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Clean Slate is a 1994 American comedy film, directed by Mick Jackson. The film stars Dana Carvey as a private investigator who is the key witness in a murder case. After suffering a head injury however, he has developed a rare form of amnesia that causes him to forget anything that's happened to him the previous day. This makes it hard for him to know who to trust, or if he even knows them at all. Valeria Golino, Michael Gambon, James Earl Jones, and Kevin Pollak co-star.


On a Monday morning, Maurice Pogue (Carvey) finds a tape recording which reveals that he has Korsakoff's syndrome, a form of amnesia that prevents him from remembering anything that happened to him the day before. He realizes that he recorded the message to himself the previous night, a system he's worked out to keep himself in the know. He also learns from the recording that he's a private investigator and obtained the condition after being injured during a case. The tape tells Pogue not to reveal his condition to anyone, as he's the key witness in the case against the man responsible for his amnesia. While listening to the recording, a strange woman (Golino) bursts into Pogue's office. Pogue learns that her name is Sarah Novak, and that she's been living under the alias Beth Holly in San Franciscomarker. She tells Pogue someone's trying to blackmail her, which is why she's come to L.A.marker The police then come to Pogue's office, and take him to what turns out to be his birthday party. When he tells his friend Dolby (Jones) that he's seen Sarah, Dolby tells him that Sarah is dead. While at the party, Pogue also meets Anthony Doover (Michael Murphy), his doctor. Dr. Doover is the only person to whom Pogue has revealed his condition.

Pogue is lead away from the party by two henchmen, who take him to meet Philip Cornell (Gambon), the man Pogue is to testify against. Cornell offers Pogue a large sum of money to deny witnessing Cornell's involvement in the crime. When Pogue goes through his files at the office, he learns that Sarah was once Cornell's lover. When the two broke up, Sarah decided to testify against Cornell for fear that he might kill her because of her knowledge of his illegal activities. Sarah hired Pogue to protect her but was killed by a car bomb, the same bomb that caused his amnesia. That night, Pogue meets Sarah at a fashion show she's modeling in. She tells him the girl that was killed in the explosion was a double, and that someone's threatening to tell Cornell she's still alive. Sarah also tells Pogue about a valuable coin Cornell stole from the L.A. County Museum, which she in turn stole from him. Sarah tells Pogue that she gave him the coin the morning before the explosion; Pogue, of course, can't remember. The only clue the two have about the coin's location is one word Pogue said when Sarah gave it to him, "Baby."

On Tuesday morning, Pogue has forgotten everything again. Cornell shows up to his office to get Pogue's sworn statement but Pogue gives him a check for $800, mistaking Cornell for his landlord. Pogue tries throughout the day to figure out where the coin is but doesn't find any answers. Later on he meets with Sarah and the two spend some time together. She stays at his place for the night and they make love. The next morning, when Pogue wakes up, he remembers everything from the day before. While trying to think of clues, Pogue learns his dog is Baby, and that he hid the coin in its collar. When he takes Sarah to a payphone to call the people who are blackmailing her, she writes "I love you" on the window. Pogue notices her handwriting and the writing on the note the coin was wrapped in are different and realizes she must not really be Sarah Novak, so he switches the coin without her knowledge. He then follows her and finds that Dr. Doover and she have set him up in order to get the coin. When Doover says they'll have to start all over again, Sarah (or the woman posing as Sarah) says she won't do it anymore. That night, while sitting in Pogue's car outside his office, the woman reveals into one of Pogue's recorders that she's really Beth Holly, and that Doover hired her because of her resemblance to Novak. Cornell's men then kidnap Beth when they see her in the car.

Thursday morning, Pogue wakes to find Cornell and his men in his apartment. Cornell, who's figured out that Pogue has the coin, takes Pogue to his home, where he attempts to torture him to give up the coin. Pogue and Sarah are able to escape, and rush to City Hall to get to Cornell's trial. During the trial, Pogue falls back in his chair and hits his head, then suddenly regains his memory. He tells Beth that he put the coin in a parking meter and she speeds off to get it. Pogue then gives his testimony against Cornell which prompts Cornell to change his plea in the case. Pogue finds Sarah back at his apartment and the story ends when the two kiss and go inside.


Actor Role
Dana Carvey Maurice L. Pogue
Valeria Golino Sarah Novak / Beth Holly
Jayne Brook Paula
Olivia d'Abo Judy
Michael Gambon Philip Cornell
James Earl Jones John Dolby
Michael Monks Lieutenant Willis
Michael Murphy Dr. Anthony Doover
Angela Paton Shirley Pogue
Kevin Pollak Donald Rosenheim
Vyto Ruginis Hendrix
Gailard Sartain Judge Block


Clean Slate debuted in 1,457 theatres across the United States on May 6, 1994. The film grossed $3,136,130 its opening weekend, ranking number four at the box office. In its second week, though released in 17 more theatres, it was only able to make $1,498,602, more than a 50% drop in gross income. The film eventually grossed a total $7,355,425 domestic.

The film was first released to video in Argentinamarker, the United Kingdommarker, and the Unirws ArRWA in March 1995. It was eventually released in the DVD format on October 8, 2002.


At Allmovie, the film received a 1.5 out of 5 star rating. The film aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 19% approval rating (based on 16 reviews), deeming the picture certifiably "rotten." Scott Renshaw stated "In the 24 hours since I saw Clean State, bits and pieces have popped into my head constantly, prompting spontaneous laughter, and it just keeps growing on me." However, David Nusair of Apollo Guide had a differing opinion: "’re virtually guaranteed to have forgotten it by the following morning."

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