Clue Character Study: Ms. Scarlet

Had so much fun writing up my Mr. Green character study, I thought I’d do a series. So, here’s the next-most-interesting character from the movie: Ms. Scarlet.

In the last one of these I had a deep theory on Mr. Green’s backstory. This time around it’s a bit more straight-forward: The only ending that works is the one where Ms. Scarlet is the killer.

There are a few story-wise reasons why as well as some logistical impossibilities with the rest of the endings, so let’s get started.

As you know from the first character study, there are 3 separate endings in the movie, the last one having a lead in marquee that states “But here’s what really happened”. In that last ending, each guest has committed their own murder (except Mr. Green). Trouble with that ending is that a few of the murders couldn’t happen the way they show it.

First, we have Prof. Plum trying (and eventually succeeding) in killing Mr. Boddy. The method is sound and he was indeed missing for a time from the kitchen doorway when the cook’s body was discovered – the moment when Mr. Boddy would’ve gotten up from playing dead. Plus, everyone had a reason to try to kill Mr. Boddy, so there’s no lacking in motive.

The next murder being Mrs. Peacock killing the aforementioned cook: again, perfectly plausible method since she was absent when the rest go to see why Yvette was screaming – one of the two possible times someone could kill the cook. Also, she is the only guest with an actual motive to kill the cook.

The third murder being the Motorist by Col. Mustard. Also possible as he and Ms. Scarlett were on the ground floor and had split up prior to it happening. There is the problem of how Col. Mustard could have known about the secret passage(s), but there’s no PHYSICAL thing stopping him from pulling it off.

Also, at this moment, he’d be the only one with a motive to take out the motorist. Anyone else would have to have made it to the study and rifled thru all the blackmail materials to find the photo of the motorist to have a reason to even suspect he’s involved with the dinner party at all, much less an informant to the blackmailer.

Now we get into some impossibilities: the forth murder is Mrs. White throttling Yvette. The main problem with this is that in this sequence where 3 murders take place in rapid succession, the electricity had been turned off and a lot of sight gags, screaming, and hilarity ensue throughout the house.

During the lead-up to Yvette being murdered, we see a shot of her quickly and quietly heading downstairs to the billiard room (where she’ll get murdered) as we hear Mrs. White screaming from one of the bedrooms on the second floor. But Mrs. White is supposedly WAITING for her down in the billiard room with the rope.

So Mrs. White would have to wait for Yvette to get downstairs, then she runs downstairs, goes into the study, grabs the rope from the cabinet, walks over to the billiard room, goes in herself WITHOUT YVETTE SEEING HER, then hide as Yvette sneaks in right after her.

Even cutting the timing all down to Yvette sprinting downstairs and hiding in a corner, looking at her feet while Mrs. White gets prepared to kill her, THEN walking into some pre-arranged meeting with her (…why?!), it just doesn’t work.

But.. she’s already *wearing* a choker

Also this murder makes no sense at all story-wise: when Yvette sneaks into the billiar room we get this whispered dialog:

[killer] - Shut the door. Did anyone recognize you?

[Yvette] - They must have, and not just my face. They know every inch of my body. And they're not the only ones-(noose goes around neck) *gasp* IT'S YOU!!

Ummm, first off. Why is Yvette meeting with Mrs. White? The wife of the nuclear physicist she was having an affair with? Why agree to that? And why would Mrs. White be asking if anyone recognized her? All this makes perfect sense if this were a meeting with Ms. Scarlet (which it is in the first ending) but here it is completely baffling.

Anywho, the next murder is Ms. Scarlet clocking out the policeman in the library: plausible, naturally, as she kills him in the version where she’s the real killer too. Then, the 6th murder is shooting the singing telegram girl by Wadsworth. And now we are right back to some of the same impossibilities, but at least this one is not *as* bad as the one’s with Mrs. White & Yvette.

This time, it is just a matter of Wadsworth managing to make it downstairs in time to open the door and shoot her and then making it back upstairs again to try and rescue Mrs. White from whatever she’s screaming over this time around. I’ll go ahead and grant the possibility that he snuck downstairs while the lights were out and managed to get the gun, answer the doorbell, and shoot the singing telegram.


Immediately after that happens, the front door slams shut / we cut to Mr. Green opening a door in the attic and running head-first into a closet / Col. Mustard tries to hide under the table in the dining room and bangs his head on the underside / and then a gigantic Jack-in-the-box springs open in the room Mrs. White is in, causing her to start a fit of screaming for help, which we immediately see Wadsworth trying to answer.

