I love the movie Clue. I’ve seen it over a dozen times. I can quote whole sections verbatim, and any time I feel annoyed by someone, I suffer from flames on the side of my face and heaving breaths. The board game is great, but the movie will always be the Clue that has my heart.
Its multiple gag endings are now a classic bit of cinema history. But every time I’ve watched Clue, it’s been either on DVD or on VHS, and so I saw all of the endings one right after the other, but during its 1985 theatrical run, Clue was presented with the same multiple endings we all know and love, but each theatre only got one.
Film critics at the time didn’t quite know what to make of it, nor did many audiences. In his review, Roger Ebert calls the multiple endings idea “ingenious”, though he didn’t like the movie enough to recommend people actually go around to multiple theatres to see the endings.
From Ebert’s review:
“‘Clue’ is a comedy whodunit that is being distributed with three different endings, which is sort of silly, since it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference who did it. That makes the movie a lot like the board game which inspired it, where it didn’t make any difference either, since you could always play another game.”
Despite being an ardent fan of the film, I’d never thought of the parallels before. Here we’ve got a movie that has multiple endings, each of which combine to tell the viewer “Actually, nothing that happened in the movie really matters! It’s one of these endings, but who cares which one?” Sound familiar?
Yes, Clue had a few things in common with the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy, and more broadly, to any story-based game with multiple outcomes.
Clue‘s multiple-theatres-multiple-endings stunt was a flop and most people weren’t interested enough to actually go to multiple viewings to see multiple endings. But think if they had — it wouldn’t have been all that different from those of us who do multiple play-throughs of BioWare games like Mass Effect just to see the various endings we can get.
When he reviewed the film, Ebert gave this advice: “Since this movie is so short anyway (88 minutes), why doesn’t the studio abandon the ridiculous multiple-ending scheme and show all three endings at every theatre? It would be more fun that way.”
Apparently Paramount agreed, as the film’s video release did just that. By packaging the movie with all of the endings stacked in a row, it became clear that really, despite the “real” ending embedded here, there was no actual true ending.
I’m not suggesting that Mass Effect 3‘s ending would be improved if BioWare strung all of the possible outcomes together with the jaunty Clue theme music playing.
However, I am suggesting someone else do this and post it to YouTube. Because that would be pretty funny.