Based on the William Goldman novel of the same name, The Princess Bride is set as a story with a story, as a sick kid home from school (Fred Savage) begrudgingly allows his grandfather (Peter Falk) to read him a story from an old family book. The weary kid is at first turned off by what seems like a sappy “kissing story” about true love, but that story delivers a lot more than that. It tells of Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright in her breakout role) who his set to marry a nefarious prince (Chris Sarandon), but her real love is her former stable boy Westley (Cary Elwes), whom she believes to be dead. Westley, who is off becoming a pirate and finding adventure with Spanish sword-master Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and a giant named Fezziz (then WWF superstar Andre the Giant). Will Buttercup’s marriage to the evil prince go through or will true love prevail?
The story of The Princess Bride is a filled with swashbuckling, comedy, and quotable lines that the young “grandson” can’t help to get drawn into – nor can we as the viewer. This classic from Rob Reiner seems to never age thanks to both its homage to and revision of the fairy tales that pervade our common consciousness. While the film pokes fun at the genre, it never does it in a cynical way so popular today. And because of the sense of adventure, fantasy, and camaraderie that appeals to children, this is one film that can always be watched with the family and never get old.
This release is a new 4K digital transfer of The Princess Bride created in 16-bit resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the original 35mm 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. This restoration looks fantastic. The film is grainy, but clean and crisp, and very filmic, with excellent colors and shadows. This film is available digitally in 4K Ultra HD with HDR, which also begs the question, when is Criterion Collection finally going to jump into releasing on the 4K Ultra HD disc format?
The Princess Bride hits Blu-ray with a solid English DTS-HD MA 5.1. There are good atmospherics and dynamics and clear dialogue. This isn’t going set the house on fire or bring the walls down with low frequency rumble, but it’s satisfying.
The special features included with this release of The Princess Bride from the Criterion Collection are fantastic, as always. See below for details.
- Commentary recorded by the Criterion Collection in 1997 featuring director Rob Reiner, writer William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk.
- Audio Book – These excerpts from the 1987 Dove Entertainment audiobook of William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride, read by director Rob Reiner, were edited by the Criterion Collection in 1997 to accompany the film in its entirety, allowing the viewer to compare and contrast scenes from the original work with their counterparts in the adaptation.
- True Love (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:14:59) – Made in 2012, this program reunites director Rob Reiner with actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright to discuss The Princess Bride twenty-five years after its release and marvel over its cultural impact.
- Pure Enchantment (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:17) – Filmed by the Criterion Collection in 2018, this program featuring Loren-Paul Caplin, writer and adjunct professor of screenwriting at Columbia University, addresses the script for The Princess Bride as a guide to writer William Goldman’s craftsmanship.
- The Tapestry (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:26) – This 2018 program by the Criterion Collection offers a detailed look at the medieval-style tapestry commissioned by writer William Goldman to illustrate scenes from his novel The Princess Bride.
- Making the Film (1.33:1; upscaled 1080i/60; 00:27:18) – Featured in this 2001 documentary about the making of the film are director Rob Reiner, writer William Goldman, and actors Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, and Robin Wright:
- As You Wish
- The Princess Bride: Untold Stories
- Fairy-Tale Reality
- Behind the Scenes
- Cary Elwes Video Diary
- The Art of Fencing (1.78:1; upscaled 1080i/60; 00:07:08) – This 2007 program features Hollywood sword master Robert Goodwin discussing the weapons, codes of conduct, and combat styles in fencing, and paying tribute to Bob Anderson, the sword master on The Princess Bride.
- Fairy Tales & Folklore (1.33;1; upscaled 1080i/60; 00:09:16) – In this 20078 interview, scholar Jack Zipes (Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion) discusses the lasting power of fairy tales and the way their tropes are reframed in The Princess Bride.
- Trailers and TV Spots:
- S. Trailer
- Foreign Market Trailer
- TV Spot 1
- TV Spot 2
- TV Spot 3
- TV Spot 4
- An essay by author Sloane Crosley and Goldman’s introduction to his script from his collection Four Screenplays in a lavishly illustrated cloth-bound book.
The Final Assessment
The Princess Bride is a classic reworking of fairy tale tropes with lots of humour, adventure and romance, deftly handled by director Rob Reiner and a solid cast of Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, supported by the likes of Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, and Andre the Giant. This Criterion Collection Blu-ray release is fantastic — packed with supplements and looks amazing.
The Princess Bride is out on Blu-ray & DVD October 30, 2018 from the Criterion Collection
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