inquire about a motorist that left his car on the side of the road, was apparently incapable of noticing the blood on Mr. Boddy's head or the fact that the man he was talking to wasn't breathing. Miss Scarlet revealed that the Cop is in her payroll.
- This is semi-averted in the case of the police and the FBI, who do arrest the culprit(s), but don't arrive until at least five people have died.
- Randomly Generated Levels: There are three different endings for the movie, each with a different person as the killer. In theaters, the film had only one of the endings attached, whereas the TV and home video edits include all of the endings one after the other. If you play the film on DVD or Blu-ray, you can choose to have one ending played randomly or watch the home video "all endings" version.
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: Some of the jokes in the dialogue happen so fast that you might miss them.
- Really Gets Around: Miss Scarlet is implied to be this. Her being a brothel madam compounds the issue, as someone in that line of work probably needs to maintain some degree of division between their personal and professional lives. This is used to justify her making out with Professor Plum when trying to hide the bodies of the murdered informants from The Cop (see Of Corpse He's Alive).
- Reckless Gun Usage: Pretty expected, as one of the murder weapons is a revolver. The attempted murder of Mr. Boddy (in a completely dark room with others standing around) starts things off, Yvette's attempt to Shoot Out the Lock of the lounge later on is a comedy of gun usage errors, and Wadsworth proves to be guilty of the trope in Ending A.
- Red Herring: All of the characters have some connection to the government, often with ties to the military and the Cold War. None of this is actually important since, as we're told in all three endings, "Communism was just a red herring". Also, we never learned the cause of the broken window in the ballroom. Though it can probably be assumed it was broken by a tree branch during the storm.
- Rule of Three: The three endings. Used to full effect in the "home video" version of the film, in which all three endings are shown one after another.
- Running Gag:
- Wadsworth steps in dog poop at the beginning of the movie. The first time he speaks to Yvette and each of the guests, they all sniff a few times and check their own shoes.
- "To make a long story short..." "Too late."
- "I didn't do it!"
- Mrs. White comes after Colonel Mustard in each character sequence. She is introduced in the trailer after him, she arrives at the mansion after him, Wadsworth discussed her blackmailings after discussing Colonel Mustard's, and in the third ending, after Colonel Mustard turned out to have killed The Motorist, Mrs. White is revealed to have killed Yvette.
- Scare Chord: Twice. The first is played when Mr. Boddy's corpse is discovered after he's killed for real, while the second is played as Yvette is strangled to death with the rope.
- Scenery Porn: The film was shot on location in an authentic New England mansion.
- Share Phrase: The same lines and gags appear in each ending, transposed to different characters (e.g. "Communism was just a red herring," the line "There's one thing I don't understand." "One thing?"). However, when watched together, it comes off as a convincing call back.
- Share the Male Pain: When Mrs. White indicates that her late husband was castrated during his murder, the three male guests all cross their legs.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Yvette does this to get Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard out of the lounge.
- "Frankly, Miss Scarlet, I don't give a damn."
- The dinner takes place at a mansion called Hill House—named after Debra Hill, the film's producer.
- A couple to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The motorist's car broke down and he needs to use the phone, and he tells whoever he calls that "there's a whole group of people here having some sort of party".
- Shown Their Work: A subtitle says the film's events take place in 1954. The TV broadcast playing in the kitchen as the cook prepares dinner uses real Congressional footage aired on the 6th of June 1954.
- In the third ending, Miss Scarlet references Perry Mason. Although the TV series did not premiere until 1957, it is based on a book series and character that started in 1933.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: In the third ending, Wadsworth grabs Mrs. White's hand and leads her up the stairs, only to drop her for no apparent reason.
- Mrs. Peacock gets slapped hard by Mr. Green to stop her from screaming. Wadsworth repeats this during The Summation.
- Slasher Smile: Wadsworth gets off a good one in the third ending when he says, "I shot her."
- Spiritual Successor: Clue is one to Neil Simon's Murder by Death, as the movies share a similar setting, a similar sense of humor, and Eileen Brennan.
- Stealth Insult:
Col. Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
- Upon discovering Mr. Boddy was in fact alive, Mrs. White claims the group should have made sure he was dead. Mrs. Peacock replies that they should have cut his head off, to which Mrs. White snaps, "That was uncalled for!" This doubles as a Call Back to the mysterious deaths of Mrs. White's husbands; what makes it a Stealth Insult is how Peacock is comparing White to a praying mantis.
- Wadsworth manages to get one past Col. Mustard:
Wadsworth: You don't need any help from me, sir.
Col. Mustard: That's right!
- Stealth Pun: At dinner, Professor Plum says that he is employed by UNO (United Nations Organization), at a branch called WHO (World Health Organization). Which means he works for U-NO-WHO.
Prof. Plum: Is there gonna be a cover up?Wadsworth: Isn't that in the public interest? What could be gained by exposure?Prof. Plum: But is the FBI in the habit of cleaning up after a multiple murder?Wadsworth: Yes. Why do you think it's run by a man called Hoover?note
- Between Plum and Wadsworth:
- Wadsworth's name. Early firearms used wadding in the barrel to help igniting the black powder. Wadsworth's name implies that he's worth shooting. Especially true in the third ending.
- Miss Scarlet's name seems ill-chosen in the film, as she never wears any red throughout it. But it soon comes to light that she's the leader of a prostitution ring who has "serviced" several high-paying clients. An old term for dubious women with multiple sexual partners is "scarlet woman."
