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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It was Colonel Mustard! No, Mrs. White! Augh...Gimme a CLUE, people!

I have always loved a great murder mystery.

It doesn't matter whether it happens to be in the form of a computer game, or a gripping mystery novel, or a spy movie. If there is a murder mystery on the air, I am definitely one to tune in. It's why I loved the reality show Murder In Small Town X, and stayed with the 13-episode run of Harper's Island, and why I have played every possible online murder mystery game out there. Maybe in a way, I'm enacting my fantasy of becoming a private detective, because I know that my queasiness over the sight of blood would make such a career impossible.

Though, I suppose I could always write a gripping murder mystery novel myself at some point. Hmmm...come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.

Truth be told, you know those mystery dinner improv performances and theaters that exist? The one where you get invited to a person's home and eat a fantastic meal only for the festivities to be interrupted by the death of one of the guests? I would so love to be able to go to one of those murder mystery weekends, just for the sheer fun of trying to discover who the murderer is. I would even do it just for fun. I wouldn't even want to play for the prize money or what have you. I just would want to take part in one of those weekends because I think I would really enjoy myself.

So, yeah, if any of you know any places in Canada that specialize in murder mystery weekends, please drop me a line. I really would want to go to one (well, provided that I end up being a mystery solver, and not the subject of the mystery).

I suppose you might be wondering where I developed my love for all things murder mystery. Believe it or not, it was greatly influenced by my childhood. And, no, I didn't watch a lot of violent television shows and movies as a child, because my parents sort of monitored my television viewing as a young child, as parents tend to do.

But I did spend many hours playing a particular board game in my youth. A board game that was created many years ago that dealt with the very subject of trying to find out who the murderer was in a group of six suspects.



That board game of course is the game Clue (or if you happen to live in the UK, Cluedo).

The board game is a basic dice-rolling game that takes place in an extravagant mansion where the murder of Mr. Boddy has taken place (Dr. Black in the UK version). Using clues given by each of the players (through various cards), it is up to the player to figure out who committed the murder, what the murder weapon was, and where the murder took place. The player that can deduce all of the clues given and come up with the right solution will win the game.

What many people might not know is that over the game's sixty plus year history, the game has been redesigned quite a few times. There were playing pieces originally made that never made it into the final product. Some of the characters that did make it into the game had complete personality revamps and sometimes the characters changed hair colour, stature, even skin colour!

But first things first, let's get to how the board game Clue was created, shall we?

The origins for Clue were established in the year 1944. That year, an English solicitor's clerk by the name of Anthony E. Pratt had filed his patent for a murder mystery game which was originally named 'Murder'. The idea for the game was designed as a way for soldiers to play during lengthy air raid drills. Sometime during 1944 and 1945, Pratt and his wife presented the game idea to Norman Watson, an executive for Waddingtons (a toy company that focused on board and card games). The game impressed Watson so much that he wasted no time in purchasing the game, renaming the game Cluedo (a portmanteau of the word clue and the Latin phrase Ludo, meaning 'I play'). The patent for the board game was officially granted in 1947, but because of post-war shortages, it took some time for the game to be made available in stores. The first version of Cluedo was released in 1949. That same year, the American version (renamed Clue) began mass production, courtesy of the Parker Brothers corporation.

Now here's the thing about Clue when it was first released. The game that most of us have grown to love was originally designed to be much larger, and more complex than the version that we all know.



We all know that the current game of clue has six players, six weapons, and nine possible rooms. The version that Pratt came up with had ten players, nine weapons, and eleven possible rooms.

Some of the players that were a part of the original game that never made it to the final cut were Mrs. Silver, Mr. Gold, Miss Grey, and Mr. Brown. There was also a character named Dr. Black (which eventually was phased out to become the murder victim in the Cluedo version). Other characters simply received name changes.

Eliminated rooms on the game board included the gun room and the cellar. Eliminated weapons included a walking stick, syringe, poison, bomb, axe, and fireplace poker. Some were changed into the more contemporary weapons, which now include the standard six pack of weapons (which of course are the candlestick, knife, lead pipe, revolver, rope and wrench).

Some of these characters and weapons would be included in some of the game spinoffs over the years, including an interactive game for VHS, as well as an extended version which contained more rooms and players.

Five of the original ten players ended up making the final cut for the board game. The sixth one was created after the patent had been given. When players play the game, the order of who plays first is set, beginning with the red token, and going clockwise around the board.



Each of the six characters have their own distinctive characteristics and traits, and these traits could vary depending on what version of the game you play. The six suspects of Clue are.



MISS SCARLET: In most variations of the game, Miss Scarlet is portrayed as the femme fatale of the group. She always dresses in red, a colour symbolic with passion and lust. Depending on the game version, Miss Scarlet can be either Caucasian or Asian. In the 1985 Clue movie, she is portrayed by actress Lesley Ann Warren. In some versions of the various games and television series based on the game, Miss Scarlet could be a woman running an escort service, an international spy, a B-movie actress, and even the stepdaughter of Mrs. Peacock!



COLONEL MUSTARD: A great white hunter and colonial imperialist, Colonel Mustard was originally given the name of Colonel Yellow. In most versions of the game, Mustard sports a signature mustache and monocle, though in some versions, he appears clean shaven. In the 1985 Clue movie, he is played by Martin Mull. Depending on the game version, he can appear as young as a man in his thirties to someone who happens to be in his seventies. In some versions of the various games and television series based on the game, Colonel Mustard can be Miss Scarlet's partner in espionage, a thief of black market radio parts, using them as a way to supplement his income by selling them, a militaristic man, and a man who will always get into a duel at the drop of a hat.



