Three endings were shot, and a different one shown at each theater. All three are included on video. The DVD, however, aside from all three endings, also offers the option to play the movie with one randomly selected ending. In some cities, the newspaper print ads indicated which version ("Ending A", "Ending B", or "Ending C") was being shown at each theater.
Wadsworth voices the object of the board game after the characters find Mr. Boddy, the board game's only victim, dead. Wadsworth yells "That's what we're trying to find out! We're trying to find out who killed him, and where, and with what!"
According to an interview with writer Jonathan Lynn, after a screening on the 25th Anniversary of the film's release, Carrie Fisher was originally to have been cast as Miss Scarlett, until she ended up in rehab four days before filming started. Lesley Ann Warren was a last-minute substitute.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demi Moore, and Madonna were considered for the role of the buxom French maid Yvette. Eager to earn the part, Colleen Camp went to her audition in a French maid costume. In a 2013 BuzzFeed retrospective, Director Jonathan Lynn admitted that although he was impressed with Camp's comedic acting skills, it was her well-endowed figure that ultimately convinced him, "There was no avoiding it."
The screams heard when the characters rush to the maid in the billiard room are not from Colleen Camp (the maid). They are from Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), from the scenes where the dead body of the cook, and the live body of Wadsworth fall out of the meat locker.
The Max Busch House, the mansion used for the exterior and ballroom scenes, was destroyed by a massive fire on October 5, 2005. After the fire, several people left flowers on the front gate and even shed tears, evidence of how much the house was cherished by the local community.
In an interview conducted in November 2009, Jonathan Lynn stated that he had cast the film himself. He said that while actors and actresses were recommended to him via the casting department, he made the final decisions. His original choice for Wadsworth was British actor Leonard Rossiter, most famous for the role of Rigsby in Rising Damp, but he sadly passed away in 1984, just prior to pre-production. He was followed by Rowan Atkinson, who was well known in England for his roles in Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979) and The Black Adder (1982), but the studio felt he was too unknown to American audiences to be the leading actor in an American production. Ironically, Atkinson would go on to huge success with his character Mr. Bean in America some years later. Jonathan Lynn had known Tim Curry since they were teenagers, and personally asked him to be in the film.
The females in the film wear the opposite colors of their namesake. Miss Scarlet wears green, Mrs. White wears black (but the inside of her coat flashes a brilliant white) and Mrs. Peacock wears gold and orange (though has peacock feathers in her hairpiece). Mr. Green wears no green at all, but instead a blue suit with a red tie. Colonel Mustard wears a dark brown suit (and a light cream overcoat), and Professor Plum wears a burgundy vest and grey suit. Interestingly, each character's car matches the color of their names and game piece.
In the opening scene when Wadsworth checks on Mrs. Ho the cook, the live-televised Army-McCarthy hearings are on the kitchen's television. One phrase spoken by Senator Joseph McCarthy that can be heard clearly as Wadsworth departs, is "professors and teachers, who are getting their orders from Moscow". This Senate hearing is also the same one in which the famous quote of "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" is spoken by Head Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch. With the coverage of the hearings taking place on live television, the events of the movie take place on Wednesday, June 9, 1954.
The film takes place in "New England", as revealed in the opening scenes. Soon afterward, Miss Scarlet is picked up by Professor Plum and explains that she is on her way to Hill House, which is "off Route 41". In real-life New England, there is a Route 41 that spans the northwestern section of Connecticut, continuing through the southwestern section of Massachusetts. So, Hill House, storywise, is located in either of these two New England states.
Mrs. White tells Colonel Mustard in the kitchen "flies are where men are most vulnerable". Prior to this scene, she ended a fight between Mustard and Mr. Boddy, by kneeing the latter in the groin, literally proving her point.
The song, to which Yvette (Colleen Camp) is dancing, in the beginning of the film, "Shake, Rattle, and Roll", is the version recorded by Bill Haley & The Comets, only it is sped up with the pitch increased. This trick was also used in Airplane! (1980), in which a sped-up version of the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive" is played.
In the U.S. version of the board game, only Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard have any identifiable backgrounds, given their titles. In the UK version, Reverend Green's profession is also apparent. All of the other characters' backgrounds are left ambiguous. However, in some editions of the board game, the covers show Mrs. White dressed as a maid.
Professor Plum hypothesizes to the group that the brandy was poisoned. In the original Cluedo board game, poison was included among the possible weapons, and later re-introduced in 1990's game Clue Master Detective.
