Thirty years ago, a little romantic adventure made its way into theaters. It was a modest hit and earned an Oscar nomination for best original song. In the ensuing decades, however, it’s become a beloved classic.
“The Princess Bride” has it all: romance, comedy, swashbuckling, wizards, bad guys, good guys, pirates, a vocabulary-challenged Sicilian, a princess, rodents of unusual size, one very large man and the most dedicated vengeance-seeker of all time. As legendary producer Norman Lear, who helped finance “The Princess Bride,” put it in a 1987 New York Times article, the film is a “a cross between Monty Python and ‘Captain Blood’ and ‘Love Story.’ ”
Directed by Rob Reiner and adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel, “The Princess Bride” tells the story of a poor stable boy named Westly who falls in love with a beautiful girl named Buttercup.
After he leaves to make his fortune, his ship is attacked by pirates and Buttercup comes to believe he is dead. So when Prince Humperdinck comes with a marriage proposal, she reluctantly agrees. But Westley returns and, with the help of his friends, fights to win his princess back. The whole movie is framed as a story being told by a grandfather to his sick grandson, and it is sweet and funny and kinda perfect.
How perfect? Here are 7 things we love about “The Princess Bride.”
1. The cast is perfect: Robin Wright in one of her earliest film film roles (and long before she became the anti-Buttercup on “House of Cards”), Cary Elwes being perfectly charming and British, Andre the Giant being gentle and very, very large, and Mandy Patinkin hellbent on revenge. Add in Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Mel Smith, Wallace Shawn, Peter Cook, Peter Falk, Fred Savage and you get perfection in a brisk 98-minute package.
2. The lines are perfect: So perfect, in fact, that many of them have entered the larger lexicon. “Inconceivable!” for instance, and its retort, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” “As you wish.” “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!,” and its retort, “Stop saying that!” “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is, ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia’ – but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’ ”
3. The special effects are perfectly cheesy: People used to the eye-popping CGI in modern movies might find the effects in “The Princess Bride” a tad old school. The scene in the Fireswamp, for instance, is so old school that the rodent of unusual size (or R.O.U.S., for short) was portrayed by a real guy wearing a rat suit. As Elwes recounted in his memoir of the film, “As You Wish,” the stunt man who was to don the suit the day of filming was late – because he was in jail. They had to bail him out to shoot the scene.
4. The story is perfect: But for years, Goldman’s book was seemingly jinxed. Several attempts were made to film “The Princess Bride” before Reiner got the gig. Directors such as Francois Truffaut, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, even Robert Redford were attached at points along the way. Reportedly, Redford even hoped to play Westley. (Another actor considered early on? A young Arnold Schwarzenegger as Fezzik.) As Goldman told the New York Times in 1987, “I think the reason the project went through so much trouble for so many years is that Rob was meant to direct it.”
5. The music is perfect: Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straits fame, already had written the scores for three films, including the 1983 classic “Local Hero,” by the time Reiner came calling for “The Princess Bride.” In a review at allmusic.com, Johnny Loftus writes, “Mark Knopfler‘s original music for ‘The Princess Bride’ utilizes dreamy washes of synthesizers overlayed with warm acoustic instruments and hints of percussion. It’s a great formula, often drifting through a gauze befitting a film that plays like a fairy tale.” The song “Storybook Love,” by Willy DeVille and arranged by Knopfler, was nominated for best original song at the 1988 Oscars; it lost to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing.”
6. The ending is perfect. Part of the charm of “The Princess Bride” is the interplay between the modern characters, the grandfather played by Peter Falk, and his sick grandson, played by Fred Savage. At first, the boy is not sure about this story, which sounds awfully mushy to his young ears. He perks up at the action, of course, and utters the line, “Murdered by pirates is good,” but is really grossed out when there’s kissing. By the end, though, he’s caught up in the story and doesn’t mind hearing about a spectacular smooch. Grandpa reads, “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” And when the boy tells his grandfather he can come back and read the story again, the grandfather’s reply, “As you wish.” See? Perfect.
7. Now is the perfect time to see it on the big screen: Fathom Events is planning screenings of “The Princess Bride” on Sunday and Wednesday in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series. And who doesn’t love that?
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