The Princess Bride Review

The Film

The film part of this review is abridged from my review of the recent DVD release

I adore a film that understands the value of words. What makes my heart soar is hearing a clever bon-mot, or turns of phrase that show wit and intelligence. Conversations that snap back and forth as repartee, or lines that remind you of whatever dream you'd forgotten living the responsible life that you do. Remember Bacall and Bogart in To Have and Have Not, recall the Android's dying soliloquy in Blade Runner, and then bathe in the golden light of the lyrical The Princess Bride.

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Written in the early 1970's and an un-realised dream for cinema until 1987, Goldman's words finally moved onto celluloid courtesy of Rob Reiner. The project was almost a hand-me-down from Reiner's father, Carl, and the very novelty of it pleased a director whose projects have always been diverse. A twenty million dollar budget was perhaps a little too low to translate all of the novel's set pieces faithfully, and the adaptation inevitably scaled down the sets and effects to fit the production.

Did these economies have to diminish the scope of the adventure? Did the elegance of this girl's own story recede into tackiness? Did someone make up for the smaller sets by narrowing their literary horizons? Did stars salaries eat up the small budget that they had, did big name actors slum it with a wink as it's only a kid's movie?

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Well, no, no, no, no and no. Talented people did their jobs, the money proved enough, and everyone who took part into the film is proud of its place on their CVs. The young leads really do convince in their true love, and Cary Elwes becomes a Flynn/Fairbanks amalgam and causes you to wonder why he hasn't swashed his buckle more. Robin Wright is truly charming and spirited, and she makes this "kissing book" romantic but not lame brained. Christopher Guest inhabits the persona of Claude Rains as a henchman, Chris Sarandon is a regal buffoon, and Mandy Patinkin is the little swordsman who could. Other terrific actors deliver in small funny parts, and even Mark Knopfler's score turns up trumps.

Yet it is the raw material that shines through. Goldman composes words and speeches that enchant and entertain constantly. As the volume of unimpressive modern romantic comedies prove, writing words that move someone is not the same skill as getting them to laugh. Goldman never ceases to do both, and exposure to the one-liners and the romance he creates is like being inoculated against bad comedy or shallow lovers for years to come. You won't be satisfied with a Keith Richard impression and flat pack acting after Goldman casts his spell, and you'll crave the gift for dialogue of a Billy Wilder when romcomland catches up with you again.

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Goldman spoils us. He ruins the mediocre, those bearable wastes of time, and he will leave you desperate for his literate gift that speaks so well of beauty or of life. If, like me, you leave The Princess Bride in a post-coital daze after lexical ecstasy, you will stumble back into the real world and find yourself borrowing his lyrical clothes. When you find yourself looking into the eyes of that one that you care for, you will never simply say "yes" again, but you will reply, with amorous intent, "as you wish".

Transfer and Sound

I have given you the option of larger screenshots throughout this review so that you get a sense of the quality of this transfer. The evidence is that the film has not been tinkered with too much as the grain that has always been present on standard definition transfers is again obvious here. If you take a good look at the larger version of the image below, then you can see how apparent the grain is, Wallace Shawn's face is particularly affected. I suppose the alternative to this is lots of DNR rendering faces rubbery and this more natural treatment is clearly preferable to that. Blacks are deep and dark, shade is well calibrated and colours do seem warmer than previous discs. There is minor edge enhancement at times but this is greatly improved from the standard definition transfers I have seen. The image remains a little soft but this again seems appropriate for the look of the film itself. This is an AVC encode at the ratio of 1.85:1 with a file size of a healthy 30.7GB and an excellent bit rate around 35Mbps.

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English viewers get the sole audio option of a DTS HD Master Audio track which like previous 5.1 options is not exactly intended as a full 3-D sound experience with the rear speakers used infrequently for effects and score. I did wonder whether the inclusion of a stereo track might have been nice too, it is included on the standard definition disc which accompanies the Blu-ray. It is nice to have a lossless option, but this is not really a sonically striking movie despite the impressive dialogue so I can only report that it was a perfectly clear and effective way of taking the soundtrack in.

Discs and Special Features

This is a dual layer Region A locked disc, with 38GB of the total capacity used. A number of the special features included here were also found on the recent UK DVD release and I quote my run down of those from my previous review. There are "two commentaries with the main feature, one from the director and a second more interesting one from Goldman. Goldman talks about the false starts in getting his screenplay onto the silver screen, the changes of studio head and unfortunate failures which delayed the film for nearly 15 years. As the author of Adventures in the Screen Trade, he tells a few tales about the industry of cinema but his commentary is reasonably fluid and concentrates on some of the ways he adapted his novel because of budget issues and his own appreciation of the cast and director. Reiner spends much of his commentary watching the film and stating little of particular interest, as Eamonn says in his review this is not a commentary you will revisit much."

As You Wish is a "half hour documentary which involves most of cast and crew remembering the film, shot at Shepperton and near Sheffield, which pitches the movie as a modern day Wizard of Oz. And again, I found Goldman's contributions most interesting with the admission that he wrote Andre the Giant's role with him in mind...

...Much better is Cary Elwes video from the shooting of the film which is narrated by him and Robin Wright and involves a lot of larking around. Some quiet, intimate shots with Andre the Giant are a particular highlight."

The other extras on the Blu-ray come courtesy of a rather fetching menu animated in the vein of the "cliffs of insanity" sequence. If you go too far as the kidnappers and Buttercup, the cursor of them is replaced by one of the pirate. It's cute! The fencing featurette tries to explain how the sequences were put together between Patinkin and Elwes, and we get TWO featurettes on fables! Both these pieces are short and not particularly revelatory, and far less fun than the supposed investigation into the historical basis of the pirate Roberts where Elwes, hidden behind make-up and fusty Englishness, plays a dusty academic in between clips of real ones.
There's more on make-up and Billy Crystal as another piece looks at how he came to be involved with the project and was transformed into Miracle Max. The trailer is the final extra on the Blu-ray, but wait, hidden under the Blu-ray leaflet is a standard definition disc. This includes a number of the same features included above along with an excerpt from the official Princess Bride game which you can find details about at I gave it a go and it is definitely pitched at what is fashionably called young adults. This disc seems to be the same at the MGM 20th anniversary disc.


If you're very picky, you might want the rest of the special features which have been attached to all the various editions of DVD releases of this film included here. Personally, I found the majority of the ones here a little tough going and would prefer to celebrate a hi-def transfer of a great film. Those without region A players may want to wait for future releases but this is very acceptable if you can play region locked discs.

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Category Blu-Ray Review

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