Movies of my Yesterdays: Clue


Clue. Gruber-Peters 1985.

Movies of my Yesterdays is an irregular series where instead of writing about a movie I’ve never seen, I choose a movie important to my past and discuss why that is.

I clearly remember that the first time I saw this movie, it was on a New Year’s Eve at home. It was one of the rare movies we had on hand that wasn’t made for children, didn’t even look like it was for kids, and wasn’t Star Trek (The only other one that comes to mind is Trading Places, which is very not for kids.) I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but I must have been in middle school or close to it, because I was staying up for midnight and my parents put this on for us. It must have been on the basis of how much I enjoyed the movie that first time, because I remember nothing else about that particular New Year’s, but watching the movie was so formative for me that I recall it every New Year’s Eve, and I’m always pleased when I have a chance to include the movie or the game in a New Year’s now.

A few months or years later I developed an obsession with Back to the Future, and the fact that Christopher Lloyd has a prominent role here deepened my appreciation of this movie. I also think this is most of the reason Martin Mull makes me happy whenever I see him pop up in something. Tim Curry is of course, simply a legend. I can probably make a list of all the movies he makes better, but that would be a needless digression (and it’s probably “everything he’s been in except Rocky Horror” anyway).

As anyone who’s seen the movie probably knows, what makes Clue particularly unique is the multiple-choice ending. I never got to experience the buzz when it was released, where different theaters got different endings and I don’t think it was announced there would be differences, but home releases on tape include all three endings and releases on disc have the option to play one at random. I do have a favorite,  but I find it interesting that the linear version declares only one of them to be “the real one”. I think I’ve heard that it’s the only one that actually lines up with all the details, but I’m not sure if that’s true. There are too many subtle moments to keep track of. Regardless, it’s a fascinatingly unorthodox approach to storytelling.

I’m not sure if I’ve played this movie since college, but it’s never been one I got tired of. By now I can recognize that, in concert with the amazing wit in the dialogue, one of the biggest strengths on display is that the script supports a large ensemble with fantastic characterization for everyone involved without giving too much focus to any one of them. It’s like an English high society detective novel without the high society or the detective, just a bunch of people being nasty to each other while trying to solve a puzzle. Lovely mansion though.

Over thirty years later, this continues to be the paragon of game to film adaptations. Clue is a fairly simple game but with a lot of data points, and while every single one of them are included here, none of them feel forced. There are even half a dozen extra characters added (mostly as cannon fodder) and it still somehow doesn’t feel unwieldy. I don’t think this movie will ever get old.


Movies of my Yesterdays: Lady and the Tramp


Lady and the Tramp. Walt Disney Pictures 1955.
Lady and the Tramp. Walt Disney Pictures 1955.


Movies of my Yesterdays is a new irregular series where instead of writing about a movie I’ve never seen, I choose a movie important to my past and discuss why that is.

It is fitting to start with Lady and the Tramp, because not only is it bookended with Christmases, but it’s the first movie I had growing up. I don’t remember a time with it as the only tape, and there were others more important to me later, but this was the first.

As the first, it inspired the house rule that we could only watch a thing once a day, for my parents’ sanity. It is a rule I’ve long internalized, though occasionally I’ll break it and rewatch something brand new to me within a few hours. It still did not save the tape, which was the furthest gone by the time we gave up on the Betamax player.

Obviously, I remember the love story the most, but there’s quite a bit of adventure gotten up to that certainly appealed to me. But at the start, I think what was important to me as a very young child was that it was about dogs and it was a cartoon. It never mattered to me that it was about a girl dog, or that it was a love story. Maybe I was more invested in the male characters that are pretty much every other dog, but nobody taught me to be afraid of “girls’ stories” at that age. Kids will be happy with any well-told story until they’re told why they shouldn’t be. Later, I remember being embarrassed about how interested I was in seeing Pocahontas, but that was when I was older and more socialized.

I reached a point in my early teens when I noticed that there were several movies I’d seen so often that I was just letting them wash over me without thinking much about what was going on. Perhaps that awakening to analyzing what I was watching was the beginning of what I do here.

Coming back to this I think I’ve spent long enough away from it to break out of that old brain dead habit, but even so, there’s plenty of new things to notice and appreciate. I never really gave much thought to the human story going on, with the growth of Jim Dear and Darling’s family, as more than how it affects the dogs. I never considered how much the dogs’ story is rooted in the real lives and mannerisms of dogs as understood by humans. This is every moment familiar and every frame new.