(Also called "Cluedo" in British Commonwealth countries.)

Board/card game marketed by Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) since 1949, it recreates the atmosphere of the country house murder mysteries made famous by Agatha Christie and other writers. The implied plot line is simple: a group of various socialites and servants are assembled at Mr. Boddy's spacious country seat, which comprises eight rooms. To make a definitive collar on whodunit, the various characters must identify who it was, with which weapon, and exactly where it happened (as determined by three cards drawn at the beginning of the game, and secreted away on a dark staircase in the middle of the board).

Game play is less interesting, alas, than the dollhouse-like game board, cards and pieces -- the rope, in many early sets, is an actual piece of thick string, the lead pipe is a small, malleable piece of lead, and the characters on the cards have an agreeably noirish look. Alas, this isn't carried over in most modern sets....

Mr. Boddy: In your hands, you each have a lethal weapon. If you denounce me to the police, you will also be exposed and humiliated. I'll see to that in court. But, if one of you kills Wadsworth now, no one but the seven of us will ever know. He has the key to the front door, which he said would only be opened over his dead body. I suggest we take him up on that offer. The only way to avoid finding yourselves on the front pages is for one of you to kill Wadsworth. NOW.

Clue is a comedy movie directed by Jonathan Lynn and released in 1985. The screenplay was written by John Landis and Jonathan Lynn, and was based on the board game of the same name. It has a runtime of 94 minutes and was released with a rating of PG.

Six guests are invited to a dinner, each of them have been assigned aliases to hide their identity. Slowly, the guests learn that each of them have a secret. A secret that someone has been using to blackmail them, a Mr. Boddy. After Mr. Boddy arrives, he hands out a present to each of them. A weapon. To kill the butler, Woodsworth, who is keeping them in the house. The lights go out, a gunshot rings out, and Mr. Boddy is dead on the floor. This begins the questioning of who did it, and are they willing to go to any length to keep their secret.

So we have a stellar cast: Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn. These are very impressive actors, but the script could be better. This isn't to say that it's not a fun movie to watch, but it could be better. A movie that pulled off a similar idea with greater results would be Murder by Death. It even shares Eileen Brennan in the cast. Overall, Clue is fun, but not amazing.

After saying that, let's look at some of the fun parts of the film. When the movie was originally released it had three different endings, each with different murderers. Each theater was given a random ending, now on television and tape one gets all three endings after the other.

Eileen Brennan - Mrs. Peacock
Tim Curry - Wadsworth the Butler
Madeline Kahn - Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd - Professor Plum
Michael McKean - Mr. Green
Martin Mull - Colonel Mustard
Lesley Ann Warren - Miss Scarlet
Colleen Camp - Yvette the Maid
Lee Ving - Mr. Boddy
Bill Henderson - The Cop
Jane Wiedlin - The Singing Telegram Girl
Jeffrey Kramer - The Motorist
Kellye Nakahara - Mrs. Ho the Cook
Will Nye - Cop #1
Rick Goldman - Cop #2
Don Camp - Cop #3
Howard Hesseman - The Chief


The Clue books

In addition to the classic board game, a number of board game spinoffs (including Clue: The Great Museum Caper and Simpsons Clue) and a movie, at least two book series based on the Clue characters were published. One series, Clue Jr., focused on the familiar board game characters as children (think Muppet Babies) who went around solving small mysteries (think Muppet Babies who fight crime!).

The other series preceeded the Clue Jr. books and was more popular. The first Clue series contained 18 books, all of which followed a set pattern: the reader "arrived" at the mansion of Mr. Reginald Boddy, a millionaire with a heart of gold, for the weekend. Mr. Boddy invites his closest friends over to his gigantic home in the (presumably retirement-friendly) Little Falls every weekend, even though most of them are just taking advantage of his generosity and are trying to rob him blind.


Every book begins with an introductory chapter titled "Allow me to introduce myself..." wherein Mr. Boddy explains the setup (having his friends over for the weekend, etc.), explains how he cheated death in the last chapter of the previous book (more on that later) and, after assuring the reader that despite some incidents in the past, he doesn't expect anything to go wrong. He then asks you to keep an eye on his other guests -- just in case.

