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<
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 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 1954 (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 accommodate 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). The Australian tv adaptation Cluedo was a kind of game show where pre-recorded scenes showed how a guest star was murdered every week, and the actors playing the six main characters were questioned by a live studio audience, which was also filmed so the tv audience could play along as well (only the week's murderer could lie, all the other suspects had to tell the truth) - which meant that the tv audience had to depend on the studio audience to ask the right questions. Then another pre-recorded section showed the solution.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Members of the cast included Tim Curry as Wadsworth, Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, Eileen Brennan as Miss Peacock, Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum, Martin Mull as Col. Mustard, Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlett, and Colleen Camp as Yvette the maid. Lee Ving, better known as the singer for punk band Fear, plays Mr. Boddy.
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.
- 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 mitts off me!
- And Professor Plum: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.
- Averted with both Wadsworth and Mr. Green.
- Col. Mustard:
- 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.
Miss Scarlet: Oh.
- Also the whole "No, meaning yes" sequence. Actually, Col. Mustard gets a lot of these.
- The reveal that Wadsworth's wife "had friends who were... socialists". Given the reactions, it's hard to tell who's surprised that there were relations with socialists, or how such a small crime got pinned among the larger potential blackmails. At minimum, Scarlet and Mrs. White seem to show sympathy.
- And Then What?: In two of the three endings, this question is raised. Wadsworth always suggests, 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 the blackmail wont 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 a sleazy blackmailer who decided to ruin the lives of six people who he considered thoroughly un-American himself as opposed to doing something an actual patriot would do, like turn them in to the proper authorities. Most of the other murder victims count as well, as they willingly turned on the party members to give information to Mr. Boddy to blackmail them, even though most of them were just as guilty (such as the dirty cop taking bribes, or the war buddy who helped with profiteering).
- Granted not all of the informants are assholes, such as the singing telegram girl who was one of Prof. Plum's patients who he sexually abused under his care. In fact, with the exception of Mr. Green, none of the blackmailing victims were portrayed that they didn't deserve to be punished for what they did, just that said punishment shouldn't have been being blackmailed into poverty by a self-righteous hypocrite.
- Mrs. White's husband (well, the one we know the most about) was a verbally (and possibly physically) abusive asshole who threatened to kill his wife in public (that is he threatened, in public, to kill her). The fact he was murdered by being castrated and then beheaded is treated more as a Groin Attack joke than to garner any actual sympathy from the audience.
- 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.)
- There's another one near the beginning of the film, when Wadsworth helps Mrs. White take her coat off, revealing its brilliant white interior.
- 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.
- 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. It still fails because Mr. Green is actually an undercover FBI agent and Green kills Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy.
- Battle Butler: Wadsworth doubles as both this and Mr. Exposition.
- "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!
- Beneath Suspicion: In the first ending, everyone is thoroughly shocked to discover Yvette committed the first two murders.
- Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: It seems quite unlikely 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, the only possible explanation being that that after shutting off the lights Mr. Boddy started walking across the room, thus putting him between the murderer and the fireplace.
- This serves as the driving force behind the plot, since Mr. Boddy had blackmailed all of the guests - Wadsworth's wife had socialist friends, Col. Mustard was a war profiteer, Prof. Plum slept with one of his patients, Mrs. Peacock takes bribes on behalf of her Senator husband, Miss Scarlet runs a prostitution ring, Mrs. White is alleged to have killed her husband(s), and Mr. Green is a closet homosexual who works in the State Department. Although the third ending reveals that Mr. Green probably wasn't being blackmailed and isn't homosexual.
- In the third ending, the real Mr. Boddy intends to blackmail everyone (except Mr. Green, but will likely be alleged) for the killings, since all the evidence of their other crimes were thrown into the fireplace.
- The Motorist threatened to tell his superiors about Col. Mustard's black market dealings unless he got half the profit.
- Black Widow:
- This is Mrs. White's backstory in Clue. She's had five husbands, and we learn the fate of two. One was an illusionist who disappeared and never reappeared ("He wasn't a very good illusionist"). As for the other, according to Mrs. White, someone "had cut off his head and his, well, you know."'''Men should be like Kleenex, soft, strong, and disposable.
- This is Mrs. White's backstory in Clue. She's had five husbands, and we learn the fate of two. One was an illusionist who disappeared and never reappeared ("He wasn't a very good illusionist"). As for the other, according to Mrs. White, someone "had cut off his head and his, well, you know."