- Straight Gay: Mr. Green is this. Except in the third ending, where he was a plant ("A plant? I thought men like you were usually called a fruit.") from the FBI pretending to be gay so he would be blackmailed, and is in fact "going home to sleep with [his] wife". So he says. He couldn't very well have told his boss something else, could he? All the evidence that he was gay burned up earlier in the movie, though given Wadsworth's surprise when going through the evidence, it's probable that Green actually is straight—or, at the least, being gay would not appear to be what he was being blackmailed for.
- Stylistic Suck: Jane Wiedlin's cameo consists of a tacky tapdance and a ditty that starts with "I am your singing telegram". She doesn't get to finish it.
- The Summation: Summations from '80s mystery shows and movies are spoofed by the over-the-top (and unhelpful) way Wadsworth does it. His summation takes twenty minutes.
- Summation Gathering: At the very end, Wadsworth calls everyone together for The Summation.
- Suspiciously Specific DenialThe Motorist: Where is it?
Wadsworth: What? The body?
The Motorist: The phone. What body?
Wadsworth: There's no body. Nobody. There's, there's nobody in the study.
- Everyone's body language when The Cop shows up reeks of this, especially the two who slam and block the doors to the two rooms containing corpses. This is especially true when everyone very nervously denies that The Motorist came to the house, only for Mr. Green to sheepishly admit the truth. When the cop states what is essentially a rhetorical Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"? observation ("You all seem to have some kind of disagreement"), they all deny it again, even more nervously...only for Green to again, with grim satisfaction, say yes.
- Suspicious Spending: Colonel Mustard drives a very expensive car for someone who lives on a colonel's paycheck. His explanation is that he inherited the money during the war. He actually stole and sold airplane parts on the black market during the war.
- Take That!Wadsworth: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.
Professor Plum: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.
Wadsworth: So your work has not changed.
- Plum himself joins in: during one of the endings, he is told that it won't help his career to be implicated in six murders. He responds, "You don't know the kind of people we have at the UN; I might go up in their estimation."
- "Even a psychiatrist can tell the difference between patients who are alive or dead."
- Tap on the Head: Wadsworth is briefly knocked out by the candlestick falling off a shelf over a doorway he was standing in. He's back upright in the next scene.
- Ten Little Murder Victims: The film is a parody of this kind of movie.
- That Came Out Wrong: During the third ending.Mr. Green: So it was you. I was going to expose you!
Wadsworth: I know. So I choose to expose myself.
Col. Mustard: Please, there are ladies present!
- To Make a Long Story Short: At the end of the movie, the murders are explained in excruciating detail by Wadsworth, prompting the other characters to yell at Wadsworth to get it over with several times.Wadsworth: And to make a long story short—
Col. Mustard: Too late.
Wadsworth: I'm getting there! I'm getting there!
- Once they even do it as a chorus.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: When Colonel Mustard challenges Mr. Boddy to a fight, Mr. Boddy responds by kicking him in the shin, poking him in the eyes, then beating him more while he's down.
- Mr. Boddy has to be dragged away by the others, at which point Mrs. White decides to get in on this trope too, by kneeing Boddy in the crotch.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: In the first two endings, Wadsworth is an FBI agent. In the final ending, Mr. Green reveals himself as the agent just after shooting the real Mr. Boddy. In all the endings, the Jehovah's Witness is the FBI agent's boss.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When the group walks into the Billiard Room and find Yvette dead with the noose around her neck, they just walk out without a single word as if they were used to all the murders happening around them.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The dogs disappear, not bothering the motorist or anyone else that arrives later. Although with the storm raging for most of the night, they would have been hiding in the doghouse, as shown in one shot early on.
- In the unused Ending D, which appears in the Novelization, Wadsworth leaves the house after all the guests are dead, gets into his car, and begins to drive away when he hears a dog growl from the backseat, which causes him to crash. It is unclear if he dies in the crash or if the dog attacks him, but the implication is that he doesn't survive.
- Who's on First?: Hilarity and confusion ensue in the following conversation between Col. Mustard and Wadsworth:Col. Mustard: Wadsworth, am I right in thinking there's nobody else in this house?Wadsworth: Um... no.Col. Mustard: Then there is someone else in this house?Wadsworth: Sorry, I said "no", meaning "yes."Col. Mustard:"No", meaning "Yes?" Look, I want a straight answer, is there someone else, or isn't there, yes, or no?Wadsworth: No.Col. Mustard: No there is, or no there isn't?Wadsworth: Yes.
Col. Mustard: Well, there is still some confusion as to whether or not there is anybody else in this house!Wadsworth: I told you, there isn't.Col. Mustard: There isn't any confusion, or there isn't anybody else?Wadsworth: Either... or both.Col. Mustard: Just give me a clear answer!Wadsworth: Certainly! [beat] What was the question?Col. Mustard [shouts]: Is there anybody else in this house?All: No!
- Later on:
Motorist: Where is it?Wadsworth: What? The body?Motorist: The phone. [beat] What body?
- When the motorist asks to use the phone:
- World of Ham
- Worthy Opponent: Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy in the third ending, after being shot by Mr. Green:
- Would Hit a Girl: Mr. Green slapping Mrs. Peacock early on (see Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! above). During The Summation, Wadsworth does the same thing.
- "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: When Colonel Mustard is asking Wadsworth about whether there is anyone else in the house, Wadsworth does answer with 'yesses' and 'nos', but they're all so ambiguous as answers to the questions asked that he has to keep asking him for clarification.
- "You!" Exclamation:
- When Yvette spots their former boss or former lover's wife or someone else and will-be murderer, they exclaim "It's you!"
- When Wadsworth reveals that he shot the singing telegram girl in the third ending, everyone else exclaims, "You?!"
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Yvette in the Ms. Scarlet ending, and all the victims (except Yvette this time, who was killed for revenge) in the "Everybody did it" ending, thanks to the Batman Gambit of the real Mr. Boddy.