The introductory chapter is the only part of any of the 18 Clue books that is written in the first person; an omniscient narrator tells the remaining stories. Included in every introduction is a brief description of each character and the one character trait that is most identifiable about them. These traits are important because characters are often only described using them later on, and they are integral to solving the books' various mysteries.

While many of the mini-mysteries are seemingly innocent in nature (actual murder is rarely involved, and when it appears to be, the solution indicates that the character in question didn't actually die), the last one in each book involves someone murdering Mr. Boddy (usually for his money, though sporadically out of rage sometimes brought on due to monetary-related issues). As mentioned, the introductory chapter in the next book is written from Mr. Boddy's point of view, and he explains that he was either knocked unconscious or passed out from fright rather than having actually died. Since the pattern in which Mr. Boddy is "killed" is maintained in the 18th (and thusfar final) book, it can be more or less assumed that he's actually dead (until someone decides to pen #19).

Each "chapter" ends with a question that the reader must answer -- who killed Mr. Boddy? Who stole Miss Scarlet's jewelry? Mr. Boddy's mansion is the same format as the mansion in the board game and has the familiar rooms (the library, conservatory, ball room and so on). The game's classic weapons (the wrench, rope, lead pipe and candlestick, among others) are also involved.

The page after each chapter's last page provides one of the evidence lists that players use in the board game to keep track of eliminated suspects, rooms and weapons. The solution is printed on the following page, but upside down.


While each mini-mystery contains seven characters (Mr. Boddy and his six guests), only the guests are suspects. Mr. Boddy goes to great lengths to assure the reader that he won't participate in any shenanigans, and it's important to remember that he won't be involved in the solution regardless of how innocent the mindpuzzle is. One, for instance, required the reader to determine where the guests were sitting at the dinner table based on a variety of clues.

So who are these conniving charming individuals? Let's find out:

Colonel Mustard: As his title suggests, Mustard is a military man. Even though he's no longer on active duty, he lives for protocol and his hot temper leads him to challenge people (and even inanimate objects, on occasion) to duels. It goes without saying that he is very easily insulted.

Mrs. Peacock: This lady is a little too prim and proper for most people's liking; she's obsessed with etiquette, lives for modesty and thinks everything is rude. Of course, she doesn't necessarily think that stealing is particularly rude as long as she's the one benefitting from it.

Mr. Green: Green being the colour of both money and envy, Mr. Green isn't short on either. He's described as a businessman who would cheat anyone -- even his own mother -- for the sake of a quick dollar. He can be particularly bossy and short-tempered when he doesn't get what he wants, which is usually money. He's also vain.

Professor Plum: The most intellectual of Mr. Boddy's frequent guests, Professor Plum is also a tremendous scatterbrain. He often forgets things from one moment to the next, from where he left his keys to which mansion room a construction team left a gigantic bomb in.

Miss Scarlet: A vain beauty whose love of money is surpassed only by her love of herself (and possibly jewelry). She is also the most jealous of the characters and is the most likely to commit a crime of passion.

Mrs. White: Not so much a guest as a staff member, Mrs. White is Mr. Boddy's maid. She is a master of doublespeak and is very talented at being sociable to her boss and his guests to their faces while making snide remarks behind their backs. She knows the mansion and its owner better than any of the other suspects.

Book list


For books that deal with, among other things, murder, theft and betrayal, the Clue books are certainly lighthearted. They capture and maintain the spirit of the original board game and are far more faithful to it than the film or even the Clue Jr. books. The writing is light and even humorous, and the solutions go beyond the simple "answer" for each mystery; they provide some (often amusing) insight into the events that surrounded the revelations. For instance, in one (admittedly less grave) mini-mystery, the reader must determine which of Mr. Boddy's mother's old hats each guest is wearing after he has them keep swapping. The solution not only provides the answer, but explains that Mr. Boddy took a photo of the outfitted guests and threatened to have it printed in the local paper if they ever tried to rob him again.


Since the last of these books was published in 1997, they are difficult to find in mainstream bookstores and are safe to deem out of print. Used copies can be purchased through reputable booksale websites (Amazon, for instance) and possibly on eBay. I was recently two books short of the whole set when I found the remaining books on Amazon for less than $2 each.