- Blatant Lies:
- Mrs. White's explanation for what happened to her first husband.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.
- 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.
- Mrs. White's explanation for what happened to her first husband.
- 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. 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. 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 its 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 to you how I did it?"
- 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.
- But shooting Mr. Boddy wasnt murder, it was self-defense. So Mr. Greens insistence that he didnt do it could be a case of Exact Words, meaning that Mr. Green wasnt guilty of murdering anyone.
- The Cameo:
- Canon Ending: On the home video version, it is the third ending. See Multiple Endings below.
- Canon Foreigner:
- Wadsworth (except in the third ending).
- Yvette, the cook, the motorist, the singing-telegram girl, and the cop.
- Captain Obvious:Wadsworth: I was in the Hall. (beat) I know because I was there.
- Casting Gag:
- 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 (again).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?"
- When the characters are checking on the room they left the bodies in, to make sure another one hasn't mysteriously disappeared (again).
- Catch Phrase: Mr. Green says "I didn't do it!" and then "I told you I didn't do it!"
- 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?
- 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.
- 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. Additionally, in the scene where Professor Plum picks her up from her broken-down car, we see she drives a scarlet Volkswagen.
- 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.
- However, even then it's subtly a part of the reveal since he is a plant!
- The women all wear the inverse of their color names. Ms. Scarlet wears green, Mrs. White wears black, and Mrs. Peacock wears orange.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- 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.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- "Like the Mounties, we always get our man!" "Mrs. Peacock was a man?" (cue Dope Slap)
- 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.Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?Mustard: [Confidently] That's right!
- 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?
- Connected All Along: The Summation reveals that every character up until The Reveal was in fact part of the blackmail conspiracy; While the Guests were victims, the others were informants who gave up dirt on the victims.
- 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 cracked pane of glass.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Wadsworth, more specifically the Gentleman Snarker variety.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.*
- Ms. Scarlet, to Colonel Mustard's disgust:Mr. Green: Why would someone kill the cook?
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 Mustard: Some defense mechanism! If I was the killer, I would kill you next!
The others gasp in shock.
Colonel Mustard: If! I said if!''
- Wadsworth, more specifically the Gentleman Snarker variety.
- 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 disposaldropped unceremoniously in the studyare Played for Laughs at first, though it's later given an actual motive.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.
- 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. Also reflected in how the other characters treat being too close to Mr. Green; while relatively minor compared to their supposed infractions, they all shrink away from him, a normal attitude for that period.
- 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.
- Col. Mustard on Yvette shooting the door open.What are you doing!? You could have killed us! I could have been killed! You could have killed someone!
- Col. Mustard on Yvette shooting the door open.
- 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.
- Didn't Think This Through: Wadsworth tells the guests his plan is for all of them to expose Boddy. But Boddy replies that if he goes down, he'll ensure every one of them has their secrets exposed in court. He then says "now if one of you kills Wadsworth now...then no one else has to know." The screenplay sums up Wadsworth's wide-eyed reaction with "clearly this option hadn't occurred to him."
- Of course, this then applies to Boddy as it never occurred to him that at least one of the six people he was blackmailing would decide that rather than knock off Wadsworth, it'd be better to kill Boddy instead. This right after he even gave them each a murder weapon and turns out the lights.
- Both possibly subverted when the "real" ending reveals Wadsworth is the real Boddy and this was part of the plan. On the other hand, his butler not realizing this can still count.
- 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 or 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.
- Dissonant Serenity: She does crack later, but in the initial revealing of everyone's blackmail reasons, Mrs. Scarlet is simultaneously the most blasé about her own and is inclined to throw innuendo about everyone else's. While there's some comments from others, Scarlet is the only one not particularly disturbed by her own or anyone else's (except Mr. Green's homosexuality).
- Dope Slap: Mr. Green, twice in the second ending. by Col. Mustard and Wadsworth.
- Double Entendre: Throughout the movie, but two Stealth Puns 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.
- Not all of them are outright sexual, but a little crass: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!
- Double Take: Mrs. Peacock has a pretty hilarious one when she meets Yvette for the first time and notices her Absolute Cleavage, and is left stunned and speechless.
- 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?
- Establishing Character Moment:
- When they arrive at the mansion together, Prof. Plum cops a feel on Miss Scarlet's backside.