I can give you that it would be *possible* for Wadsworth to bolt up the stairs in time to try to help Mrs. White, but MAN is it close. Also, if the rest of the scenario is to be believed, he’d have to sprint past several ground floor rooms that have to have open doors to the hall where the other murders took place ALONG WITH THEIR MURDERERS right there.

Those cover the problems of the “real” ending, what about the Mrs. peacock ending?

She could have done the first two murders: the cook as described, AND Mr. Boddy as she was also missing from the kitchen when the cook was found dead, along with Prof. Plum and Yvette. The problem starts with the motorist murder.

I passed it off as a story problem before for Col. Mustard knowing about the secret passages, but for Mrs. Peacock, it’s a logistical problem. There’s just no conceivable way she’d know about the secret passages. Col. Mustard I can give a pass to since he *could* have learned about them from Yvette, or more likely, it’s possible that he inadvertently stumbled upon them searching the ground floor. I just can’t put together a scenario where Mrs. Peacock would either be told about them or finding them herself.

Niether does it explain WHY she would kill the motorist. At this point in the movie, she would only know that the cook was involved. What reason would she have to go out of her way to murder what, up till then, looks like just some poor guy who’s car broke down in the rain and wanted to make a call?

But the kicker for me is that we never see Prof. Plum and Mrs. Peacock, who are searching the cellar, get separated from each other. And if you look at the size of the cellar, there’s hardly any room for either of them to wander off out of sight of the other.

This is also a show-stopper when it comes to the rest of the murders. Getting away from Prof. Plum for any length of time is just too much for me. Plus, she’d have to go up, turn off the electricity, come back down, smack on the air ducts, go BACK UP, kill three people (and for some reason talk with Yvette about being recognized beforehand?! Yvette has even LESS reason to meet clandestinely with Mrs. Peacock) go back down to the cellar without Prof. Plum ever noticing.

So, Ms. Scarlet has the last remaining ending.


Just because it’s the only one left doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll add up any better

one physical impossibility plus two story contradictions plus two plot holes…

So let’s take a look, shall we?

First, let’s see if she and Yvette could’ve physically done the murders:

Yvette could have done the first two as they are described: sneaking in to grab the dagger to kill the cook during the commotion of the first attempt to kill Mr. Boddy. And she was one of the 3 missing people when the cook was found dead, so she could also have finished him off with the candlestick.

Now we get to the murders Ms. Scarlet herself would have committed: the 1st being the motorist. The only scene where we actually see a pair get separated the first time they split up to search the house is when her and Col. Mustard check the music room to see nobody there.

“Unless they’re behind one of those curtains” as Ms. Scarlet points out. Where Col. Mustard answers with “YOU look, I’ll search the kitchen.” and leaves. We then see a tense scene as Ms. Scarlet cautiously approaches a twitching window curtain only to discover a broken window pane causing the movement.

In the “real” ending, we can assume this is when Col. Mustard goes off to destroy the blackmail evidence and open the weapons cupboard to get something to murder the motorist with. BUT, this gives Ms. Scarlet that same opportunity.

The rest of the murders follow as described, but this time there’s no cut scenes of her screaming in rooms impossibly far away or shots of her near Co. Mustard (and Yvette’s conversation makes actual sense now!).

But most importantly, she’s got the motive locked down pretty tight. When Mr. Green has just one thing he doesn’t understand…

We finally get a satisfying answer to what she was really being blackmailed over: espionage.

As we found out in the first character breakdown: Mr. Green and Ms. Scarlet are the only guests who preempt Wadsworth from telling everyone their guilty secret and tell it themselves. It’s possible that Wadsworth was planning on elaborating on her summation, but thanks to Mr. Green connecting the dots on Col. Mustard, we get sidetracked from her secret into his instead.

I’ll also admit that running a brothel in D.C in the 50’s might be unseemly, but I’m with Mr. Green on this: I don’t find it a compelling enough reason to pay a blackmailer over. I mean, pay up or I’ll expose you to… er… your clientelle? Wouldn’t that be free advertizing?

I mean I suppose it’s prostitution at the very least, which might be more than a misdemeanor in the 50’s. So it’s passable, but pretty thin.

Having her real secret be espionage instead makes much more sense not just for being blackmailed, but for going thru the bother of committing 6 murders to cover it up, even if you had to sacrifice your top intel gatherer to do it.

She should have known she’d get screwed by someone eventually

And with that, we can wrap up Ms. Scarlet: the Heidi Fleiss of 50’s D.C. that turned out to be a better Spy-master.

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