- Collectible Booklet
The Princess Bride
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Based on the novel by William Goldman, Buttercup is a beautiful princess who--after being separated by her true love Westley--is captured by and forced to marry a conspiring prince. As the wedding day approaches her true love, a vengeful Spaniard and a kind giant come to her rescue.
Screenwriter William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride earned its own loyal audience on the strength of its narrative voice and its gently satirical, hyperbolic spin on swashbuckled adventure that seemed almost purely literary. For all its derring-do and vivid over-the-top characters, the book's joy was dictated as much by the deadpan tone of its narrator and a winking acknowledgement of the clichés being sent up. Miraculously, director Rob Reiner and Goldman himself managed to visualize this romantic fable while keeping that external voice largely intact: using a storytelling framework, avuncular Grandpa (Peter Falk) gradually seduces his skeptical grandson (Fred Savage) into the absurd, irresistible melodrama of the title story.
And what a story: a lowly stable boy, Westley (Cary Elwes), pledges his love to the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright), only to be abducted and reportedly killed by pirates while Buttercup is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. Even as Buttercup herself is kidnapped by a giant, a scheming criminal mastermind, and a master Spanish swordsman, a mysterious masked pirate (could it be Westley?) follows in pursuit. As they sail toward the Cliffs of Insanity...
The wild and woolly arcs of the story, the sudden twists of fate, and, above all, the cartoon-scaled characters all work because of Goldman's very funny script, Reiner's confident direction, and a terrific cast. Elwes and Wright, both sporting their best English accents, juggle romantic fervor and physical slapstick effortlessly, while supporting roles boast Mandy Patinkin (the swordsman Inigo Montoya), Wallace Shawn (the incredulous schemer Vizzini), and Christopher Guest (evil Count Rugen) with brief but funny cameos from Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. --Sam Sutherland
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- "The Princess Bride: The Untold Tales"
- "The Art of Fencing" Featurette
- "Fairy Tales and Folklore" Featurette
- "True Love and High Adventure: The Official The Princess Bride DVD Game
The Dread Pirate Roberts/Buttercup Editions include all of the Special Edition features plus:
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) Audio Track
"Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas" mockumentary
"Love is Like a Storybook Story" featurette
"Miraculous Make-up" featurette
Quotable "Battle of Wits" trivia game
Collective booklet: "Fezzik's Guide to Florin"
I prefer the Dread Pirate Robert's/Buttercup Edition, but there are three reasons why you might want to buy the new 20th edition:
1. You don't already own the movie (shame on you).
2. You collect all things Princess Bride.
3. The DVD cover art is fantastic!
Which, to make a long point even longer, is the whole ethos of the film
William Goldman's book "The Princess Bride", on which this film is based, intended to tell only the 'good parts' version of the story of Westley and Buttercup. That is, it would leave in the high drama and action and romance, while curbing the back-stories and superfluous exposition. William Goldman, in his role as adaptor of the book into a screenplay, remains fiercely loyal to this proposition. He's constructed a framing device, wherein a grandfather is reading to his sick grandson, which allows him to make meta-fictional comments on the seemingly typical fairy tale being told. In doing so, however, he subverts the fairy tale's typicalness, making it much more surprising and revelatory. At one point the grandson worriedly asks about the fate of the villain: "Who kills Humperdinck?" The grandfather calmly answers, "No one. He lives." Which is not only a true statement, for that is exactly what happens, but it doesn't even come close to ruining the end of the story. On the contrary, it increases the suspense, and makes what does happen quite astonishing.
Rob Reiner, in only his third time out in the director's chair, does a wonderful job of translating Goldman's script to the screen. He utilizes elements, whether by choice or by budgetary restraints, that would at first appear incongruous, but work as a whole to keep the audience off-balance, and thus more receptive to the surprises the movie has in store for them.
