Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Princess Bride (1987)

Fig 1 - The Princess Bride Poster
Before starting at university some years ago, I had only every heard of The Princess Bride in passing here and there. It was only once I got to know a wider range of people my age that I discovered what grandeur this film had for some. It seemed to be quoted left and right, beloved by many and seen by most. I just had no idea it existed. I suppose in my youth I would have heard the word 'princess' in the title and instantly dismissed the idea of watching such a 'girly' film. On the contrary, The Princess Bride is clearly not targeted at any particular audience, but merely those willing to slip into a little fantasy and learn the origin of many memes...

Directed by Rob Reiner and based on the William Goldman book of the same name, The Princess Bride is actually a story within a story, telling a tale of "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles". In the beginning, a young sickly boy is visited by his grandpa who begins reading the titular story to him. In the story, a farm boy named Westley (Cary Elwes) and his employer Buttercup (Robin Wright) fall in love and wish to marry. Westley has no money and decides to seek his fortune by journeying across the world to pay for their marriage. However, when Buttercup hears that Westley was ambushed by the notorious Dread Pirate Roberts, she falls into a depression and many years later winds up reluctantly engaged to the Prince of Florin, a mister Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Whilst riding through the woods one day, Buttercup stumbles upon a troupe of bandits (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn and André the Giant) who kidnap the princess, though soon after they realise they are being followed by a character with the ability to outdo them all...

Fig 2 - The Princess Bride - Inigo, Vizzini & Fezzik
Typically, I approach films like this with some trepidation that my prior knowledge might have already quashed any enjoyment it could have served. I was initially reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) in it's over-quoted silliness, but soon realised this film to be far superior. I was pleasantly surprised by how little of the film I had actually witnessed in all my years of internet-trawling, and as such I was able to enjoy it quite a lot. Having recently seen Reiner's Stand by Me (1986) (which I was a big fan of), I felt very much in safe hands with this. Something about the film just feels completely authentic and original. Much like Stand by Me, the script plays a great part in elevating the film from what it could have been. This, matched with excellent performances from it's central players and snappy pacing made the film a thrilling watch from start to finish, with enough wit and imagination to enthrall a wide variety of demographics.

Particularly impressive were the costumes and prosthetics of some characters. The design of the "Rodents of Unusual Size" felt incredibly genuine and appeared as a cross between puppetry and animatronics as opposed to a concealed actor. Incidentally, had it not been for Billy Crystal's distinctive voice, I would have never guessed at his cameo as Miracle Max, who is made-up to look unrecognisably old by an impressive face-caking of rubber.

Ultimately, it would seem The Princess Bride has made an unprecedented impact upon popular culture in recent history. Though it has spawned some well-worn catchphrases, the film still has all the right elements of a family-friendly live-action adventure, the likes (and quality) of which are none too familiar in cinema today.


Fig. 1 The Princess Bride Poster (1987) From: The Princess Bride - Directed by: Rob Reiner

Fig. 2 The Princess Bride Screenshot (1987) From: The Princess Bride - Directed by: Rob Reiner

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