In the novelization, after Mrs. White tells Colonel Mustard, "Husbands should be like Kleenex: Soft, Strong, and Disposable". Miss Scarlet interjects with a double entendre: "Their slogan is Soft, Strong, and Pops Up, Too."
Eileen Brennan's first film after her release from the Betty Ford Center for painkiller addiction, caused by her recovery from a 1982 car accident. Brennan's greatest physical challenge during shooting was running around the mansion for the "re-enactment" sequence.
Madeline Kahn and Eileen Brennan appeared in At Long Last Love (1975), and were good friends up until working on this movie. According to an interview with Brennan for Kahn's biography "Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life", she believed Kahn was too nervous to confront discussing Brennan's stint in rehab, and kept interaction to a minimum. They rarely spoke again after shooting.
Wadsworth decides how the guests will be paired up to search the house by cutting matchsticks into various lengths, and the guests appear to draw these at random. Naturally the partners were assigned by the script and the process could not be left to chance. Before Wadsworth holds out the cut matchsticks to the guests, he was given them in the correct order. The guests acted as if they were picking randomly, but simply drew the matchsticks in order from left to right.
Ms. Scarlet claims that The Cop had been on her payroll as a bribe to allow her to continue her business. However, as Ms. Scarlet lives and works in Washington, D.C., it doesn't make sense for a Washington, D.C. police officer to be policing in New England. That being said, as Wadsworth later claims that everyone who has come to the house has been invited, it is conceivable that The Cop, still in uniform, drove out to the property after his shift ended (he even says over the phone, "No, I'm not on duty") but upon seeing The Motorist's broken-down car, decides to investigate, which is why it appears that he is there on official business.
The term "schtupping" is actually a crude Yiddish word for the sex act (the English word "fu-king" is its alternative). This is why Madeline Kahn's character in Blazing Saddles (1974) is named "Lili Von Shtupp" for rather obvious reasons.
Differences in two weapons in this movie, include the revolver, that in the board game, is most commonly a pepperbox revolver (an early 1800s revolver with the six bullet chambers jutting out from the main gun parts). However, it is changed to a regular .38 caliber revolver, to possibly keep up with the 1954 time period, in which the movie is set. The lead pipe in the game was also bent at an angle, to emphasize the fact that it was (possibly) used in Mr. Boddy's murder. This movie shows it completely straight.
The New England mansion in the movie, "Hill House," was named after Producer Debra Hill. This also has a possibly unintended similarity to the film The Haunting (1963), in which there is a mansion called Hill House, that is also located in New England.
In non-North American editions of the Cluedo board game, such as the UK, Mr. Boddy has been known as Dr. Black, full name Dr. David Black or Samuel Black. The full name of Mr. Boddy in the 1985 VCR game, and the 2002 U.S. board game, is Mr. John Boddy.
When everyone is split off into pairs, the partners correspond with the rolling order of the game, Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White and (Wadsworth), Mr. Green and (Yvette), Mrs. Peacock and Professor Plum. Arguably, the drawing lots scene is symbolic of the die roll, and the constant referring to "ladies first" is reflective of Miss Scarlet rolling first in the game.
There are a few departures from the original board game. In the movie, the hall has been transformed into part of the playing board, and has been replaced by the front doors. This was probably done, so that the rooms didn't have to stand alone.
All the rooms are in the correct order as they are in the board game, (clockwise) hall, lounge, dining room, kitchen, ballroom, conservatory, billiard room, library, and study, as well as a cellar (a non-suspected area in the game). There are also several new rooms not seen in the game, including a bathroom, master bedroom, attic, and nursery.
When the evidence of Mr. Boddy's letters of informants and photographs is being stacked to be burned in the fireplace, there is a photograph of Mr. Green with his glasses on leaving a government building and holding a briefcase.
Tom Stoppard was initially approached to write the screenplay. He worked for a year before giving up and returning all the money he had already been paid. Executive Producer and Story Writer John Landis next approached Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins, both of whom asked for far too much money.
At dinner, Colonel Mustard quotes Kipling as saying, "The female of the species is more deadly than the male". By modern English rules, the comparative form of the two-syllable adjective "deadly" is "deadlier". However, the form "more deadly" is also acceptable, and is, in fact, an exact quotation of Kipling's 1911 poem, "The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than the Male".
