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The Princess Bride didn’t make a huge impression on audiences when it hit theaters in 1987. In fact, Mandy Patinkin said he was so excited about the release, he went and saw it in a regular theater hoping to gauge the audience’s reaction, but the theater was empty when he entered. Like The Wizard of Oz and other box office flops before it, The Princess Bride eventually found it’s audience, and 25 years later, it’s still the type of movie families can watch together, over and over again.
There’s a lot to The Princess Bride’s story, but its message is not nearly as complicated. The film’s definition of true love, shown through Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley’s (Cary Elwes) storyline, as well as through the grandfather (Peter Falk) reading to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), is touching and universal. Like most great comedies, there are notes of truth in the telling, even when the plot brings in screaming eels and rodents of unusual size.
Director Rob Reiner picked The Princess Bride after coming off of This is Spinal Tap and, at the time, it couldn’t have seemed like a better fit. Writer William Goldman had been looking for a director since the 70s and Reiner loved the book. It was a match made in heaven—well, as long as all the details came together, which they eventually did.
Buttercup and Westley’s journey as a couple provides the main frame of The Princess Bride’s tale, but it’s also the dullest of all the storylines. In The Princess Bride, we find the legend of a six-fingered man, a story about friendship, a maddening and madly-in-love couple who work miracles with a little chocolate, several of the most entertaining sword fights, and one of the greatest revenge sequences of all time. While it’s true that our hero and heroine get some good moments in with an ambitious hill roll and the subsequent journey through the Fire Swamp, the characters pale in comparison to the colorful Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Mad Max (Billy Crystal), Humperdink (Chris Sarandon), Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and Inigo Montoya (Patinkin).
None of this matters particularly. If there has to be a love story in the film, I’d rather have the heroic and quirky Westley and the stubborn and bold Buttercup than other typecasts, on any day.
Every classic film has something to date it a bit. For The Princess Bride, it’s the video games the sick child is playing and the “boing” noise accompanying Westley’s sword toss during his fight with the Spaniard. The things that date The Princess Bride also work for the film, giving it a nostalgic effect that connects the imaginary tale to a specific time and place. In 2012, with The Princess Bride’s 25th Anniversary Edition, the nostalgia factor is high for old fans of the film, but the movie still easily picks up new audiences, endearing itself to the young and old, the farm boys and princesses-to-be, and even some curmudgeons that may have forgotten the meaning of true love. It will fit you as well, and probably as personally, as the six-fingered glove fits Count Rugen.
The details on the disc are excellent. On the menu page, there’s an interactive scroll tool that features the characters climbing the Cliffs of Insanity. As far as the picture goes, however, it’s not like the film’s picture has been meticulously touched up, and it’s almost as fuzzy on Blu-ray as I remember it being as a kid on a VHS tape. My bigger problem came toward the end of the movie when a short part of the film wouldn’t play. This is likely a problem confined to my specific set, but it was a bummer to miss the epic sword scene between Inigo Montoya and Count Rugen.
“True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon” is the first set of segments on the disc. The first extra features Reiner, Wright, and Elwes as they talk about the reactions people have had to the film over the years. Later in the segment, some super fans and other cast and crew members appear to share some thoughts about the story and characters. My favorite bits in the section occur when there are cut to’s to cultural reference and spoofs of The Princess Bride, ranging from Stargate: Atlantis to Family Guy. Unlike some of the other extras, these are brand new to the set and are really watchable.
Audio commentaries follow. I really wish these had featured more cast and crew members, but Reiner takes charge on one and Goldman does the commentary on the other.
The third segment, “The Art of Fencing,” takes a look at Bob Anderson, the man who put together the epic fight between Inigo and Westley. The different types of swords that were used during filming are also looked at. This would probably be an excellent extra for those who are super in to action scenes, but since swordplay comes up repeatedly, it’s mostly a miss.
“As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride” is a bit like the “True Love” segment. Everyone looks a bit younger, though, so I’m guessing this was shot for a much earlier release. What I did appreciate about this bit was that it looked at the history of the film’s release, including the limited budget devoted to promoting the theatrical release, and how the flick blew up on VHS as one of the first big tape releases.
The next few extras are slightly shorter. “Cary Elwes: Video Diaries,” shows some home footage taken on set and “The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Pirate of The Seven Seas” is a ridiculous faux documentary. There are a few smaller extras, and even one easter egg I found (hint: look in the “setup” section) that I won’t spoil for you, but this is the bulk of the set.
Some of the extras on the 25th Anniversary Edition are the same as those in the 20th Anniversary Edition. Still, the disc is worth watching, even if you’ve never caught any of the film's features, before. The Princess Bride absolutely has rewatch value, so if you don’t own a copy, now might be the time to buy. However, do you specifically need to own the 25th Anniversary copy? Decidedly not.
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