- For Scarlet herself, when her car's broken down, she doesn't flag down the passing Prof. Plum, she simply bends over the car in a more sexualized pose.
- 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 since he's the Wrong Genre Savvy.
- Col. Mustard. "So... whoever knew the cook was involved... killed her?" (looking very pleased with himself, except he's being Captain Obvious here)
- 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!
- Likewise, the entire gaggle of criminals gasp in shock to learn that Wadsworth's late wife was friends with socialists! Not even a socialist herself, mind; just that she knew some.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- Evil Laugh: Wadsworth gives a sinister chuckle when he's revealed to be the real Mr. Boddy.
- 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 its later revealed that her husband is dead, Ms. Scarlet lampshades Whites 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 hima long, black one.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie takes place in one evening. Most of the action is packed within the 60 minutes from being called into the study until the police /FBI arrive
- 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 with another chandelier.
- 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.
- Finger Gun: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Miss Scarlet makes one to defend herself from Wadsworth's murder reenactment in the second ending.
- Foe Yay: Invoked deliberately by the script. When straws are drawn to search the house, everyone ends up with the worst possible partner: Mrs. Peacock with Professor Plum (she's already expressed her disgust with his sexual escapades); Mrs. White with Wadsworth (after threatening him with what she'd do if they were ever alone together); Miss Scarlet with Colonel Mustard (after she hinted that she might know more than a few of his dirty secrets); and the overtly sexual Yvette with the ostensibly gay Mr. Green.
- Foreign Queasine: The contents of the dinner (monkey's brain) is an important clue tying Mrs. Peacock to the Cook. When Mr. Green finds out what it is in the second ending, he reacts with disgust, going to the bathroom to vomit.
- 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.
- Butt-Monkey Mr. Green immediately picks up on who Mrs. Peacock is, interesting considering they've supposedly never met before. Of course he would if, as the third ending suggests, he's an FBI plant.
- 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. Or perhaps Wadsworth is surprised that Mr. Green willingly outs himself.
- The Cook (innocently) points a large knife at Wadsworth when he asks if everything is alright. She is killed with The Knife.
- Mrs. Peacock grips the dagger rather firmly when she's given it by Mr. Boddy. It's a hint in ending B and C she did kill the Cook.
- 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.
- At dinner, it's Butt-Monkey Mr. Green recognizes who Mrs. Peacock really is and is the one to point out that everyone gathered is somehow connected to the government. Makes sense, given the third ending reveals that he is an undercover cop planning to expose Mr. Boddy's blackmail operation.
- A rather more blatant example occurs several lines earlier when Wadsworth is quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
- 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.
- 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 wasnt that bad.Scarlet: Its 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.
- Gasp!: Mrs. Peacock does a very over-the-top gasp after Wadsworth reveals that his wife "had friends who were...socialists."
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: "Well, I had to stop her screaming."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Wadsworth to Yvette, as he brings Col. Mustard into the library:Wadsworth: Yvette, would you attend to the Colonel and give him everything he requires? (beat) Within reason, that is.note
- Between Mr. Green and Wadsworth: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!
- Between Col. Mustard and Mrs. White: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!
- With Wadsworth and the cop: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.
- Between the ladies: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. note
- Wadsworth to Yvette, as he brings Col. Mustard into the library:
- 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?
- Also alluded to later in a conversation with Colonel Mustard.Colonel Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies!
Mrs. White: Flies are where men are most vulnerable!
- And mentioned earlier:Mrs. White: His head had been cut off. And so had his... you know...
Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum simultaneously cross their legs
- Administered to Mr. Boddy by Mrs. White. Normally-prim Mrs. Peacock cheers.
- 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.
- Interestingly, inverted in endings A and B. Unlike everyone else's blackmail subjects, Mr. Green's homosexuality is outed by himself during the confessions then never mentioned again. Everyone else gets two or even three jokes throughout the rest of the film, but Mr. Green says he's gay then the rest of the jokes around him revert to his being a klutz.
- 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 BSoD: 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.
- His Name Is...: The motorist is telling someone that he recognized "my old boss from—" when the wrench is cracked over his head.
- Hitchhiker's Leg: While tending to her car on the way to the mansion, Miss Scarlet flips a leg up when she hears another one coming—It's Professor Plum.
- 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 how he guessed that Mrs. Peacock is the/a culprit by recalling how she enjoyed the dinner they had earlier in the film.Wadsworth: Monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington, DC.
