Cinophile: The Princess Bride

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 “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father…” Well, you know the rest. And if you do not, welcome to The Princess Bride, one of the best fantasy films ever made. Unrequited love, damsels in distress, giants, sword fights, miracles, torture machines, extra fingers… it’s all there and more. If you were to accuse the Eighties of producing bad films, many will point to this movie in its defense, probably adding that they don’t make them like this anymore. 

The story starts where all fairy tales have their genesis: at the side of the bed of a sick child. Stuck at home, the boy is visited by his grandfather, who brought along a book called The Princess Bride. It’s the first hint that this film is unlike anything else you’ve seen in the genre.

A quick whirlwind of scenes take us through the blossoming romance of Buttercup and her stable hand, the dashing Westley. But when he goes missing during a trip abroad, she falls into a deep depression and, years later, agrees to marry the local prince, himself on the cusp of becoming king.

Then three thugs kidnap the future princess for reasons that become clear later. They believe they got away with it until spotting that they are being followed. One by one the mysterious stranger takes care of the kidnappers and comes close to rescuing Buttercup. But the prince arrives and the stranger, the Dread Pirate Roberts, is arrested (despite the prince promising his bride otherwise). The remaining kidnappers and pirate have to join forces to beat the evil monarch and save Buttercup.

It all sounds fairly straightforward, but The Princess Bride is anything but. While director Rob Reiner already had a reputation for serious movies (Stand By Me), he was also responsible for the brilliant mockumentory This Is Spinal Tap. In lieu of not reading the book, we can’t confirm if the film’s humour came from there. But Reiner and his crew certainly made it work on the big screen. It has raised The Princess Bride as one of the best comedies every made, with fast dialog and deadpan humour carrying the somewhat absurd plot.

Audiences weren’t as appreciative: the film returns only doubled its $16 million budget. But it would grow to become a massive cult hit and inspire a generation of kids to grow up believing in endless love, giants, miracles and that you should always be able to use a sword with both hands.

The narrative style involving the grandfather and his grandson is taken from the original book, also called The Princess Bride. Apparently when looking for a story, author William Goldman asked his daughters what sort of tale they would prefer. One said it should be about a princess, the other said about a bride – hence the name The book found its way into a movie because director Rob Reiner’s father gave him the book as a gift. Years later Reiner would use it to create this hit. But he was not the first: The Princess Bride had been optioned several times for a movie. At one point Fox paid $500,000 for the rights, which Goldman later bought back after that project fell through.

 

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The brilliant sword duel between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin didn’t use stunt doubles: both men performed the fight, though not the somersaults. The actors were trained by Bob Anderson, a fencing champion and legendary fight choreographer. Anderson’s other movies include Highlander, Mask of Zorro and Die Another Day. He was also the stunt double for Darth Vader’s lightsaber fights.
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When The Princess Bride was first optioned, author William Goldman wanted the professional
wrestler Andre the Giant to perform in the role of Fezzik. He couldn’t commit, so the role nearly went to a new actor called Andre Schwarzenegger. But that particular project fell through and when the film idea was resurrected, Arnie was too famous to take part. But Andre was available, as Goldman had originally hoped. Two other actors from the film are today known for very different roles: Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup) is Claire Underwood in House Of Cards and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) is Saul Berenson in Homeland.

Best Scene: A limp, resurrected Westley being dragged around by Fezzik.

Best Quote: “Inconceivable!” But really, there are too many to pick a favourite.

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: May 19, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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