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Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK


Happy Birthday, Colonel Mustard

Board game Cluedo turns 50 on Wednesday

Forget the lead piping and the revolver. The only thing Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum are likely to be seen with is cakeforks.

For the producers of the whodunnit boardgame Cluedo (known just as Clue in the US) are celebrating its 50th anniversary by staging a fittingly mysterious birthday party.

At the party - to be held in a secret location in London on Wednesday - a jury of experts, including Cluedo world champion Josef Kollar and Agatha Christie's former butler, will solve a staged mystery.

[ image:  ]
There will also be a limited edition board featuring a new weapon - a bottle of poison, one of the original instruments of death specified by Cluedo inventor Anthony Pratt.

Getting old gracefully

The board game has matured since Mr Pratt, a solicitor's clerk and avid murder mystery fan, dreamed up a somewhat more grisly version to kill time during the blackouts of WWII.

His original characters wielded bombs and hypodermic needles instead of the candlesticks and revolvers favoured by their modern-day counterparts.

Waddington launched Cluedo in 1949, and bought the rights from Mr Pratt in 1953. Fifty years on, it is still the world's fourth most popular board game, sold in 23 countries.

Yet Mr Pratt did not to retire in comfort on the royalties - the cheques stopped in the mid-1960s and he returned to work in a solicitor's firm. He died, aged 90, in 1994 - two years before the company tried to re-establish contact to celebrate selling the 150 millionth board.

Scarlet woman

[ image: Miss Scarlet as seen on the character card in the limited edition]
Miss Scarlet as seen on the character card in the limited edition
More than just a board game for bored familes, Cluedo's cast of colourful characters inspired 1985 film Clue, which starred Tim Curry as Wadsworth the butler and Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet. Then was the gameshow, the off-broadway and off-West End show, and numerous dinner theatre mysteries.

Mr Kollar, of Southampton, attributes the popularity of Cluedo in the UK to a fascination with murder and mystery.

"It's a very British game. We British do 'murder' very well. Look at Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie and the famous unsolved cases like Jack the Ripper."

But he can't work out why Rev Green, Mrs Peacock et al want to do away with Mr Black, the owner of the house.

"How did he get such a peculiar bunch of people around him who have got it in for him?"

Unsolved, after 50 years.

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