The Princess Bride Reissued
… Inconceivable!

A year on from celebrating its 25th anniversary, we take a look at why The Princess Bride proves so enduring…

A beautiful princess, a dashing and handsome masked hero and as bad as they come baddies, all accompanied by wrestler Andre the Giant and Kevin from the Wonder Years. Yes people, this is the eighties, but more pertinently, this is The Princess Bride.

Adapted from his book of the same name, William Goldman – until then best known for novels and screenplays with adult themes, such as Marathon Man – wanted to produce something his daughters could read, and so it was The Princess Bride came into being.

Though to assume it was something merely for his kids to enjoy is to make a mistake, and of course to do both the book and the film something of a disservice: there was always more about this particular story than straight fairytale. For starters, the novel is presented with the rouse that it is an abridged version, adapted by Goldman from somebody called S Morgenstern (his pseudonym); there is no other, ‘original’ version.

“Goldman and Reiner sidestep concerns that this will amount to just another by-the-numbers kids’ film”

The film (which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year), while containing and staying faithful to the tropes laid down by many a fantasy piece before it, is played very smartly by Goldman and director Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, Misery), who neatly sidestep concerns that this will amount to just another saccharin, by-the-numbers kids’ film. Employing the device of kindly Granddad Peter Falk, having to coax his laid-up in bed sickly Grandson (Fred Savage) into being read to, was a stroke of genius.

“Has it got any sports in it?” asks the Grandson, mirroring fears of the ‘too old/too cool for this kind of thing’ audience. “Are you kidding?” exclaims Falk, there’s “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles …” From here-on-in, we’re with Granddad all the way; heck, who are we kidding? As soon as we saw that even friendlier version of Lieutenant Columbo, offering to read a story about a Princess called Buttercup, we were on board.

And that said it’s hard to find anyone who wasn’t. Starring Cary Elwes as our hero Westley and Robin Wright as Buttercup, they are joined by an incredibly winning supporting cast. Of course everybody will have their favourite characters, scenes and lines – it’s a remarkably quotable movie. Though we absolutely love Wallace Shawn’s Sicilian genius/rogue Vizzini, for our money (maybe because of that fencing class we did on a school trip to Butlins), you can’t beat master swordsman Inigo Montoya (above).

If anything, his story is more tragic, and ultimately more redemptive, than the love of Westley and Buttercup. Looking for vengeance following the murder of his father at the hands of a six-fingered man, his and Westley’s paths cross; after which ensues a mesmeric swordfight, as captivating today as it was on our first viewing. Played with huge flair and believability by Mandy Patinkin, you’re rooting for this heroic – albeit forlorn – figure, pretty much from his first appearance.

That it isn’t the last time we see Montoya comes as a great relief; that he joins Westley in his quest for his own stab at delivering atonement makes one feel like applauding, even on repeat viewings. Long before this moment has arrived however, you are already gripped by a film which, for all its knowingness and smarts in appealing to a more mature audience, it’s the fairytale elements, the love and camaraderie, that get you.

And while not wanting to give too much away, a happy ending is almost always essential to a good yarn, and The Princess Bride has more than one up its sleeve. But, there can be few scenes more rewarding than when – and amid much derring-do – a battered, bruised and bloodied Inigo Montoya, having tracked down the man with that extra digit, declares finally, over and over: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

The Princess Bride screens at FACT Friday (6.30pm) and Sunday (3pm)

Posted on 26/03/2013 by thedoublenegative