Wadsworth is asked if the F.B.I. is in the habit of cleaning up after multiple murders. To which he replies, of course, why do you think it's run by a man called Hoover. The gag is that Hoover is also the name of a popular vacuum cleaner brand.
In the early part of the movie, each of the board game characters is given one of the board game weapons in a black gift box. They are as follows Mrs. White - the rope; Mr. Green - the lead pipe; Miss Scarlet - the candlestick; Colonel Mustard - the wrench; Mrs. Peacock - the dagger; and Professor Plum - the revolver.
Colonel Mustard makes a joke about Rudyard Kipling (The female of the species is more deadly than the male) and then asks Miss Scarlet if she likes Kipling, to which she says, "Sure, I'll eat anything!" In the UK, there is a confectioners called "Mr. Kipling", so the joke loses impact. Although, she may have misheard or misunderstood "Kipling" as "kippers" or "kippered herring", which is somewhat uncommon, but known in America as a smoked fish. It is feasible Miss Scarlet has been to some fancy restaurants where this was served, and may not know "Kipling" as an author.
Two of the three endings begins with the same lines being said by the same characters, with Wadsworth first saying, "Sorry, didn't mean to frighten everyone", and Mr. Green angrily responding, "You're a bit late for that!"
When Wadsworth falls out of the freezer when re-enacting the evenings timeline of events, There is stock footage of Miss Scarlet screaming earlier when the Cook falls out dead. In both instances she had a cigarette, many have said that this is an error. In the study moments earlier, she took a cigarette from the coffee table and began to smoke it.
The make, model, and color of each person's car in order of appearance is as follows: Colonel Mustard's yellow early 1950's Cadillac (model unknown). Mrs White's white 1950 MG TD convertible. Mrs. Peacock's blue 1952 Packard Deluxe. Mr Green's early green 1950's Plymouth (model unknown). Miss Scarlet's 1946 red Lincoln Continental, and Professor Plum's purple 1949 Pontiac Streamliner Station wagon
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
There was actually a fourth ending scripted and shot, in which Wadsworth committed all the murders out of a twisted need for perfection in his life. He reveals that he poisoned everyone with a slow-acting toxin in their drinks. It ended with Wadsworth being killed by dogs as he attempted to escape by car from the house. The rather grim nature of the ending is probably why it was never released. It was never shown, because the filmmakers thought the ending would have been too obvious, it only survives in the novelization and the storybook, which features a single photo from that ending (the Chief punching Wadsworth in the stomach).
When Mr. Boddy pretends to be dead after the revolver is fired in the dark, and the six guests try to figure out how he died without having been shot, Wadsworth is missing during the entire sequence in the Study, up until he joins the guests in checking on a screaming Yvette in the Billiard Room. Wadsworth's absence was supposed to be intentional, because there was a fourth ending filmed where Wadsworth accuses Professor Plum of killing Mr. Boddy and Mrs. Peacock of killing the Cook, but Plum correctly deduces that the reason Wadsworth knows who murdered Mr. Boddy and his five informants (the Cook, Yvette, the Motorist, the Cop, and the Singing Telegram Girl, respectively) is because Wadsworth murdered everyone himself. Wadsworth reveals he had poisoned all the guests with a slow-acting toxin he put in their drinks, and then he runs to every room in the house that has a working telephone and he rips them out of the wall one by one. He is interrupted when the doorbell rings and is met by the undercover Chief of Police, who disarms Wadsworth with a punch to the gut after Wadsworth attempts to shoot him. The guests tell the Chief and the policemen with him Wadsworth did it all and Wadsworth starts to re-enact to them how he did it, only to slip out of the door and lock them all in Hill House. The police break the Conservatory window to get out with the guests and Wadsworth drives off, only to find the dogs he had at the dog house and Conservatory window are in the backseat and growling at him, about to attack him. The ending was rejected for being too dark, and also to keep the film's allowed running time.
In Ending B, where it's revealed Mrs. Peacock murdered all six people, it was revealed that she was actually shot dead by the Chief of Police when he confronts her at her car. After saying they got Mrs. Peacock when Wadsworth and the other five guests run outside, the Chief then turns to Mrs. Peacock's dead body and shoots her again. This was deemed too dark, and Eileen Brennan recorded a new line saying she's the Senator's wife, so that Peacock is arrested instead of shot. However, part of the rejected sequence remains in the film. After the police run to Mrs. Peacock to arrest her, you can see smoke in the air from the Chief's revolver, as if it had been recently fired.