The acting is, stylistically, all over the place. It ranges from the unabashed over-the-top passion of Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), to the bumbling buffoonery of Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), to the gentle anti-acting of Andre the Giant (Fezzik), to the unsubtle Snidely Whiplash villainy of Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), to the Borscht Belt mugging of Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), to the icy malice of Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), and the stark realism of Robin Wright (Buttercup, the title character). No two actors take the same road, but they all somehow arrive at the same location. Cary Elwes, playing the hero, is the only one who falls easily into all these styles, as the situation demands it. He is menacing, suave, cool, funny, athletic, simple, sweet, fierce, etc., etc., etc. Elwes and Patinkin are the standouts for me -- their swordfight atop the Cliffs of Insanity is technically brilliant, literate, and extremely entertaining -- but the entire cast effective. Even the smaller roles (British comedians Mel Smith and Peter Cook each have brief but memorable one-joke cameos) make their mark.
The film's musical score, composed by 'Dire Straits' frontman Mark Knoplfer, swings and sways from moment to moment. In one, he uses stark, bouncy lines to underscore a simple scene of Fezzik and Inigo trading rhymes. In the next, he layers synthesized strings to call up the gravity of the Man in Black's chase. My only problem with the music is the song written for the closing credits: it's weepy and melodramatic, without the sense of subversive fun that had prevailed up until that point.
The sets and scenery switch back and forth between real and obviously fake. Filmed in and around the English countryside, most of the outdoor locations (the severe valley, the woods) breathe reality and beauty into the story. Others, such as the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair, and the plateau above the Cliffs of Insanity, have the phony feel of a Hollywood soundstage. Again, the film keeps the audience on their toes.
So now that I am 27 instead of 13, and know back-to-front the filmmographies of all the actors involved, and have seen the film more than a dozen times, and can quote lines from it at the drop of a hat, do I find it any less appealing than on that first viewing? Of course not. Goldman and Reiner's film rewards multiple viewings, with its wit, its playfulness, and most importantly, its subversiveness. Will there ever be a time when I tire of watching it? A time like that is right now, as Vizzini might say, "inconceivable".
The DVD: I absolutely refused to buy the first DVD release of this movie, as it was non-anamorphic (i.e., will not fit on widescreen TVs) and was sorely lacking in extras. This SPECIAL edition is well worth the wait. First of all, you have two high-quality featurettes from 1987, each roughly 10 minutes long. The first one is a look behind the making of the movie and includes on-location interviews of the actors between shots. The second featurettes is more of the same, although it focuses more on providing unique insight into the decisions behind the casting of every major character in the movie. Also included is a 5-minute video diary by Cary Elwes, which is basically Cary with a camcorder filming himself and other members of the production at various points (e.g., practicing with his fencing teacher, the crew eating meals, etc.). Cary and Robin Wright provide voice-over commentary.
However, the true gem of this disc is the 30-minute "As You Wish" Documentary, in which all the principals (Cary, Robin, Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Fred Savage, William Goldman, Mandy Patinkin, etc.) look back from 2001 at the entire history of The Princess Bride, from the reasons as to why Goldman wrote the original book in 1973, to his decade-long attempt to get it put on film, to the choice of Rob Reiner and its subsequent filming, and to the legacy the movie has left in the 15 years since its release. In covering almost every aspect of The Princess Bride, this documentary is often funny, sometimes sentimental (especially when the actors reminisce on their memories of Andre the Giant), and always fascinating.
Lastly, the DVD contains two audio commentaries, one by Rob Reiner and a separate one by William Goldman, with each providing their respective insight into the various parts of the story and its filming. (I will say, however, that Rob Reiner's commentary is much better than the sparse one he gave in the DVD for "When Harry Met Sally").
In sum, this is the consummate DVD for any true fan of the movie. I can't imagine too much more that could have been added to this DVD which would have made it too much better. A truly, can't-miss DVD. If you own the first release, you won't regret trading it in for this one.
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If you've never seen this, I am kicking you out of the country and yo're not allowed back in until you can quote 10% of it. That is all.
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