It all started with a dinner party. In the early 1940s, musician Anthony Pratt made his living performing concerts at hotels throughout the English countryside. The popular evening entertainment of the day was dinner and a murder mystery.
In these live-action whodunits, actors and guests spread through the hotel, seeking clues to solve a murder. As guests answered questions about the murderer, crime scene, and weapon, it occurred to Pratt that he might have the makings of a board game.
He played around with the idea and in December of 1944, applied for a patent for his game “Murder!” In 1949, with a few tweaks, Pratt’s game went into production with game manufacturer Waddingtons as “Cluedo.” Simultaneously, Parker Brothers released the game in the United States, calling it “Clue.” The game was a hit.
Then in December of 1985, Paramount released a film adaptation of it. All the brightly colored game characters arrive at a spooky mansion on a stormy night for a dinner party and a series of murders. The critical response to the film was more or less “meh.” But audiences who had grown up playing Pratt’s game liked it fine. The film developed a cult following proving to a curious world that Tim Curry looks better in a tuxedo than in women’s lingerie.
I played the game Clue a lot when I was a kid. And though I didn’t see the movie in the theater, it was one of my favorites. I watched it frequently on VHS, complete with all three possible endings and a load of pithy jokes. When our boys started enjoying the game, we showed them the movie and they loved it, too.
So when a theater near our home screened Clue as part of a throwback film series, we geeked out. We rearranged our schedules, grabbed our tickets, and stayed out late on a school night to see it.
It was totally worth it. The catchy score was louder, the old mansion was creepier, and the growling guard dogs were scarier. With a large crowd laughing along, even the pithy jokes were funnier. Of course it didn’t hurt that between handfuls of butter-soaked popcorn, my youngest was reciting right along with every line.
His favorite part occurs during the first ending in which Wadsworth the butler reveals that Miss Scarlet is the murderer. The two of them debate whether any bullets remain in the revolver, with Wadsworth eventually wrestling it away from Scarlet. When he then accidentally fires it, the bullet severs the cord holding the chandelier. The chandelier nearly falls on Colonel Mustard, engaged in recounting the fired shots on his fingers, taking him by complete surprise.
It didn’t matter that my son already knew the scene because everything’s better on the big screen. Though originally released to theaters with only one of three endings, this screening of the movie included all three. We watched and laughed and went home happy.
And that’s how it could have happened.
But then, a couple weeks later came our turn to host a large crowd of neighbors for the annual Christmas party. After a lot of baking, cooking, arranging, and cleaning, we were just about ready for the party to begin. The wine glasses were lined up on the kitchen island and my husband stood at the stove with the last of the food nearly ready. Guests were due to arrive in about fifteen minutes.
I washed and dried one last cooking pot, hung it on the iron pot rack/light fixture above the island and walked out of the kitchen. I had just made it through the doorway when I heard a very scary noise.
I looked back to see my husband, miraculously uninjured, doing his best Colonel Mustard impression. Inches behind him, the pot rack had crashed onto the counter, shattering the wine glasses, sending shards of broken glass across the kitchen and dining room.
Soon after, the doorbell rang. My first instinct was to shout like Mrs. Peacock, “Oh, whoever it is, they gotta go away or they’ll be killed.” But instead, I took a shaky breath, opened the door, and explained our situation.
It was a little darker in the kitchen. We swept up a lot of glass. But in the end, we managed to have a really nice evening with some very understanding neighbors. And best of all, no one was killed. In the kitchen. With the pot rack.