The Princess Bride (Special Edition) Review
The Princess Bride was written by William Goldman in 1972 for his daughters – but it only reached cinema screens after 15 years, and more or less every cliché of Hollywood development hell. The film starts with a small sick boy being read a book by his grandfather – and we are soon sucked in to the thick of the book with him.
The book tells the story of Buttercup and the love of her life, Westley. When Westley leaves to seek his fortune Buttercup hears that he has been captured and killed by The Dread Pirate Roberts. 5 years later, Buttercup is chosen to be the bride of Prince Humperdinck and reluctantly agrees to the marriage. However, before Buttercup marries Prince Humperdinck, she is captured and taken prisoner by an intellectual Sicilian (Vizzini), a sword fighting Spaniard (Inigo Montoya) and a rhyming giant (Fezzik). These 3 unlikely partners are plotting to frame her abduction and subsequent murder on a rival kingdom, but before their dastardly plans can be carried out Buttercup is rescued by the Dread Pirate Roberts. But who is the Dread Pirate Roberts, and why does he want to rescue Buttercup anyway?
At just over 98 minutes the pace of the movie is quick, plot points are frequent, and there are several notable action sequences, including a classic sword fight at the top of the Cliffs of Despair, and an epic journey through the Fire Swamp. Despite this the film never seems rushed - which is entirely down to William Goldman’s excellent screenplay, which he adapted from his own novel. The dialogue is both witty and sharp, with each character well observed and behaving exactly as you would expect in a fairytale. But perhaps the best thing about the film is that Goldman has catered for adults as well as a younger audience – both the dialogue and the action often works on two completely different levels.
Reiner’s direction is wonderful, the framing on some of the scenes is well executed, and he’s not afraid of cutting away from the action to take you back to the sub-story (a grandfather reading his sick grandson the story), this adds a further dimension to the film that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Finally the casting of the movie is also superb. Cary Elwes (Westley) is handsome and dashing as our hero (who plays a mostly dead guy with ease), and Mandy Patinkin ensures that you really do want Inigo to succeed in his quest to find the 6 fingered man. The rest of the cast also breathe life into their characters, and ensure that the good guys are liked while the bad are appropriately hissable. There are also some great cameos from Mel Smith and Peter Cook, but the best cameo role has to go to Billy Crystal, who plays Miracle Max, with Carol Kane as his domineering wife Valerie. Crystal fits more gags into his short time on screen than anyone else in the movie, and is entirely convincing as a 90 year old man.
Picture / Sound
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The picture quality is impressive given the age of the film, the colours are realistic and the definition is good. There are a few places where the quality of the picture seems to fade but it does not detract too much from the overall presentation of the film.
The dialogue is clear and crisp and the soundtrack is not overly intrusive, but including a DD 5.1 soundtrack on the disk did not really give any additional impact, as the rear speakers do not seem to be used very often. Although not the best DVD in terms of picture and sound quality it is more than adequate and certainly better than the original non anamorphic release.
Unlike the Region 2 counterpart (and original Region 1) the special edition includes a number of additional features that make it far superior. Firstly there are 2 audio commentaries, the first with Rob Reiner the other with William Goldman. The Rob Reiner commentary has little to recommend it, despite the fact that he does recount some interesting anecdotes about the film. Overall the commentary is a bit patchy, and there are long periods of silence. Once listened to it’s doubtful that it will get a second hearing. William Goldman’s commentary is more interesting and comes from a screen writers perspective, but again there are long periods of silence. Instead of having 2 commentaries on this disk it may have been better if only one commentary track was included with both Rob Reiner and William Goldman.
A couple of short featurettes are also included in the disk, which are generic ‘making of’ type features. A photo gallery, trailers and TV spots are also included, as is a short video diary shot by Carey Elwes whilst on set.
The most interesting extra is the As You Wish documentary, which tells (in a very abridged version) the story of The Princess Bride. It also includes recent interviews with the cast, Rob Reiner and William Goldman.
There’s not really much else to say, apart from I loved this movie. I’d never seen it before until I bought the DVD and was blown away with how good it was. It’s a feel-good movie at it’s best, and has oodles of quotable lines that are still going strong today. If you’ve not already bought this DVD, do so now, you will not regret it.