The Princess Bride Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
There are stories of love and stories of adventure, but so few stories of, as our narrator notes, “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”
THE PRINCESS BRIDE is framed as a story-within-a-story, as a grandfather (Peter Falk, who that year appeared as himself in Wim Wenders’ WINGS OF DESIRE, if we’re considering variety of tone here) sits his ill grandson (Fred Savage, one year prior to THE WONDER YEARS) down for a tale of all of the above. As the book begins, the beautiful commoner Buttercup (Robin Wright, in her first major role) trotting about the land, taking particular interest in bossing around farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes, LADY JANE). The two wind up in separate ways, with Westley believed killed and Buttercup kidnapped by a rather distinct trio–squeaky boss Vizzini (Wallace Shawn, in his fifth movie of the year), giant Fezzik (André the Giant, on break from his wrestling career) and vengeful fencer Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin, YENTL).
With Buttercup close to marrying Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon, FRIGHT NIGHT) and still pining over her supposedly lost love, the adventure bounces about Florin, with vicious shrieking eels, the acrophobic-cueing Cliffs of Insanity, the black-clad Dread Pirate Roberts, mysterious six-fingered men, “inconceivable” one-liners, swamp rats, bickering miracle workers, and so, so much more. None of these make sense to those who have not seen the film, but within the story, they are standouts, all beloved points that could trigger hours-long conversations (almost certainly without conflict) about the remarkable picture that is THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
The screenplay is by William Goldman, adapting his own 1973 novel. (That his work wasn’t recognized by the Academy Awards is one of the great travesties of the category; it was, however, nominated by the Writers Guild of America, although it lost to ROXANNE.) It is one the sharpest, best-paced of its kind, a gem of a read, listen and watch. To adapt a line in the film, since the invention of the movies, if there was a list of the five most quotable, THE PRINCESS BRIDE very well could be a contender to leave them all behind.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE works on every level it presents. It boasts one of the finest romantic pairs, a terrain-covering, few-breaths-taken journey, stunningly decorated and photographed sets and locales, and a collage of instantly recognizable characters (ripe for something like Funko Pop!, a quartet of which were released earlier this year), just to name a few and not exceed the word count.
It is, at its core, partly an homage to classic romances and swashbuckling yarns, and partly a complete reinvention of them. THE PRINCESS BRIDE, as we pick up on as soon as the grandfather enters his grandson’s room, is most certainly an original classic.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new 4k digital transfer was created in 16-bit resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Deluxe in Burbank, California, and restored using the 1997 Criterion laserdisc master, supervised and approved by associate producer Steve Nicolaides, as a reference.”
THE PRINCESS BRIDE looks wonderful in this new release. Details are strong, colors are vibrant, textures are precise, and the overall image is one that will delight fans.
Audio: English 5.1 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio. “This new 4k digital transfer was created in 16-bit resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Deluxe in Burbank, California, and restored using the 1997 Criterion laserdisc master, supervised and approved by associate producer Steve Nicolaides, as a reference.”
The audio transfer is also quite nice, with crisp dialogue and lively sound effects.
Audio commentary from 1996 featuring director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, producer Andrew Schneinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk: This commentary is ported over from Criterion’s LaserDisc release.
Audiobook: Offered here are excerpts from the 1987 audiobook, as read by Rob Reiner. This feature plays during the film, “allowing the viewer to compare and contrast scenes from the original work with their counterparts in the adaptation.”
True Love (14:59): Director Reiner, as well as actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, sit down for a light-hearted conversation on the occasion of the film’s 25th anniversary.
Pure Enchantment (17:17): Writer and Columbia University adjunct professor Loren-Paul Caplin discusses William Goldman’s work, with particular focus on his THE PRINCESS BRIDE screenplay.
The Tapestry (6:26): This piece looks at the handmade and highly detailed tapestry that Goldman commissioned (from textile artist Carol Burland). Its final 92”x72” version hung in Goldman’s home.
Making the Film: There are six vintage featurettes housed here: the 2001 documentary As You Wish (27:18); the 2007 reflective piece “The Princess Bride”: The Untold Tales (9:07); Fairy-Tale Reality (11:54), a new piece with art director Richard Holland; the 2006 Miracle Max-centric Miraculous Makeup (11:22), the five-part Behind the Scenes (total: 18:24), and Cary Elwes Video Diary (3:56), which the actor shot on the set.
The Art of Fencing (7:08): This 2007 piece features sword master Robert Goodwin (Bob Anderson was the sword master on the film) discussing tools and techniques.
Fairy Tales & Folklore (9:16): In this 2007 featurette, scholar Jack Zipes discusses fairy tales and their function in THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
Trailers and TV Spots
Also included with this Criterion Collection release: an essay by author Sloane Crosley and Goldman’s introduction to his Princess Bride script from his collection Four Screenplays, in a lavishly illustrated, clothbound book.