At the beginning of the movie, Wadsworth tells the guests "Of course, since you've each been addressed by a pseudonym, you'll have realized that nobody here is being addressed by their real name." In the third ending, the characters find that this was true, even for Wadsworth.
Wadsworth's true identity is different in all three endings. In "ending A", he is what he says he is, that is, a real butler, who is another one of Mr. Boddy's victims (and he's also a very good amateur sleuth). In "ending B", he is an undercover F.B.I. Agent, and being a butler was his cover, and in "ending C", he is really the despicable Mr. Boddy pretending to be a butler.
Mr. Green is being blackmailed, because he is a homosexual working for the government. Later on, J. Edgar Hoover calls the house. In "Ending C", where everyone is guilty, Mr. Green is really an F.B.I. Agent sent in to infiltrate the blackmailer. In a couple of ironic twists, J. Edgar Hoover has long been suspected of being a homosexual, and in the 1950s, Hoover started a case called "Operation: Babydoll", in which he gathered intelligence on possible homosexuals working in the federal government.
Originally, there were endings in which each character killed off everyone once, and then the ending where they all did it. However, the final cut would have made the movie over two and a half hours long, and Director Jonathan Lynn thought it to be excessive, hence the three endings that are in the final cut.
The pairing-up scene contains very subtle humor in its outcome: Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard: Mustard was one of Scarlet's clients. Wadsworth and Mrs. White: White coyly threatens Wadsworth after he refuses to let her leave the mansion ("If we're ever alone together"), and Wadsworth tells her no man in his right mind would end up alone with her. Mrs. Peacock and Professor Plum: Peacock is uptight and conservative, and Plum is lecherous and philandering. Yvette and Mr. Green: Yvette is outwardly sexy, and Green is allegedly homosexual.
The film featured three endings, five bodies, six weapons and seven suspects. This is featured in one of the taglines for the film, but as there are six murders, one for each weapon, there are actually six bodies, not five.
The line, "Communism was just a red herring", is said in all three endings (twice by Wadsworth and once by Miss Scarlet). Not only is it is a pun (particularly after World War II, the Russian Communists were frequently called "Reds", for example, the anti-Communist slogan, "Better dead than Red."), but it cleverly refers to a MacGuffin (or a literal "red herring") implemented by the screenwriters, because none of the murderers motives end up having anything to do with creating political conspiracy. There are various visual red herrings on-screen, such as a hammer and sickle on the shelf beside the torch Colonel Mustard finds, and a bust of Lenin in the attic.
When the characters decide to draw lots to search the house, Mrs. Peacock expresses fear that she will be paired with the killer. If the third ending is "what really happened", she and her partner, Professor Plum, are the only killers up to that point. The other pairs are Mrs. White and Wadsworth, who had just said to Mrs. White that "no man in his right mind would be alone together with you"; Yvette and Mr. Green, the only man who was not interested in going with Yvette to the attic; and Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard, who suggested the split after seeing the motorist.
The murders are as follows: (1) The Cook, in the kitchen, with the dagger; (2) Mr. Boddy, in the hall, with the candlestick (his previous demise in the study from the revolver was a false death); (3) The Motorist, in the lounge, with the wrench; (4) Yvette the Maid, in the billiard room, with the rope; (5) The Cop, in the library, with the lead pipe; (6) The Singing Telegram Girl, in the hall, with the revolver.
Mr. Boddy has informants that he used for information about the six guests. They are: The Cook - Mrs. Peacock; The Motorist - Colonel Mustard; The Cop - Miss Scarlet; The Singing Telegram Girl - Professor Plum; Yvette - Mrs. White and possibly Miss Scarlet. However, none of the deceased informed on Mr. Green, which is why he is constantly saying "I didn't do it!" It is also a foreshadowing of Ending C, where Mr. Green is actually an F.B.I. Agent. This allows us the assumption that it was in fact the F.B.I. who "informed" on Mr. Green to Mr. Boddy, setting up his cover, so he could infiltrate the scheme as their inside man.
In ending C, where everyone but Mr. Green murders a character, only Colonel Mustard (with the wrench), Mrs. Peacock (with the knife), and Mrs. White (with the rope) use the actual weapons they were given as gifts. Professor Plum finishes off Mr. Boddy with Miss Scarlet's candlestick, Miss Scarlet uses Mr. Green's lead pipe for her murder, and Wadsworth (Mr. Boddy) uses Professor Plum's revolver to shoot the Singing Telegram Girl. Mr. Green shoots Wadsworth (Mr. Boddy) with a revolver, but it's a gun he's brought with him, and not the weapon given to Professor Plum by Mr. Boddy (the actual butler).
