Clue

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Studios;
Comedy;
$39.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, Lee Ving, Colleen Camp, Howard Hesseman, Jane Wiedlin, Bill Henderson, Jeffrey Kramer, Kellye Nakahara.

Nowadays the thought of making a movie based on a board game wouldn’t be an altogether surprising creative choice for a studio. But in 1985 the notion would have been downright absurd. Then Paramount released Clue, a trailblazer of sorts for the genre of mining games for source material.

The basic premise of the game itself, of course, has no real story. Players begin with the knowledge that a murder has taken place in a mansion, and must simply use a process of elimination to determine a who did it, with what weapon, and in which room. Clue the movie takes all the famous elements of the game (originally released as Cluedo in the U.K. in 1949) and crafts an Agatha Christie-style mystery around them by filling in the backstory with some tropes of the genre (the butler, the maid, unwanted visitors, a dark and stormy night, and so on).

The screenplay, which director Jonathan Lynn rewrote from an original treatment by John Landis, gets by on an almost excessive amount of puns and witty wordplay. The result isn’t necessarily a satisfying mystery, but a charming romp of talented performers that comes across more as a spoof of the genre while remaining true to the spirit of the game.

Tim Curry gives a terrific performance as Wadsworth, a butler who arranges for all the characters to meet for dinner at a secluded mansion. The setting is the Red Scare of the 1950s, and each of the characters is someone connected to the government and being extorted by an unknown blackmailer. When their secrets are threatened to be exposed, the bodies start piling up. The six central characters from the game search the house for clues, setting up any number of comedic gags, until after an hour or so Wadsworth declares he knows who the killer is, and Curry spends the final act of the film retracing the plot to explain it all.

This then leads to the film’s most famous twist, in that it was originally released to theaters with three different endings (a fourth ending was cut because it just didn’t work, according to the director). Judging by the retrospective featurettes included with Shout! Studios’ new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of the film, the gimmick was apparently conceived of in order to build audience interest in repeated viewings of the film, but the studio marketing department didn’t quite know how to handle releasing them. Thinking the need to see the movie three times to see all the endings would boost the films’ box office, the studio booked theaters using a letter coding that told audiences which of the three endings they could see (A, B or C). However, the maneuver was mostly panned by critics and succeeded in little more than confusing audiences to the point of the film underperforming at the box office.

Lynn says he wanted the three endings to play together, thus demonstrating how clever the script and staging of the film was to the point where each ending makes sense. The first home video releases of the film then presented the film with all three endings back-to-back-to-back, and Clue became a cult hit that is now fondly remembered as a staple of the murder mystery genre.

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Clue is a film where a little nostalgia goes a long way. The recent Shout! Studios edition presents a new 2023 4K scan of the film that looks terrific, providing nice color contrasts despite the sometimes darker settings, while preserving the texture of a mid-’80s film.

The combo pack includes the film on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray, both containing the remastered cut of the film. Each offers the option of viewing the film with one of the three random endings in the theatrical style, or with the home video-style “trilogy ending.”

Supplemental materials can be found on the regular Blu-ray disc in the set and include the film’s trailer and three new featurettes.

The 28-minute “The Perfect Motive: Directing Clue” presents a fresh interview with writer-director Jonathan Lynn, and provides the best look back at the making of the film. The 22-minute “Scene of the Crime: Producing Clue” adds to this with an interview of associate producer Jeffrey Chernov. Completing the set is the nine-minute “Not Just a Game: Scoring Clue,” in which film music historian Daniel Schweiger discusses the contributions of John Morris, the longtime Mel Brooks collaborator who passed away in 2018.

5-25-77

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD;
Comedy;
$19.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars John Francis Daley, Austin Pendleton, Colleen Camp, Steve Coulter, Neil Flynn, Emmi Chen, Katie Jeep, Justin Mentell, Gwen Kmiec, Christopher McLinden, Mark Buenning, Caitlin Barlow.

Director Patrick Read Johnson’s autobiographical comedy 5-25-77 is an offbeat ode to the spirit of imagination and a celebration of sci-fi filmmaking in the 1970s. This fictionalized recounting of Johnson’s formative years chronicles his growing up as a film fanatic in the 1970s and how he ended up seeing an early cut of Star Wars.

The film begins with Johnson as a boy seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey, sparking his love of cinema. He then spends his childhood making fan films based on the popular sci-fi and horror films of the time, from Planet of the Apes to Jaws.

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In high school, Johnson (played as a teenager by John Francis Daley) dreams of leaving his midwestern town and moving to Hollywood. On a whim, his mother calls the publisher of one of his favorite sci-fi magazines and arranges for him to meet with some producers, resulting in a visit to the early Industrial Light and Magic facility, where he meets Steven Spielberg filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But his mind is really blown with the ILM visual effects gurus show him a rough cut of Star Wars, making him the first person outside of Lucasfilm to see it (earning him the moniker of “Fan One,” the real Johnson says in a bonus Q&A).

Johnson then returns to Illinois to spread the gospel of Star Wars, hoping it will ignite a craze for sci-fi that would make him seem not so different from everyone else. There are certainly any number of potential viewers who grew up heavily influenced by Star Wars who can relate. The title, 5-25-77, references the release date of the original Star Wars.

Lending an air authenticity to the project is the fact that it was produced by Gary Kurtz, who also produced the original Star Wars as well as The Empire Strikes Back.

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The film has been in production since the early 2000s, with most of the filming taking place from 2004 to 2006. Complications arose when the agencies representing Johnson began merging, while distributors at the time didn’t think there was much of a market for “Star Wars” tie-ins anymore (this was between the release of Episode III and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm). Various visual effects were added over the next decade, and it made appearances at film festivals, but the final version wasn’t completed until 2022. To put the extended production time in perspective, Daley is now an established writer and director in his own right, while Kurtz died in 2018.

The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with Johnson and collaborator Seth Gaven, plus a 52-minute Q&A from an early screening of the film at the Fantasia Film Festival in 2013. Also included are three trailers for the film, plus three behind-the-scenes photo galleries — the various slideshows run a total of about 18 minutes.