They staged the musical “Clue” in my little town recently. If you’re not familiar, it’s a play based on the board game. It has snappy numbers like “Corridors and Halls,” “She Hasn’t Got a Clue,” and “A Conservatory is a Conservative Place for a Contract Killing.”
Okay, I just made up that last one.
I didn’t see it this time, but my kids were in the pit orchestra when they performed it at their high school. The musical is silly fun, and a bit complicated (and light on plot) because it’s interactive. The audience selects the weapon, room, and suspect cards, so there are over 200 possible endings the cast needs to know and be able to react to. It is, as you can imagine, not to everyone’s taste.
The board game, on the other hand, has been popular for more than 70 years. Jake Rossen made a listicle for Mental Floss about it, which had some facts I already knew, and a few I didn’t.
For instance, I knew the game had been developed in Britain during WWII to help overcome boredom while waiting out air raids, and that it was originally called Cluedo, which was also the name of the long-running British television series based on it.
But I didn’t know that Colonel Mustard was originally called Colonel Yellow, as all the characters were named after colors. But they wisely concluded that Colonel Yellow was not a good name for a military man.
And speaking of the military, Britain’s Mi9 slipped contraband maps and escape tools into board games sent to POW camps. So fitting, eh?
In the original patent, the weapons were an ax, cudgel, bomb, rope, dagger, revolver, hypodermic needle, poison, and fireplace poker.
In 2008, they updated the game. There was now a spa and home theater, Colonel Mustard became a football hero, and Professor Plum a dotcom billionaire. And you could now kill them with a trophy, a baseball bat, and an ax. I find it interesting that in their update, they went back to an original weapon. (Everything is so retro these days, if I wait long enough, maybe I’ll be hip too.)
In 2016, they permanently killed, er, retired, Mrs White and replaced her with scientist Dr Orchid.
Anthony Pratt, the creator, never made much money from his creation. In the 1960s his patent ran out so he didn’t receive royalties any longer. He hadn’t realized the game had become so popular in the United States. But even when he found out, he simply shrugged and pointed out how much fun people had with it over the years. A lesser man would have picked up one of those cudgels, handed Miss Scarlet a baseball bat, and taken the secret passage to the conservatory to seek vengeance.
Clue was a popular game in our household. As a kid I had an intricate and specific way to keep track of clues, heavy on secret symbols to thwart any roaming eyes. And as an adult, I made the pictured swag notepads from clue sheets to hand out at conferences one year. They were very popular, making me realize just how iconic that game is.
What about you? Did you play? Did you win? Which character did you always want to be?