While most board games of the 1980s did not make it onto the big screen, one curious specimen did – Clue. The 1985 film directed by Jonathan Lynn and written by Lynn and John Landis holds a place of nostalgia for me, viewing it many times as a kid, but for the box office, it didn’t fare so well. With a budget of 15 million, Clue only garnered 14 million, but has since become a cult favorite amongst 80s aficionados. Clue was at least a superior board game-based movie concept than Boggle, although I believe Hungry, Hungry Hippos was adapted for the screen in Designing Women. Coming of age as a grown ass man and re-viewing Clue, it became apparent Clue is full of geopolitical/Cold War clues that reveal much more than is apparent on the surface. Clue is a clue to the secretive machinations of power in the real world – both of espionage and Hollywood and the dark marriage between them.1
Without getting into the rather confusing and labyrinthine plot too deeply, what is most pertinent are the offhand gags and seemingly throw-away lines of certain characters, and in particular Tim Curry’s portrayal as Wadsworth the Butler (and Mr. Boddy), as well as the three alternate endings, each with their own insights into the Cold War, Hollywood and the American power structure. In fact, not only do the various characters represent important (controlled) sectors of society, the symphony of blackmail strategies and layered deceptions, all of which culminate under a single conspiracy, demonstrate an astounding insight into the correlation of the Hollywood Blacklist of suspected communists in the 1940s and 50s and the military industrial complex.
We are given inklings of this over-arching plot early in the film, where Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd) explains his job is working for “family planning at the United Nations Organization’s World Health Organization.” This pun translates into “UNO WHO,” and begins the cascade of puns and conversational jabs culminating in the conclusion all mysteriously summoned dinner guests are important government employees. Col. Mustard opines that he prefers “Kipling to Tennyson,” both British Imperial writers, functioning as clues to the true villain in the story (the pretend British Butler, Mr. Boddy/Wadsworth).
Adorning the walls of the New England establishment estate are the figures of American Presidents – Washington, Lincoln and others, showing the estate is symbolic of America as a world power, ultimately “blackmailed” by its Eastern Establishment’s direct ties to London in what Quigley termed the “Anglo-Network.” Indeed, the Anglo-Network (embodied in the big foundations), Quigley explains, is who fostered and funded American socialism, communism and progressivism, as an integral part of the Cold War dialectical threat to manufacture a villain, functioning as the excuse for the black budget as rampant militarization. Dr. Carroll Quigley explains of the McCarthyite purges and witch hunts, particularly in Hollywood through the Blacklist, which are referenced numerous times in the film, as follows:
“This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements, operating from the White House itself and controlling all the chief avenues of publicity in the United States, to destroy the American way of life, based on private enterprise, laissez-faire, and isolationism, in behalf of alien ideologies of Russian Socialism and British cosmopolitanism (or internationalism). This plot, if we are to believe the myth, worked through such avenues of publicity as The New York Times and the Herald Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine and had at its core the wild-eyed and bushy-haired theoreticians of Socialist Harvard and the London School of Economics. It was determined to bring the United States into World War II on the side of England (Roosevelt’s first love) and Soviet Russia (his second love) in order to destroy every finer element of American life and, as part of this consciously planned scheme, invited Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, and destroyed Chiang Kai-shek, all the while undermining America’s real strength by excessive spending and unbalanced budgets.
This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies (notably to its belief that England was an Atlantic rather than a European Power and must be allied, or even federated, with the United States and must remain isolated from Europe), but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.
The Round Table Groups have already been mentioned in this book several times, notably in connection with the formation of the British Commonwealth in chapter 4 and in the discussion of appeasement in chapter 12 (“the Cliveden Set”). At the risk of some repetition, the story will be summarized here, because the American branch of this organization (sometimes called the “Eastern Establishment”) has played a very significant role in the history of the United States in the last generation.”2
While I have no clue as to whether Lynn and Landis were hip to Quigley’s CFR jive, they are at least loosely hitting on the same point – namely the dialectical manipulation of the Cold War period that allowed the establishment to dupe a large number of counter-establishment figures (namely the Hollywood Ten (including Bacall, Bogart, and others) into either being true believers in the Party, or if they weren’t, into being blackmailed by Hoover and the FBI! Indeed, criticisms of capitalism in any form could land one on the Blacklist, often resulting in blackmail on the part of Hoover and the FBI.3
The conclusion of the film, in one of its three endings, shows all the government employees blackmailed at the behest of Hoover and the FBI, with Curry’s character explaining, “Communism is a red herring.” It is a red herring because it became a tool for blackmail, and was a means by which sex espionage could be conducted to entrap (through the character of Miss Scarlet as the madame who informs for the FBI, as well as Yvette, the former sex operative who conducts compromising surveillance for her handlers (echoing recent revelations from both Deborah Jean Palfrey4 and Henry Vinson5).
Note as well the intelligence agents who pose as evangelical missionaries, only to break their cover and bust the various conspirators in all three variant endings – something examined at length in Mark Hackard’s recent interview on the subject.6 Ironically, one of the 80s most absurdist cult films was simultaneously, in a meta-fashion (because it was directly linked to Hollywood), revealing profound clues in regard to the stagecraft involved in the “red scare.”
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1 Dyer, Jay. “Hollywood CIA: A Dark Cult Marriage Revealed” JaysAnalysis. 27 January, 2015. Web. https://jaysanalysis.com/2015/01/27/hollywood-cia-a-dark-cult-marriage-revealed/
2 Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope. New York: MacMillan, 1966, pgs. 949-50.
3 Connolly, Kieron. The Dark History of Hollywood. Amber Books: London, 2014, pgs. 93-113.
4 Ward, Vicky. “No Way to Treat a Lady.” Vanity Fair. May 2008. Web. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/05/madam200805
5 Vinson, Henry. Confessions of a DC Madam. Oregon: Trine Day, 2015.
6 Hackard, Mark. “Intelligence and Cults: Audio Interview.” Espionage History Archive. March 25, 2016. Web. https://espionagehistoryarchive.com/2016/03/25/intelligence-cults-audio-interview/