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The Plot Hole(s) in Clue Everyone Forgets

by Tony Nash

(Major Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the film, please watch it, then come back and read this)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Tim Curry: Wadsworth the Butler

Madeline Kahn: Mrs. White

Eileen Brennan: Mrs. Peacock

Christopher Lloyd: Professor Plum

Leslie Ann Warren: Miss Scarlet

Martin Mull: Colonel Mustard

Michael McKean: Mr. Green

Colleen Camp: Yvette the Maid

Lee Ving: Mr. Boddy

Written by: John Landis (story) and Jonathan Lynn (also story), based on the board game Cluedo by Anthony E. Pratt

Directed by: Jonathan Lynn

Synopsis: Six people are invited to a meal, and blackmail. All six are connected to Washington D.C., and the secrets they have could mean trouble should they come out. When the man believed behind the blackmail is murdered, the six guests, and the butler who arranged to have the blackmailer arrested must figure out which of them is a murderer.

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Clue needs no introduction or review as its one of the most popular Dark Comedies of the 1980’s. What very few either don’t know, or usually forget, is that there’s a major goof up within the film that leaves the surprise at the end a little anti-climatic and head head scratching.

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As we all know, the big revelation at the end is that Wadsworth (Tim Curry) is revealed to be Mr. Boddy and that he orchestrated the whole affair in order to eliminate the six accomplices who could identify him as a blackmailer. The second revelation is that the man believed to be Mr. Green (Michael McKeen) is in fact an undercover FBI agent sent to bring down the blackmail ring. Now while all of this is very cleaver and offers a nice twist to the famous multiple endings, there’s one obvious and plot hole ridden aspect to the Mr. Green character that leaves the “true” ending up for speculation and if it really should have been the “true” ending.

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For starters, even though Mr. Green has a good cover as a State Department employ who’s being blackmailed for his homosexuality, which harkens back to the real life FBI investigation of homosexuals within the government in the 1950’s, it’s never stated who informed on him. While it’s easy to assume the real Mr. Green told his superiors he was being blackmailed and the man who gave Mr. Boddy the information was dealt with, how none of the others at the mansion didn’t notice no one associated with Mr. Green’s secret ever showed up to be killed seems odd and weird. Also, the lack of a present informer would’ve immediately tipped off Mr. Boddy that Mr. Green wasn’t who he said he was and have had not only him, but the other five victims, suspicious of the man from the very beginning. Granted directer and screenwriter Jonathan Lynn most likely wanted to hint that Mr. Green was someone to keep an eye on, but to not keep the illusion in tact, even to have another Federal agent posing as the informant against Green seemed a little third rate. Since it’s not realized until the end that Mr. Boddy’s plan had been for his victims to take murderous revenge against his accomplices so they couldn’t turn into FBI witnesses and put him in jail, Mr. Green wouldn’t have any reason to believe a partner would be in danger.

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That Mr. Green never discusses the event or circumstances that led to Mr. Boddy finding out he was a homosexual working for the government adds to this notion. That the other characters, especially Mr. Boddy, aren’t confused and perplexed that Mr. Green hasn’t really said anything about himself (other than what he does for a living, and that his exposure as a gay man would cause a scandal) or who turned Mr. Boddy onto him and why that individual did what they did, is especially baffling as they’re all in the same boat and danger. What makes all this even more strange is that towards the end of the film when all the accomplices are dead and how it all happened are explained, non of the characters question Mr. Green as to why whoever told Mr. Boddy about him never showed up or what the evidence that person had on him. Even with director Lynn wanting to lean the audience into looking at Green more, that he makes Green’s innocence so obvious, and that he took no steps in the script to keep him as a suspect leans a little toward sloppy writing.   

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Another major point is the phone call from J. Edgar Hoover not long after the arrival of the Cop. Even with the assumption that the FBI knew in advance of Mr. Boddy’s blackmail scheme, why would Hoover, a noted overly paranoid individual, phone the house knowing full well the man they want to bring in could very well answer, thus putting an agent at risk for exposure and death. While the film is of course rooted in fantasy and not meant to be taken seriously, this is a clearly dumb move, even with Lynn’s concept of keeping everyone fairly in the dark, even in government agent shows like The Wild Wild West, The Avengers, and Mission: Impossible such a dangerous action would never happen. 

(Now this write up is in no way an attempt to put down the film or director Jonathan Lynn, but since this lack of in many elements of the Green character is so obvious, I felt obligated to put down my thoughts in regard to it. Clue is one of my all time favorite films of my teen years [I still enjoy it now] and I would never talk bad about it, but I was always surprised this obvious plot hole[s] were never brought up previously. I know the film is meant to be silly and not be totally realistic, but even this plot error is a bit too much to be missed.)