In two of the endings (Ending A and Ending B) where multiple people are not the killers, as is the case in Ending C, a woman is the murderer in both, the film connecting with that old Rudyard Kipling maxim, "the female of the species is more deadly than the male".
In end the credits, where Clue game cards show pictures of the characters, only three correctly match the character with the weapon they initially received in their gift boxes: Mrs. Peacock is shown with the dagger (which she used to kill the Cook in Endings B and C), Mrs. White is shown with the rope (which she used to kill Yvette in Ending C), and Mr. Green is shown with the lead pipe (which was used to kill The Cop, but not by Mr. Green). Professor Plum is also shown with the rope, though he never used it during the course of the film, nor in any of the endings. Miss Scarlet is shown with the revolver, which she did use to kill the Singing Telegram Girl in Ending A. Colonel Mustard, Wadsworth, Yvette, and Mr. Boddy are not pictured with weapons on their cards. Additionally, the candlestick and wrench are not shown on any of the cards.
In the third ending, the last three murders, specifically Mrs. White's killing of Yvette, is physically impossible, given the order of events: -The lights are turned off, according to Wadsworth, by Mrs. White. -After some physical gags, we see Mrs. White in the nursery on the second floor, where she dramatically screams as the window blows open. -As we hear her screaming upstairs, Yvette is coming down the stairs to the ground floor, where she enters the billiard room. -Yvette enters the billiard room where she speaks to her killer (allegedly Mrs. White) who, despite just being heard screaming upstairs, is already there, hiding in the shadows with the rope from the cupboard. -As Mrs. White is strangling Yvette, Miss Scarlet is also out in the hall sneaking into the Library to kill The Cop. Meanwhile, Wadsworth, who has the gun, has come downstairs to answer the door and kill the telegram girl. In the moments that follow, (in full view of Colonel Mustard in the dining room) Miss Scarlet leaves the Library, and somehow without crossing paths, Wadsworth and Mrs. White return upstairs, Wadsworth back to the bedroom and Mrs. White back to the nursery, where Mrs. White screams at the Jack-in-the-Box, prompting Wadsworth to enter the shower before returning downstairs once more to turn back on the electricity.
When Yvette sneaks down to the billiard room and is asked if anyone saw her, the voice whispering in the shadows is meant to be somewhat androgynous, allowing the audience to believe it could be any of the guests speaking. It's relatively clear, however, that the person actually voicing the lines is female. In each of the three endings, it was indeed a woman who killed Yvette: Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, and Mrs. White, respectively.
Significant characters in film that were not in the board game, included Wadsworth the butler, The Cop, The Cook Mrs. Ho, Yvette the Maid, The Motorist, The Evangelist/The Chief, and The Singing Telegram Girl.
The wrench given to Colonel Mustard during the "Gift" sequence is a Billings & Spencer Co. 12" adjustable "Monkey" Wrench. (Identifiable by the triangle emblem etched into the bottom of the handle, seen when the gloved hand is approaching the Motorist to kill him when he's on the phone.)
Of the three endings, "B", with Mrs. Peacock as the lone killer, is the least believable. While it's possible, however unlikely, that she could have killed most of the victims, the scenario surrounding The Motorist is dubious at best. She couldn't have stolen away from Professor Plum (without him realizing) to get out of the cellar, across the hall to the cupboard, gotten the wrench, entered the lounge through the conservatory, killed The Motorist, then back through the passage and returned to the cellar where she emerges with Professor Plum moments later, all without ever crossing paths with Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard, who are patrolling the ground floor.
In the original shooting script, the killer has turned out the lights to the lounge when Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard enter through the secret passageway. The killer's gloved hand swats the flashlight out of Colonel Mustard's hand, and he yells that the killer is still in the room as the killer exits in the dark through the secret passage. The scene was altered when film ending "A" reveals Miss Scarlet was the one who killed the Motorist, Yvette, the Cop, and the Singing Telegram Girl.
In Ending C, Wadsworth (Mr. Boddy) (Tim Curry) is shot by Mr. Green, an undercover F.B.I. Agent. In the Criminal Minds (2005) season six premiere, Tim Curry played a serial killer, who was also gunned down by an F.B.I. Agent.