When the film Clue came out in 1985, audiences were baffled. A movie based on a board game, with three different endings, and you had to pick which one to go see? Bad reviews compounded the problem, and instead of choosing one ending, most people stayed away entirely. Clue, outgrossed at the box office by films that had been released months earlier, quickly faded away. When it unceremoniously premiered on Showtime a year after its theatrical debut, there was no sign it was destined for anything other than obscurity, another flop bound to be forgotten.
Instead, Gen Xers and millennials, raised on pop culture and cable TV in an era long before the streaming wars, discovered this zany farce about a group of six strangers locked in a remote house with a killer. The movie appealed to kids. The creepy mansion and eerie music contrasted with slapstick gags and double entendres, deflating the tension. Today, almost forty years later, Clue is the epitome of a cult classic, with midnight screenings, script readings for charity, cosplaying fans, and a stage play.
“What Do You Mean, Murder?” dives deep into the making of Clue and walks fans through the movie they know and love. From producer Debra Hill’s original idea of Detective Parker bumbling around a mansion to Carrie Fisher’s casting as Miss Scarlet, from Madeline Kahn’s iconic “flames” ad-lib to the legendary deleted fourth ending, it’s all here. With asides on fandom, Gen X nostalgia, and at how movies were made in the 1980s, the book offers plenty to chew on for die-hard buffs and casual fans alike.
"What Do You Mean, Murder?" Clue and the Making of a Cult Classic
A deep dive into the cult-classic film Clue.
John Hatch is an editor and author who has written about the American West, memory in history, and pop culture. He has documented the roles of Paramount Pictures and Cecil B. DeMille in placing Ten Commandments monuments across the United States in the 1950s to promote DeMille’s film The Ten Commandments (1956). He has also researched the early development of film in the Progressive Era and moral crusades against nickelodeons and cinemas. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Joy.