Mr. Green: Is that what we ate? (covers his mouth and runs to the bathroom)
- Impossibly-Low Neckline: Yvette, Ms. Scarlet, and Mrs. White. Yvette's French Maid outfit is cut so low and her bosom is so ample that it's a small miracle she doesn't pop out of it.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Not the cognac - just in case it's poisoned.
- I Resemble That Remark!: "What do you mean, don't deny it? I'm not denying anything."
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: When the crew discovers that Mr. Boddy's body is gone and Mrs. Peacock takes a stab at Mrs. White for decapitating and emasculating her late husband.Mrs. White: Maybe he wasn't dead.Prof. Plum: He was.Mrs. White: We should have made sure.Mrs. Peacock: How? By cutting his head off, I suppose.Mrs. White: That was uncalled for.
- 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?
- And Mrs. Ho, the cook, understandably would not want her former employer, Mrs. Peacock, to know that she was the cook for the dinner party, since the cook informed on her employer to Mr. Boddy. Yet in at least the second and third endings, she cooks monkeys brains and its implied that Mrs. Peacock recognized the dish, thus leading to Mrs. Peacock murdering the cook. Did the Cook not realize that preparing a dish Mrs. Peacock would recognize would expose her?
- Right after finding Mrs. Ho's body, Col. Mustard tells Mrs. White not to touch the dagger, since it is evidence. He then proceeds to grab the dagger with his right hand.
- Potentially invoked depending on the ending. Wadsworth - a.k.a. Mr Boddy in ending C - invited them all - including the cook, Yvette, and three strangers - there for a reason: they're all connected, with the plan in any ending being to expose them eventually as connected to the blackmailing. That the true suspect(s) would try to kill them to silence their potential involvement is unknown to anyone.
- 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 ("Two corpses, everything's fine."), and finally, "Three more murders... this is getting serious.") By the time they get to the Singing Telegram Girl, they just casually drop her corpse among the others as if it were a tiresome chore.
- 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".
- Appears as a throwaway gag during Wadsworth's summation.
- 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
- Both the guard dogs and the poisoned cognac are relics from a fourth ending that written and shot, but ultimately left out in the final cut.
- When Mr. Boddy shuts off the lights there's a thud and a groan followed by the gunshot. Those initial sounds are never addressed through the rest of the movie. note
- 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: No meaning yes? 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?
- Male Gaze: Professor Plum not so subtly gazes at Yvette's cleavage. Wadsworth, Colonel Mustard, and the female guests all take a peek as well, but Plum's is the most obvious.
- 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, Col. Mustard enters in a yellow coat and wears a yellow tie.
- 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. She also wears a feathered headdress (pheasant, not peacock).
- Also, the lining of Ms. White's black coat is dazzlingly white.
- Minsky Pickup: The singing telegram girl.
- Mood Whiplash: The novelization's ending D. Wadsworth, insane after his wife's death, manages a Kill 'Em All on Mr. Boddy, the informants, and all the guests, before getting surprised by a guard dog and dying in a car crash trying to leave. It's the only ending without a trace of the madcap or offbeat humor of the other endings, and the only one that dives straight into Downer Ending.
- Motor Mouth:
- Mrs. Peacock at dinner:Mrs. Peacock: "Well, someone's got to break the ice, and it might as well be me, I mean, I'm used to being a hostess, it's part of my husband's work, and it's always difficult when a group of people get together for the first time to get acquainted, so I'm perfectly prepared to get the ball rolling, I mean, I have absolutely no idea what we're all doing here, or what I'm doing here, or what this place is about, but I am determined to enjoy myself, and I'm very intrigued, and, oh my, this soup's delicious, isn't it?" (finally shuts up and notices everybody staring at her)
- Also Wadsworth, when recapping the entire evening:Wadsworth (very quickly): "I asked to take your coat. And I recognised you as Colonel Mustard. I prevented you from using your real name, because I didn't want anyone to use a name other than a pseudonym, and I introduced myself to you as the butler, and I ran across the hall to the library."
- Mrs. Peacock at dinner:
- Ms. Fanservice: Yvette, the French Maid (Colleen Camp), wears a dress that spectacularly shows off her cleavage and legs. Also Miss Scarlet, who wears a stylish, low cut dress, and is played by Statuesque Stunner Lesley Ann Warren.
- 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:
- Miss Scarlet and Yvette are responsible for all the murders, and Wadsworth is an FBI agent.
