The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A brief synopsis of the film: the motion picture opens to a school-age kid, the coughing bedridden variety, playing a vintage video game while he's home sick. All of this to the worry of his mother, and to the lament of his loving grandfather, who's shown up to read a chosen tale to his cherished grandson. The book is entitled The Princess Bride, and tells the classic and adventurous love story of Buttercup and her steadfast beau from childhood, Westley. How true love prevails, through some fantastic perils and danger, is the main story-line of the film.
[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film are revealed in this review]
Grandson: "Has it got any sports in it?"My Review: Originally, I saw this film the year it came out... on a date, in fact (but since it was before courtship with my lovely bride of more than 20 years, we'll quickly get off this tangent). What I adored about the film more than twenty years ago is still in effect. It contains a real spirit of adventure and fantasy along with its romance without it becoming a saccharine mess that you find in some fairy tales. The Princess Bride plays with the storybook convention without being insulting to the form (good thing since the film likely had a large following of kids in the audience when it first appeared, or later watching at home). That was some trick to entertain the youth, wink at the adults in the audience, and keep everyone interested. Rob Reiner accomplished this feat (following the screenplay written by the book's author) on only his fourth stint in the director's chair. He may have had some missteps later in his career (cough... North...cough), but this film wasn't one of them.
Grandpa: "Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."
It was no surprise there that the material would be treated deftly by said William Goldman, too. He being an American playwright and novelist, WG is also a veteran Hollywood scribe that's had some famous screenwriting credits under his belt even before being handed his own novel for a conversion to film. His Adventures in the Screen Trade is likely considered mandatory reading for anyone even thinking of a career as a screenwriter. As well, a good many of his credits are some of my favorite films. From the seminal All The President's Men to the epic A Bridge Too Far. He's adapted Stephen King (Misery, and consulted on Dolores Claiborne) and even written for John Carpenter (Memoirs of an Invisible Man). He's covered different genres with The Stepford Wives, Chaplin, and The General's Daughter. Indeed, he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for one of the best westerns of all-time (which I covered somewhat last year). Previous to this, his own novel, Marathon Man, was also adapted by him. You have to give the man credit for not screwing up his own work.
Jigsaw got to him, or the excesses my friend Will noted with his review of Twister). I don't think I enjoyed him as much as his role here. Who knew he was so dexterous with a sword? If there's anyone else (besides Andre The Giant's turn as Fezzik) that drew me to them, it was perhaps Manny Patinkin as the Spaniard Inigo Montoya. There wasn't anyone more passionate than he.
Inigo Montoya: "Offer me anything I ask for."And it is passion that is the key for this film. For all of the fun taken at bending the fairy tale propriety, the filmmakers never fracture it. Even as the grandfather (wonderfully played by Peter Falk) narrates the tale to his grandson (Fred Savage forever frozen in time at that cute age), he delivers it with the warmth of a doting grandpa. Love is at the core of the tale, and it is framed nicely by these two. Although it should be said, author Goldman didn't skimp on the darker aspects of the passion conveyed in the story. If you recall, many of the old fairy tales could be pretty horrific in their own right. As an example in the film, you see this with Inigo's main drive in searching for the six-finger man who murdered his father... and to avenge himself by the sword. That same Polydactyly-one gets to torture Westly for the sadistic thrill of it, and Prince Humperdinck stunningly inflicts a massively painful death on the beloved hero just because Buttercup dresses that male ego down as only a woman can. It's just some good old fashion fairy tale fanaticism and fervor being brought to bear. Bless 'em for keeping the kiddies up a night with those twists of the folk tale knife, I say.
Count Rugen: "Anything you want..."
Inigo Montoya: "I want my father back, you son of a bitch!"
The Princess Bride is one of those film adaptations that plays with a convention, but ultimately reaffirms it, without too much dismay from the audience. The film can be enjoyable as hell, especially if you've seen it enough times to repeat the endlessly quotable dialogue author William Goldman is known for. Add to this, it has a subversive style that may push a few boundaries, but still firmly locates it within the context of the fairy tale genre. I mean "The Pit of Despair" and "The Cliffs of Insanity" along with true love conquers all? It's "inconceivable"! Honest-to-goodness, for the longest time my daughter refused to watch this film (unlike her older brother). This time however, for the purposes of my review, we talked her into joining me (for my umpteenth time, I reckon). Naturally, she loved it by the time it reached its finale. Of course, her mother still hates the film. I wonder why that is?
Grandson: "Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow."The Disc: the Blu-ray Disc for the film arrived in 2009 and is easily the best disc rendition, so far. I say that because, outside of the Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series, the studios has milked The Princess Bride (and the buying public) with a number of disc versions. I've counted (1) the original barebones DVD, (2) the first Special Edition (the one I had previously), (3 & 4) the Dread Pirate and Buttercup editions (same disc, different DVD covers), and (5) the 20th Anniversary edition. This sixth version delivers the best combination of picture, sound, and with all of the extra features from the previous discs.
Grandpa: "As you wish."