Like its classic board game inspiration, Clue is a careful scramble. It’s a fast-talking typhoon of belligerent chaos that upon further review, is a well-oiled, well-balanced photograph. It blends shit jokes, social musings and singing telegrams into one of the most intelligent, childish and unruly cult classics ever produced. Forget that it’s based on a consumer product. Forget that it’s not above naming a character Mrs. Ho. It’s one of the greatest comedies ever made, and despite its mediocre box office performance, we’re still slurping down its monkeys’ brains thirty years later.
But this article isn’t about the movie, which as I already said, is goddamn awesome. It’s not about how many bullets are left in the gun either. No, it’s about the ending, or endings, which are all based off a clever scheme that was meant to wink at the source material and produce a cheap inspiration for repeated viewings. Some reviewers hated the gimmick. Some fans were confused by it, but three decades later, all three of the endings live on and burn brighter than Mrs. White’s heaving flames of hatred for Yvette.
The Basic IdeaBefore Clue even had a cast or a functioning screenplay, co-writer and executive producer John Landis, best known for Blues Brothers and Animal House, had an idea. He wanted someone to fashion the murder mystery script in such a way that it could factually accommodate multiple endings. He thought it would be a clever wink to the original game and more importantly, make more money than Mr. Boddy’s blackmailing scheme So, writer-director Jonathan Lynn did just that.
Three different endings, all of which plausibly work, were ultimately filmed. Theaters were then sent a copy of the movie containing either ending A, B or C. In theory, it would have allowed superfans to go see the film multiple times, but the proposition failed miserably. Clue grossed less than $15,000,000 at the box office, and when it was finally released on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray, the endings were compiled together and shown one after another rapid fire style. Thanks to cable re-runs and incredible word of mouth, however, the film slowly built a giant following to the point random Internet outlets were writing overly long stories about its endings three decades later.
The Miss Scarlet EndingDespite her brash demeanor and sketchy line of work, Miss Scarlet isn’t the most obvious murder suspect in the bunch. Her house of ill repute is an open secret in Washington DC, and while she pays the blackmailer, she’s got plenty of leverage herself. Her real business, though, is apparently secrets, and since everyone at the party is somehow involved in high level government programs, they’ve got plenty of information they can feed her.
So, she convinces Yvette, who she has long employed as an escort, to kill Mr. Boddy and the Cook. Then, she kills the motorist herself, shuts off the lights and continues her murder spree by knocking off the cop, Yvette and the Singing Telegram girl. The end game is to hold the secrets and the murders over her fellow attendees in order to force them into turning over more government secrets she can sell to the highest bidder. Communism is, of course, just a red herring. She’s a capitalist, and interestingly, she’s a far better counter than Wadsworth. Regardless, she gets her comeuppance when the FBI shows up.
Believability: Pretty high. Miss Scarlet definitely has enough control over Yvette that she could get her to murder people. Years of working as a madam in her own brothel have also worn down her moral compass.
The Mrs. Peacock EndingMrs. Peacock also is not the first potential murderer that would jump out at a viewer here. Her athleticism is weak, and she’s nearer to death of natural causes than everyone else. That being said, we see how mean and tempered she can be throughout the movie, and given her comment about the weird food, she clearly did employ the cook. So, she has motive and follows through with it.
Forget accomplices. Mrs. Peacock murders every single person in this ending. She murders the cook because she used to be her cook, and she murders everyone else because she’s terrified Mr. Boddy may have passed on the information. In short, she’s a terrible person who takes bribes from foreign powers. It’s a wild run of bloodlust, particularly from an old woman, and it produces a few great moments unique to this ending. The entire cast sings "For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow" as Mrs. Peacock is leaving, and Mr. Green gets duped into thinking Mrs. Peacock was a man.
Believability: As the endings go, this one is by far the most outlandish. There’s no way Mrs. Peacock could chase Mr. Boddy down the hall, and the conversation she has with Yvette during the montage really doesn’t make very much sense in this context. She’s definitely the type of woman who would just use money and influence to ruin people’s lives and/ or use a hired hitman to get rid of whoever she wanted without getting her hands dirty.
The "Real" EndingThe third ending is referred to as "What Really Happened" when all three endings play in order. Instead of letting one of the characters be the guilty party, it spreads the murderous love around to everyone. In short, Wadsworth isn’t the real butler. He’s Mr. Boddy in disguise, and he invites everyone to the party with the hope they’ll commit murder. That will allow him to dispose of his network of informants while producing yet another reason to continue blackmailing everyone. The plan works like a charm, at least the first six steps of it anyway...
1. Professor Plum murders Mr. Boddy because he’s blackmailing everyone.
2. Mrs. Peacock kills the cook because she used to be her cook.
3. Colonel Mustard kills the motorist because he was his driver during the war and knew he was a war profiteer.
4. Ms Scarlet kills the cop because she’s been bribing him to let her keep running the brothel.
5. Mrs. White kills Yvette because she had an affair with her husband.
6. Wadsworth kills the Singing Telegram girl, who had an affair with Professor Plum, because she’s one more informant to dispose of.
7. After Wadsworth suggests everyone just quietly leave, Mr. Green shoots Wadsworth because he’s actually an undercover FBI Agent who is neither gay nor putting up with anyone’s shit.
Believability: This ending basically relies on momentum. It requires a viewer believe that someone is more likely to commit a murder if a series of other murders have also been committed. I actually buy this, and it makes far more sense for everyone to eliminate the people who personally betrayed them than it does for a character to eliminate everyone like some savage husband-murdering, brothel-owning, war-profiteering, bribe-taking, patient-corrupting, homosexual psychopath.
The Unfilmed Fourth EndingThe original goal was to write and film four endings, all of which would be shown in different theaters. One of those conclusions, however, has never been seen. Was it filmed? Was it partially filmed? Was it discarded before shooting even began? The truth is we don’t know. Michael McKean told Buzzfeed he thinks it involved being chased by Dobermans. Director Jonathan Lynn has long claimed he doesn’t even remember what it was about. Badass Digest, however, produced an extensive write-up last year which outlined what the version supposedly included. Here are the highlights…
Wadsworth accuses Professor Plum and Mrs. Peacock of working together, probably because he can't get enough of awkwardly calling her "honeybunch". Professor Plum vehemently argues and points the finger at Wadsworth. Everyone is asked to look for the gun. Wadsworth pulls it out. Curve! He killed all six people and poisoned everyone else’s drinks. They will die if they don’t get the antidote. The Kingdom of Heaven/ FBI guy shows up and arrests Wadsworth. He explains the entire night, step by step, except when he goes to the door, he bails and locks everyone inside. The guests escape through the conservatory. Wadsworth drives away in a police car. Unfortunately, there’s a scary dog inside that may or may not have been the one whose shit he stepped in.
Believability: I like the idea of Wadsworth poisoning everyone. That’s cold and really fascinating, but this ending is far worse than the others. I’m glad Jonathan Lynn and company nixed it, even though I like the idea of the poop joke coming full circle.