REVIEW: THE PRINCESS BRIDE 25TH ANNIVERSARY
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
The classic swashbuckling tale of true love finally gets the Blu-ray release it deserves. As we wish...
There are some films that are so iconic, so brilliant and influential that they become a part of the zeitgeist and are granted cultural immortality. Obvious contenders include Star Wars (1977), Jaws (1975), Dirty Harry (1971) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984), but it’s one of Tap director Rob Reiner’s other films that has quietly become a beloved treasure and which is finally available on Blu-Ray.
Adapted by celebrated screenwriter William Goldman from his original novel, The Princess Bride is a rip-roaring tale of swashbuckling, kidnapping, romance, action and the power of true love. When the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) becomes engaged to Price Humperdinck (an excellent Chris Sarandon), several years after her true love Westley (Carey Ewles) is believed to have been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts after going off to seek his fortune, she is kidnapped by a trio of dastardly hoodlums in order to provoke a war.
They soon find themselves pursued by the legendary Dread Pirate Roberts, who may or may not be her former sweetheart, intent on rescuing her. To say more of the plot if you haven’t seen it is to deny you the joy of enjoying the journey yourself, but suffice to say much adventure, comedy and dazzling sword fighting ensues in what is one of the finest examples of a modern day fairy tale.
The two leads, Ewles (best known recently for his role as Doctor Gordon in the Saw series) and Wright (best known for Forrest Gump (1994) and her marriage to ex-husband Sean Penn), are both perfect for their roles, and if Rob Reiner is to be believed in one of the raft of superb extras on the disc were in fact the only choices. Elwes has the looks, the charisma and the comic timing to pull off the hero role, and Wright is beautiful and feisty in equal measures making their portrayal of star crossed lovers believable, their chemistry potent and explosive.
Princess Buttercup's kidnappers, played by Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin and former wrestler Andre The Giant, are the finest comic trio to grace the screen since the Three Stooges, managing to be both dastardly and likeable at the same time. Patinkin in particular is brilliant in what is quite possible a career best role as Inigo Montoya, a bitter, bereaved son out to find the mysterious six fingered man who killed his father twenty years previously and avenge his death. Patinkin himself considers this his finest role, revealing that when he first saw the film at a test screening he wept because he never thought he'd be in a film as great as The Princess Bride.
The elusive six fingered man, Count Tyrone Rugen, turns out to be the brains behind the kidnap plot, of course (no great spoiler here, it's pretty much telegraphed from the get go). Played to maximum boo hiss effect by Christopher Guest, he proves to be a worthy foil to Patinkin's Montoya and is a joy to watch as he waltzes around the screen like the deranged younger brother of Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingam from 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Add into the mix cameos from Billy Crystal as the dry witted wizened wizard Miracle Max, Brit comic Mel Smith, and Columbo himself, Peter Falk, as the grandfather of future Wonder Years sensation Fred Savage's young boy who listens to him tell the story of The Princess Bride, and the movie succeeds as a real tour de force of genuine talent.
As brilliant as the film is, not only artistically but technically - the Blu-ray is stunning, the film looking sharper and crisper than it ever did on DVD - it's the extras on the Blu-ray that really bring home just how loved this picture really is. Virtually all of the major players, including Reiner and Goldman, pop up in a variety of featurettes, and talk warmly of their time working on the film. There's a short conversation between Reiner, Elwes and Wright, shot especially for this 25th Anniversary release, that evokes a real warm and fuzzy feeling as the three laugh and joke with each other, clearly at ease in one another's company.
A look at how The Princess Bride has become part of the zeitgeist has fans talking about the impact the film has had on their lives, including being the theme for various weddings and tattoos, mixed up with clips from shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy that pay homage it. Patinkin tears up again when he recalls the tale of how a woman kept a group of skiers alive after being buried in a avalanche by performing the entire movie herself, thus keeping up their spirits until they were rescued.
Watching the extras, it becomes heartbreakingly apparent that the one person missing from the 25th anniversary celebrations is Andre The Giant, who sadly passed away in Paris in January 1993 at the ridiculously young age of 46. Without exception he is spoken of with fondness and a with great love by all involved, and these reminiscences both made me smile and brought a tear to my eye. Though absent from the new features for this release, Andre is very much present in the fine selection of previously available bonus content, all of which makes this Blu-ray release the most complete and satisfying release to date.
The Princess Bride is a bone fide classic, a film that people of all ages can watch and enjoy on a variety of levels, and it's one of those movies that every child, in fact everybody, should see at least once in their lifetime. To quote Wallace Shawn's character, to not give this film at least one viewing in your lifetime is, frankly, inconceivable.
The Princess Bride is out on Blu-ray on 25th March 2013.
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