- Mrs. Peacock killed everyone, and Wadsworth is an FBI agent.
- 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." And like the game, he declares the murder in the room where it was committed.
- 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.
- The floor in the central hallway has a grid pattern just large enough for one person to stand on. In the board game, players' movement is along such grids.
- Wadsworth's name is likely a reference to Waddingtons, the original publishers of Cluedo in the UK.
- 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.
- Necktie Leash: Mrs. White starts to do this to Wadsworth when she threatens to get back at him for planning the whole disastrous evening. ("One day, when we're alone together...") She immediately lets go when Wadsworth shoots her down. ("Mrs. White, no man in his right mind would be alone together with you.")
- 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.
- Lampshaded: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.
- A bit strange, however, when the FBI chief calls Mrs. Peacock by her alias in the second ending when there's nobody else around, and refers to Mr. Green as his alias in the ending where he's the plant.
- 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 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!note
- In Ending C, Wadsworth sneers that it doesn't even take a doctor to tell if a patient is dead or alive.
- Professor Plum evaluates Mr. Boddy after he "dies".
- 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!"note
- Mrs. Peacock in the second ending.
- Mr. Green in the third ending.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: As mentioned under 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).
- Off with His Head!: One of Mrs. White's husbands was found dead this way. This was brought up as a bad joke when they find the supposedly murdered Mr. Boddy gone.Mrs. White: We should have been sure!
Mrs. Peacock: How? By cutting his head off, I suppose?
Mrs. White: That was uncalled for!
- Oh, Crap!:
Mrs. Peacock: What I don't understand is why was the Cook murdered? She had nothing to do with all this!
- 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 blackmailed victims, when they discover the people who were killed (the Cook, Yvette, the Cop, the Motorist, and the Singing Telegram lady) were involved somehow.
Wadsworth: Of course she did! I gathered you all here together because you were all implicated in Mr. Boddy's dastardly blackmail. Did none of you deduce that the others were involved, too? (everyone is stunned with silence) Evidently no one had.
- The Oldest Profession: Miss Scarlet runs a "house of ill fame". Prof. Plum asks for the phone number. Scarlet later mentions the trope name itself, explaining, Like all members of The Oldest Profession, Im a capitalist.
- Once per Episode: 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: After the group brings Yvette into the study to discuss what to do, she flips up her already short dress to sit down.
- 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 lampshades Wadsworths use of this method and even references the Trope Namer.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, who had been her cook (and, presumably, the one who had informed on her to Mr. Boddy), 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 Lovable 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... Although the effect is ruined when he and the others unceremoniously dump her in the study with the other bodies.
- "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, as per the game, 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.
- 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.
- There's a lot. Three people in the mansion before the guests arrive: Wadsworth, the cook, and Yvette. Three strangers visit the mansion before the summation: the Motorist, the Cop, and the Singing Telegram girl. Three uses of the revolver before the ending: Mr. Boddy's proposal, the chandelier, and the Singing Telegram girl.
- 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.
- Inverted with the motorist and the cop, which have the music rise and rise and rise... then cut off abruptly right before the weapon is brought down. The dull "thunk" of each is rather silent after the rising tension of the music.
- Screaming Woman: All four major female characters have a chance to show off their screaming skills: Mrs. Peacock and Yvette when Professor Plum suggests that the brandy they just drank might have been poisoned, Mrs. White when she's frightened by a jack-in-the-box in the dark during the house search, and Miss Scarlet when the cook's dead body falls out of the freezer (and again later on when Wadsworth re-enacts the scene).
- Secret Underground Passage: The secret passages from the board game also appear here; while in the game no indication is made of how or where the passages are concealed other than in the corners of rooms, here each is hidden in fairly unique ways. The passage from the study to the kitchen opens through a rotating painting in its frame and the back of a cold cupboard, while the passage from the conservatory to the lounge opens through a brick wall next to a set of shelves and...a rotating fireplace.
- 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."
- One said by a Butler, the other paraphrased by a butler.
- The dinner takes place at a mansion called Hill House—named after Debra Hill, the film's producer. It also a reference to The Haunting of Hill House.
- 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".
- A mixed group of strangers are summoned to a creepy old house by a mysterious host, who provides them all with deadly weapons packaged as gifts. Clue, or House on Haunted Hill?
- "Frankly, Miss Scarlet, I don't give a damn."
