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.

Smallville: The Complete Series — 20th Anniversary Edition

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/19/21:
Warner;
Sci-Fi Action;
$154.99 DVD (62 discs), $179.99 Blu-ray (42 discs — 40 BD + 2 DVD);
Not rated.
Stars Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, John Glover, Erica Durance, Annette O’Toole, John Schneider, Justin Hartley, Sam Jones, Cassidy Freeman, Aaron Ashmore, Eric Johnson, Laura Vandervoort, Callum Blue, Jensen Ackles, Sam Witwer, Terence Stamp, James Marsters, Michael McKean, Ian Somerhalder, Jane Seymour, Brian Austin Green, Pam Grier, Helen Slater, Michael Ironside, Julian Sands, Tori Spelling, Rutger Hauer, Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve.

Running from 2001 to 2011, first on the WB network and then CW, “Smallville” depicted the early years of Clark Kent before he became Superman.

Set in the fictional title town in Kansas where young Clark famously grew up, the show begins with Smallville being hit by a meteor shower, the remnants of the destroyed planet Krypton. Among the debris is the craft carrying the baby Kal-El, who is discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent (John Schneider and Annette O’Toole) and raised as their son with solid midwestern American values.

As the years go by, Clark (Tom Welling) discovers his true self as his alien abilities blossom, setting him along the path toward his destiny.

To give Clark something to do in between the milestone events that edge him closer to becoming Superman, the show hit upon the clever conceit that the meteorites that crashed into Smallville would unleash cosmic radiation upon those near where it crashed. For Clark, the surviving chunks would become Kryptonite, the substance any casual pop culture fan knows is Superman’s weakness. However, the humans affected would gain strange abilities of their own, lending the show a monster-of-the-week format as high schooler Clark and his pals, most notably Chloe (Allison Mack), would deal with the strange cases that arose. This underpinning of the show’s mythology gave it a strong “Superboy” by way of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” vibe. The show also attempted to stay somewhat grounded in reality with its famous “no tights, no flights” rule, meaning it tried to stay away from cheesy costumes and fanciful superpowers (though it would backtrack on that a bit in the later years when the original creative team behind the show had left).

As something of a proto-Arrowverse, the show would also introduce several elements from Superman and the greater DC Comics lore into the show. In later seasons, Clark would encounter other young superheroes, teaming up with them to form an early version of the Justice League. Among them was the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), whose popularity would inspire giving the character his own show, though “Arrow” was a reboot and not a spinoff.

Other friends of the teenage Clark included his first love, Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), and a younger Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), who was mostly interested in stopping the evil schemes of his father, Lionel (John Glover), while developing an evil streak of his own. Eventually Clark would also meet Chloe’s cousin Lois Lane (Erica Durance), long before she ever became an ace reporter, giving the show a chance to tell that story, too.

The series was often fun to watch and offered some clever takes on the Superman mythology. Later seasons would involve long story arcs involving more-traditional Superman villains such as Zod or Doomsday, and introduce characters such as Supergirl (Laura Vandervoort). However, the show seemed to be running in place it last few seasons as it kept putting off the moment Clark would actually become Superman, which was clearly the natural endpoint, resulting in a show that crawled to the finish line having stayed on a air a few seasons more than it probably should. This longevity forced producers to awkwardly cram in comic book elements from Superman’s adult adventures while retconning other plot developments that deviated from the lore (such as Lex dying after season seven when Rosenbaum left the show).

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The show was heavily influenced by the look and feel of the Richard Donner Superman movie, using its design for the Fortress of Solitude as a palace of ice, while sprinkling in John Williams’ iconic theme music when appropriate.

“Smallville” was also known for its extensive Easter Eggs of earlier adaptations of the source material, most notably in the form of its extensive roster of guest stars (a tradition carried on in the Arrowverse). Christopher Reeve, the movie Superman of the 1970s and 1980s, made a well-received guest appearance as a scientist who uncovers facts about Clark’s Kryptonian heritage, while Margot Kidder made a cameo as one of his colleagues (Durance’s Lois, it should be noted, takes a lot of influence from Kidder’s version). Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 movie, play’s Kal-El’s Kryptonian mother, Lara (and she would go on to play Supergirl’s adopted mother in the “Supergirl” TV series). Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father, would be voiced by Terence Stamp, who played the evil General Zod in the Reeve films. Annette O’Toole had played Lana Lang in Superman III.

Amy Adams, who would go on to play Lois Lane in Man of Steel, guest starred in an early episode as one of the meteor freaks of the week.

One episode in season five even features a “Dukes of Hazzard” reunion, brining on Tom Wopat as an old friend of Schneider’s Jonathan.

Ultimately “Smallville” lasted for 10 seasons and 217 episodes, establishing the record as the longest-running genre series (surpassing “Stargate SG-1” by three episodes, but later eclipsed by “Supernatural,” which lasted 15 years and 320 episodes).

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A complete-series DVD was released back in 2011, after all the seasons had been released individually on DVD, while seasons six through 10 had also been released individually on Blu-ray. Thus, the complete-series Blu-ray collection marks the Blu-ray debuts for seasons one through five (though season five had been released on HD DVD, as was season six).

The series was filmed with HD in mind from the start, so the early episodes look great in HD. However, some visual effects were completed in standard-definition, and those scenes have been upscaled, as have the first few seasons of the opening credits that weren’t originally completed in high-def either.

The discs come housed with each season in its own Blu-ray case packed into a nice slipcover. The box art for each season are rather Spartan, however, offering some season-specific images and a list of episodes and bonus features, but not indicating which episodes and extras are on which disc.

Those extras, carried over from the previous DVDs, include a smattering of deleted scenes, episode commentaries and featurettes. Some episodes have extended cuts, such as the pilot. While the extended version of the first episode does have a nice commentary from the show’s creators, it is presented as upscaled SD rather than the noticeably better quality of the HD print of the broadcast version.

The complete-series set also includes the two DVDs of extras previously released in the deluxe 2011 complete-series DVD set, including a series retrospective, a look a the 100th episode, and pilot episodes from proposed “Superboy” and “Aquaman” series that were never picked up.

However, there don’t seem to be any new extras, which is a shame given it’s been 10 years since “Smallville” ended and there is no shortage of retrospective material on the Internet. Michael Rosenbaum’s “Inside of You” podcast is a good source for a lot of discussions with the cast, though those might be a bit candid for an official studio release, given how much of the discussions relate to Allison Mack’s criminal troubles related to the NXIVM sex cult.

Heck, they even had a reunion panel at DC Fandome that could easily have been pre-recorded in time to include in the set. (The 20-minute clip can be found on YouTube.)

They also could have included the “Smallville” segment of the Arrowvere’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” 2019 crossover that brought Welling and Durance back as Clark and Lois to get a peek at what they had been up to since the show ended (even though the finale featured a flash-forward). So to see that, fans will have to pick up any of the Arrowverse seasons featuring the “Crisis” bonus disc.