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The movie that every magician needs to watch

Can you guess what my favourite movie of all time is? The Prestige? Nope. The Illusionist? Not even close? Now You See Me? Don’t insult me.

My all-time number one all time favourite comedy is the 1986 comedy Clue.

That’s right, my favourite movie is a box office flop based on a board game.

I don’t care. It’s my favourite.

It stars eighties comedy legends like Tim CurryMadeline KahnChristopher LloydMichael McKeanMartin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. It was written by John Landis (The Blues Brothers) and directed by Jonathan Lynn (Yes Minister).

My wife and I have watched it every Christmas for the past 15 years. We’ve left early from family Christmas lunch just to get home to put in our well worn DVD copy.

I can still make her laugh just by saying “Flames, on the side of my face.”

Spoilers ahoy!

The premise is simple: just like in the board game, a group of strangers gather for a dinner in a mysterious mansion by Mr Body. Within minutes Mr Body is murdered and it is up to the group to solve the crime before the police arrive.

All the characters, weapons and rooms from the original board game are in play. There’s even the secret passages.

By the time the crime is actually solved in the third act, you’ve experienced an avalanche of clever twists, whip smart puns, snappy dialogue and labyrinthine plot developments.

In fact, when the credits roll, it doesn’t even matter  who did it. The filmmakers have provided three different endings to explain what the hell is going on.

The comedy veers from black to silly to surreal, often in just one scene. Check out this exchange between Col. Mustard and Mrs White:

Col. Mustard: How many husbands have you had?
Mrs. White: Mine or other women’s?
Col. Mustard: Yours.
Mrs. White: Five.
Col. Mustard: Five?
Mrs. White: Yes, just the five. Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable.
Col. Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies.
Mrs. White: Flies are where men are most vulnerable.

Now, whenever I’m working on a new show I ask myself: What would Clue do?

Because Clue taught me that great entertainment can be hilarious and mysterious at the same time. It can be clever while being silly. It can ask an audience to think while simultaneously letting them sit back and just enjoy the ride.

Also, it stars Tim Curry as a butler. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne magician, author and lover of silly movies.

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