- 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:
- Singing Telegram: During the blackout, a singing telegram inexplicably shows up and is promptly shot by the mystery assailant. Professor Plum reveals that she was a patient he had an affair with, and Mr. Boddy blackmailed him over publicly revealing this.
- 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:
- 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:Col. 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.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. Even better? It actually exists.
- Between Plum and Wadsworth: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
- Lee Ving, the frontman for the punk rock band Fear, is Mr. Boddy, which is a Meaningful Name since Mr. Boddy will be "Lee Ving" note soon.
- Wadsworth's name. Early firearms used wadding in the barrel to stop the bullet falling out. 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."
- The fact that the seemingly gay person is, essentially, the Straight Man.
- Stock Footage: The TV is showing a clip from the Army-McCarthy hearings, and not just any session, but the famous "Have you no decency?" speech. So the film takes place on June 9, 1954.
- Story Branch Favoritism: A non-gaming example, in which the "C" ending is decidedly more developed than the other two. Whereas the first two endings choose a random character to be the villain namely, Miss Scarlet and Mrs. Peacock this ending assigns one murder per board game character with more detailed reasoning than the previous endings as to how they're related to the blackmail, unmasks the prominent Canon Foreigner as the villainous mastermind, and makes a well-earned Brick Joke concerning Mr. Green's sexuality. Ultimately, it's no surprise that the "C" ending is preceded by a title card reading "But here's what really happened!" in home video releases.
- Straight Gay: Mr. Green dresses a bit prim and proper and notices less fanservice than the others, but in endings A and B, only one mention is made of him being gay at all. Unlike the other blackmail subjects, who get their points brought up again and again.
- 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. Further spoofing on the above, they only start in the study... before Wadsworth has them running ragged about the whole house.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
- Wadsworth gives one to the motorist.The 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.
- Wadsworth gives one to the motorist.
- Take That!
- Wadsworth on Professor Plum's new occupation.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." Though this isn't so much a knock on psychiatry as Wadsworth pointing out Prof. Plum's Not That Kind of Doctor excuse doesn't hold up.
- Wadsworth on Professor Plum's new occupation.
- 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 (although he is holding a napkin with ice to his head for a little while afterwards).
- Tempting Fate: At one point, Mrs. White threatens to hurt Wadsworth when theyre alone. Wadsworth tells her that no man in his right mind would spend time alone with her (because shes a Black Widow). When the guests, Wadsworth and Yvette have to split up into pairs, guess who Wadsworth is paired with?
- 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:
- Wadsworth says the phrase as he's telling the story of how Mr. Boddy's blackmail led his wife to kill herself, leading to...Wadsworth: And to make a long story short—
Col. Mustard: Too late.
[Mrs. White glares at Mustard]
- At the end of the movie, the events are explained in excruciating detail by Wadsworth, prompting the other characters to yell at Wadsworth to get it over with several times. Once they even do it as a chorus.Wadsworth: I'm getting there! I'm getting there!
- Wadsworth says the phrase as he's telling the story of how Mr. Boddy's blackmail led his wife to kill herself, leading to...
- Token Good Teammate: Mr.Green is the only truly innocent person of the bunch, his only "crime" being that he's gay. which turns out to not even be true in one of the endings.
- 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.
- Undercover When Alone: Since the film has multiple endings, this can happen in scenes where the killer appears to be scared for no apparent reason, such as Ms. Scarlet being hesitant to look behind a curtain and Mrs. Peacock hitting a furnace she bumps against.
- 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.
- Wham Line:
Wadsworth: His secret? Oh, haven't you guessed? He's the one who's been blackmailing you all.
- When Plum wonders just what Mr. Boddy's secret is.
Wadsworth: You all thought Mr. Boddy was dead but why? None of you ever met him before tonight.Green: You're Mr. Boddy!
- From the third and "real" ending:
- 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 (the never-filmed fourth ending would have had them serve as a Chekhov's Gun, where Wadsworth gets his comeuppance in the end thanks to one of the dogs turning up in his getaway car).
- 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.
- Later on: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!
- When the motorist asks to use the phone:Motorist: Where is it?Wadsworth: What? The body?Motorist: The phone. [beat] What body?
- Hilarity and confusion ensue in the following conversation between Col. Mustard and Wadsworth:
- World of Ham: All the actors ham it up to the utmost.
- Worthy Opponent: Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy in the third ending, after being shot by Mr. Green:
- "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.