MRS. WHITE: Mrs. White was originally called Nurse White in the original version of the game, but this was changed prior to the game being released. In almost every version of Clue, Mrs. White acts as a servant to Mr. Boddy. She can be a cook, a maid, or a housekeeper depending on the version of the game one plays. In the 1985 Clue movie, she was played by the late Madeline Kahn. Mrs. White probably has the most schizophrenic personalities throughout the Clue series. Sometimes she is seen as being very caring and nurturing towards Mr. Boddy/Dr. Black to the point where she becomes his lover. Other times, she mocks Mr. Boddy as well as the other houseguests.



MR. GREEN: A funny thing about Mr. Green is that prior to 2002, when the game was released, he was known as Reverend Green in the Cluedo version. Depending on the country of origin of the game played, you can have Reverend Green, a hypocritical preacher who apparently is accused of breaking the sixth commandment...thou shalt not kill. Or you could have Mr. Green, a ruthless, white-collar criminal who may or may not have mob ties. In the 1985 Clue movie, he was played by Michael McKean. Depending on the version you play or watch, Mr. Green can be an aristocrat who lost everything in a stock market crash, a greedy and conniving businessman, a closeted gay man who must keep his secret in order to keep his government job, or a village vicar.



MRS. PEACOCK: Mrs. Peacock is the only character to be created after the original patent was issued in 1947. In most cases, she is portrayed as a wealthy, elderly woman who seems to put good manners and dignity above everything else. She was played by Eileen Brennan in the 1985 Clue movie. Depending on the version you play or watch, Mrs. Peacock can be an ornithologist, fascinated by bird watching, a black widow who buried thirteen husbands, a prim and proper lady who makes it a mission to point out the rudeness that other guests exhibit, and a politician's wife who dabbled in taking political bribes on behalf of her husband.



PROFESSOR PLUM: Professor Plum, like Colonel Mustard can be seen in a variety of ages and may or may not have facial hair, depending on the version of the game you play. In most cases, he is portrayed as an absent-minded professor. He is played by Christopher Lloyd in the 1985 Clue movie. Depending on the version you play or watch, Professor Plum can be an archaeologist, a brilliant professor who forgets everything and anything, an absent-minded klutz, and a man who killed his wife out of desperation while trying to perform an experiment.

(Wow...you know, when I play this game, I almost always want to be Professor Plum in the game, as purple is my favourite colour, but after reading that last description, now I'm not so sure...)

At any rate, now that you know who the six suspects are, you have to find out which one did the crime. By rolling the dice and moving from room to room, you can offer theories as to who you think the killer is.

Was it Miss Scarlet with the Candlestick in the Study?
Was it Mrs. Peacock with the Rope in the Billiard Room?
Was it Professor Plum with the Lead Pipe in the Kitchen?

There are many possibilities, 324 different combinations in all. That's a lot of possibilities. Fortunately, after you present your theory, your opponents can disprove your theory by showing you a card that they are holding, eliminating a suspect, a room, or a weapon from your list of possibilities. After all, there can only be one of each used, and those cards are placed in the file envelope located in the middle of the game board.

As the game progresses and more and more suspects, weapons, and potential crime scenes are eliminated from play, a player can issue an accusation against a suspect, and exclaim that 'yes indeed, it WAS Colonel Mustard with the Revolver in the Conservatory'.

One of two things can happen. Either the accusation is correct and you can win, or one of your opponents may end up having an alibi for Colonel Mustard, and you end up losing the game with the false accusation. So you really have to make absolutely sure that you are one hundred per cent correct with your accusation, or else it's curtains for you.

But that's part of the game. Certainly the game mirrors real life murder investigations, as if a detective tried to arrest someone for murder without having the evidence against them, the real criminal would go free, and the detective may or may not be in serious trouble.

Many variations of the game have been released. A version for little kids called Clue Jr. proved to be just as successful as the more mature counterpart when it first hit toy stores in 1989.



In 1985, as explained earlier in this blog, a feature length film was made that was loosely based on the game. The movie also starred Tim Curry as the butler, in addition to the six actors and actresses who played the main suspects. And true to the game, the movie had multiple endings...at least three in total...maybe more.



Beginning in 1992, a series of novels for children were put out by Scholastic books which featured between ten and thirteen mini-mysteries surrounding Mr. Boddy, his maid, Mrs. White, and his five houseguests. Eighteen books were published in the series between 1992 and 1997. In 2003, a second book series called 'The Clue Mysteries' was published by Canadian author, Vicki Cameron. Two VHS interactive games were made and released between 1985 and 1987. The game has been ported to several video game systems including the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance.
In 2008, the game was reimagined under the name Cluedo: Discover The Secrets, and there is currently a Clue online game available in online format on the official website for the television channel The Hub. Go on, and try it out! You'll notice that some of the rooms and weapons have become more modernized, but fear not, the original classic game of Clue and Cluedo is still being manufactured as of 2011.

There are many, many versions of Clue out there for people of all ages, and I for one am happy that I had the game of Clue in my life...because if it weren't for that game, perhaps I never would have developed my love for the classic murder mystery.



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