IMDB #180 The Princess Bride

Sometimes I find these things nearly impossible to write- for example, what is there to possibly say about 1987's The Princess Bride.

Unless you lost your sense of humor in a childhood boating accident, I can't imagine this utterly charming adventure film not winning you over. But I guess I'll find something to analyze.

The Key Players:

Director Rob Reiner rose to fame as 'Meathead' on "All In The Family," before embarking on a successful 80s filmmaking career reminiscient of the studio- I mean to say his biggest hits lack a discernable style, and are remembered for their stars: Stand By Me, Misery, When Harry Met Sally.., and so on. After the pinnacle of A Few Good Men's Best Picture nomination in 1992, Reiner's had few critical or commercial successes, other than the winning An American President or the modestly successful (but lame) The Bucket List.

Many stars in this one: Cary Elwes (recently seen Saw-ing his foot off) and Robin Wright (Jenny from Forrest Gump) lead the way. Veteran stage/television actor Mandy Patinkin, WWF strongman André the Giant, and thin-voiced character actor Wallace Shawn add some color. Chris Sarandon (Dog Day Afternoon) and mockumentary maestro Christopher Guest play the villains, while tv's "Columbo" Peter Falk and a pre-"Wonder Years" Fred Savage frame the story for us.

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The Story:

Allow me to explain.

No, there is too much: let me sum up. Savage is a boy sick in bed, Falk is a jovial grandfather reading him the titular story (by "S. Morgenstern," the same alleged author that screenwriter William Goldman claimed to abridge the novel from).

It's a story of true love (between Wright and Elwes) torn asunder by circumstance and a boorish prince (Sarandon). There's a giant (André), a swordsman (Patinkin) who's sworn revenge on a six-fingered man (Guest), and a scheming Sicilian (Shawn) that's often incredulous.

Pirates, right and left-handed duels, wrestling matches, torture devices, conspiracies of war, death (and mostly-death), last-minute rescues, and plenty of other things ensue. I'd go into more detail, but I bet you've seen it.

The Artistry:

I really should have given Goldman his own paragraph in the Key Players section, as the two-time Oscar winner's script is the erudite and winning heart and soul of The Princess Bride.

So many classic lines, peppered with wry asides and crackling with perfect comic timing, make this film an instant classic. We'll get to those in a special, all-quotes Leftover Thoughts at the end.

The performances are almost universally wonderful, and even André the Giant's stilted line-readings and Wright's thankless straight-person role just get more endearing with repeat viewings. Elwes brings a gentlemanly comport and immpeccable diction to the role of Westley that keeps the odd monologue from affecting the pace, and Patinkin throws himself into the most compelling subplot headlong- and Guest, on the other side, puts on an icily creepy demeanor that makes him unrecognizable to fans of Waiting For Guffman.

Billy Crystal stops by to ply his usual Catskills shtick as an aged medicine man, but it's well-purposed and in a small dose. Carol Kane and Peter Cook also have memorable cameos. In fact, the bit players elicit some of the biggest laughs from me each time I watch The Princess Bride, from "Twue wuv!" to Mel Smith's albino clearing his throat after initially speaking in a stereotypical rasp.

The score by Dire Straits' Mark Knoplfer might sound a little dated, sure, and the action scenes (outside of either fencing scene with Patinkin) seem a little corny, but that's just part of the charm: I'd be willing for a clunky wrestling match of triple the length with the Rodent Of Unusual Size in light of the classic timing of its introduction.

The storytelling framing device is the rare frame that I'll allow in film, especially in the case of fairy tales (if there's a Framing Device Acceptability Scale, then Fairy Tale Told To A Child is on one end and Elderly Deathbed Flashback is on the other).

It even allows us, through Fred Savage's young indignance, to skip over some early mushy parts involving Wright and Elwes early romance and first reunion- much the way Goldman, in "abridging" the supposed Morgenstern manuscript, glosses humorously over the long passages of the history of Florin and so forth.


True love: 1, Evil Prince: 0. Also Guest's is introduced to Inigo Montoya, reminded that he killed the father of same, and then dutifully prepared to die.

Young Savage, won over by the mushy stuff after all, asks to hear the story again the next day.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Higher than the Cliffs of Insanity themselves!

The Legacy:

There was almost a musical version for the stage, until Goldman insisted on 75% of the credit instead of the usual 50% with the songwriter. There may even someday be a sequel to the novel as well- until then we just updates on Goldman's battle with Morgenstern's tempestuous estate.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Favorite scene contender, out of many: The Duel.

Leftover Thoughts:

-"He's right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using."

-"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

-"The most famous of which is "'never get involved in a land war in Asia'"

-"Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

-"You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful!"

-"Oh, you mean this gate key?"

-"Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work..."

Coming Up...

179. The Night Of The Hunter

178. Les Diaboliques

177. Grave Of The Fireflies

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