(I’m accepting comments for this one, and please be fair with them. You can call me crazy in my thought process with this if you like, but please be constructive and fair minded with it. What I wrote down is theory only, but it’s not bad I think.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

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10 Responses

  1. Mrs Peacock says:

    I love Clue and I love the twist of Wadsworth turning out to be Mr Boddy, although it’s far fetched his butler would go along with the charade (presumably blackmailed into doing so)

    I don’t think it’s a plot hole that the other guests don’t notice the clues that Mr Green isn’t who he says he is. There was a lot going on with all the murders and they were all distracted/plotting to kill someone.

    Great film!

    • moviefanman says:

      True, they initially don’t suspect Green or Wadsworth not being who they say they are, but you would think as everyone’s secrets came out about what exactly they were being blackmailed for and who informed on them, someone would’ve asked Mr. Green why whoever informed on him didn’t show up unexpectedly or what that person had on him, which would’ve clearly raised red flags about him.

      I think it’s a great film too, but that little plot hole just always bugged me, even though it was a long afterthought.

      Thanks 4 commenting.

  2. imthesaga says:

    Just re-watched it tonight, and I’m puzzled by two things. In the real ending, was it Wadsworh who threw the evidence (negatives, tapes, and all) in the fire? And if so, why would he do that if he intended to continue blackmailing all his victims?

    • moviefanman says:

      Yes, that is unusual and out of place isn’t it. That part had slipped my mind when originally writing. Most likely it could’ve been Col. Mustard when he went to kill the Motorist. With his working on a top secret Pentagon project he wouldn’t have wanted anything compromised to it and his career; and he probably felt he was saving the others from further blackmail, or to prevent someone else from taking over the job. Even then Wadsworth, (Mr. Boddy) may have had duplicates.

  3. Debbi says:

    It’s hard to be honest with one’s reviews. We all have different perspectives. But blogging one’s opinion is a brave thing to do.

    It’s been ages since I’ve seen this, and now I’m curious. Thanks! 🙂 (I think.)

    • moviefanman says:

      Thanks Debbi, when writing this post I thought back to an online literature course I took at Philadelphia’s Community College (got my Associates degree two years ago there) and one of our posts was on the biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Not one post was similar to each other’s take on the man, which shows the kind of effect the man had. Not exactly like Clue by any means, but I felt that same honesty.

  4. joanhall says:

    My theory:

    For all of the other informants, we are told WHO they informed on. The cook ratted out her former employer, the singing telegram girl snitched on her lover, the dirty cop informed on the madam, etc. But we are never told who the butler/Boddy informed on.

    I’m going with an idea that the butler was either a “great and good friend” of Mr. Green (if there really was a gay Mr. Green) or he was working with the FBI (if the Mr. Green victim was invented as a sting operation). The information, either true or false, was given to the real Boddy by the fake Boddy.

    The butler was killed by someone when they all thought he was the real blackmailer. If “Green” had managed to get the info to the FBI that the blackmailer was dead, then they might have thought it would be OK to call the house.

    • moviefanman says:

      That’s a very interesting theory, and it certainly does have quite a bit of plausibility. Why the fake Mr. Boddy tries to escape during dinner if he is really in on the sting with the agent posing as Green makes this kind of confusing, unless it was part of the plan. And it would explain the fake Mr. Boddy trying to leave the house after everybody thought he was dead, as he could’ve been going to inform the Chief Mrs. Peacock went to kill the Cook. You’re idea could definitely work.

      • joanhall says:

        You make a good point about whether the butler could be part of the sting. The fact that the butler was the one who gave them the weapons and suggested they kill Wadsworth wouldn’t fit with his being a part of law enforcement.

        So for my theory to hold up, I think I have to go with the butler being a real informant who told his boss about Mr. Green’s real secrets (and perhaps the butler IS Mr. Green’s secret).

        For endings A and B, Green is there in the house (and perhaps well-practiced at being able to look his lover right in the face and show no sign of recognition?). For ending C, Green had told the FBI about the blackmail and they sent in the decoy, who didn’t know until the very end that Wadsworth was the blackmailer.

  5. moviefanman says:

    It’s definitely clear that the decoy Mr. Green didn’t know until all the facts were being but together about the murders that Wadsworth was really Mr. Boddy. He did seem to have some inkling that Wadsworth wasn’t completely who he said he was when he (Green) said “So it was you. I was going to expose you,” after Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy admitted to having shot The Singing Telegram Girl.

    Also take into account with your revision theory that after the fake Mr. Boddy was first thought dead, Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy tells the story of how his wife committed suicide after their employer Mr. Boddy threatened to give her name to The House Unamerican Activities Committee because she had Socialist friends, so it may just be that the fake Mr. Boddy came to the house with the intent of killing his boss, but decided to have his employer’s victims do it for him, which of course backfired.

    Your theory still has a lot of merit and is quite good and plausible, but if the butler’s wife story is indeed true, and not Mr. Boddy lying in order to keep people thinking he is indeed Wadsworth, it kinda leaves the bereft gay lover theory as fanciful thinking. But because we the audience aren’t given a lot of information, open speculation isn’t a bad idea.

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