Otherwise, there's no telling what you might find at a used bookstore.

Nostalgic charm

Yes, I have the whole set. No, I'm never getting rid of them. I bought the first two at a school book fair; they were packaged together. I bought the rest individually over time and finished the set earlier this year. They now live happily on my bookshelf next to the likes of Virginia Woolf and George Orwell. Sometimes I still dig them out; they make me smile.

"That which points the way, indicates a solution, or puts one on the track of a discovery; a key."
-- The OED

The word clue has a wonderfully tangled history. First off, clue is a horrible, inexplicable corruption of the obviously superior original spelling, 'clew'. This elder spelling is still used today to refer to a ball of yarn or thread. The newer spelling, by pure chance, has become associated with the newer meaning, as defined above, which is actually a figurative usage that took centuries to become commonplace.

"Therto have I a remedie in my thoght,
By a clewe of twyn as he hath gon,
The same weye he may returne a-non,
ffolwynge alwey the thred as he hath come."
The Legend of Ariadne, Part VI of The Legend of Good Women, by Geoffrey Chaucer, 1387

"Having lost the Clue which led us in, We wandered in the Labyrinth of Lust."
The Legend of Piers Gaveston by Michael Drayton, 1593

In this sense 'clue' was used as a familiar metaphor; a reference to the myth of Theseus. Theseus, the prince of Athens, volunteered to fight the monstrous Minotaur; however, fighting the Minotaur was only half the battle, as it lived in a vast labyrinth. In order to find his way out, Theseus unrolled a ball of thread behind him, and was thus able to retrace his steps and escape the labyrinth.

"Seeking in the movements of the heavenly bodies for a clue to the accidents of life and the revolutions of nations."
Journal of a Voyage Into the Mediterranean by By Sir Kenelm Digby, 1628

By the mid 1600s this metaphor had become so familiar that one no longer needed to mention the labyrinth to make the context clear. This is an important landmark, because before this one might be easily confused between Theseus' clue, which led one through a puzzle, and the clue of The Fates, spun and cut to determine the length of mortal lives. (as in "The old man knowes how little of his clew is left in the winding" -- The Balm of Gilead by Joseph Hall, 1650).

I cannot begin to locate the point when a clue stopped being a thread and devolved into a single object or event. It appears that it was in the late 1800s that people regularly stopped referring to 'the clue' of a puzzle, and started referring to 'a clue'. But as evidenced by the Digby quote above, this was not entirely new. This change is a bit sad, as both poetically and narratively, referring to a clue as a guide threaded through a mystery is much more satisfying.

Clew (?), Clue, n. [OE. clewe, clowe, clue, AS. cleowen, cliwen, clywe ball of thread; akin to D. kluwen, OHG. chliwa, chliuwa, G. dim. kleuel, knauel, and perch. to L. gluma hull, husk, Skr. glaus sort of ball or tumor. Perch. akin to E. claw. 26. Cf. Knawel.]


A ball of thread, yarn, or cord; also, The thread itself.

Untwisting his deceitful clew. Spenser.


That which guides or directs one in anything of a doubtful or intricate nature; that which gives a hint in the solution of a mystery.

The clew, without which it was perilous to enter the vast and intricate maze of countinental politics, was in his hands. Macaulay.

3. Naut. (a.)

A lower corner of a square sail, or the after corner of a fore-and-aft sail.


A loop and thimbles at the corner of a sail.


A combination of lines or nettles by which a hammock is suspended.

Clew garnet Naut., one of the ropes by which the clews of the courses of square-rigged vessels are drawn up to the lower yards. -- Clew line Naut., a rope by which a clew of one of the smaller square sails, as topsail, topgallant sail, or royal, is run up to its yard. -- Clew-line block Naut., The block through which a clew line reeves. See Illust. of Block.

© Webster 1913.

Clue (?), n. [See Clew, n.]

A ball of thread; a thread or other means of guidance. Same as Clew.

You have wound a goodly clue. Shak.

This clue once found unravels all the rest. Pope.

Serve as clues to guide us into further knowledge. Locke.


© Webster 1913.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.