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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/20/00
updated: 8/17/01

The Princess Bride

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Princess Bride: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Princess Bride
Special Edition - 1987 (2001) - 20th Century Fox (MGM)

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/B+

Specs and Features
98 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Rob Reiner, audio commentary with writer/screenwriter William Goldman, As You Wish behind-the-scenes documentary (27 mins), Cary Elwes video diary (4 mins), The Making of the Princess Bride 1987 featurette (7 mins), 1997 EPK featurette (8 mins), photo gallery with index, TV spots, theatrical trailer, foreign release trailer, collectible booklet with liner notes, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and Spanish (DD 1.0), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride
1987 (2000) - 20th Century Fox (MGM)

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/F+

Specs and Features
98 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and Spanish (DD 1.0), subtitles: French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

Montoya: "You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

The Man in Black: "You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die."

The Princess Bride tells a story of adventure, bravery, revenge and - above all - the power of true love. The plot is very simple. One day a long time ago, a girl of nobility named Buttercup (played by then newcomer Robin Wright) falls in love with a poor but honorable stable boy named Westley (Cary Elwes). Westley knows in his heart that their love is true and meant to be, but he has nothing to offer for Buttercup's hand in marriage. So he sails off across the sea to seek his fortune, intending to come back for her one day. But after a time, word comes back to Buttercup that the dread pirate Roberts attacked Westley's ship... and Roberts spares the life of no one.

Not long after, the egomaniacal Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) chooses Buttercup to be his wife. She doesn't love him, but she can't refuse the man who will soon be king. Before the wedding can take place however, Buttercup is kidnapped by the dastardly Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his two henchman, a Spanish swordsman named Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and a gentle giant named Fezzik (the late André the Giant). Who will come to Buttercup's rescue? Will Humperdinck find and marry her? Will Montoya ever find the six fingered man who killed his father and have revenge? And who is the mysterious Man in Black? Well... you're just gonna have to watch the movie to find out now, aren't you?

There are so many things that make The Princess Bride an almost perfect movie. First of all, the screenplay is first rate, adapted from his own novel by the acclaimed William Goldman (who also wrote All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). It's wickedly funny, very smart and has as much (if not more) in it for adults as it does for children. I mean, how many movies do you know of that feature a battle of wits... to the death!? This is not your run of the mill fairy tale - it's extremely clever and very well executed.

The other thing that makes this movie special is the exceptional ensemble cast. They say that good casting is 70% of the work in making a film, and no film proves that to be more true than The Princess Bride. Mandy Patinkin is absolutely brilliant as Montoya, a character who starts out as bad guy... that you end up completely rooting for in the end. Seeing him here, with that wry twinkle in his eye, makes you wish he did more film work. How many people would cast André the Giant in a film? But he's just wonderful here - sweet and funny. Wallace Shawn almost steals the movie in the aforementioned battle of wits - what a great villain! Cary Elwes is so good here as Westley that it makes you cringe at all the smarmy bad guys he's played in on screen since (Twister, Liar Liar, Kiss the Girls...). Did I mention Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal? Yep... you get them too. Add to that a clever wrap-around story which has a wily Grandfather (Peter Falk) actually reading the film's story to his sick grandson (played by a young Fred Savage of The Wonder Years) and you've got a sure fire winner. I'll tell you - Rob Reiner has directed a lot of great movies (among them A Few Good Men, The American President, The Sure Thing and When Harry Met Sally). But of them all, this is by far my favorite.

MGM's original DVD release was a major disappointment. Despite the fact that it was MGM's most requested title, the studio jumped the gun and released the film in a non-anamorphic widescreen, movie-only version (a special edition was delayed due to Reiner's lack of availability to participate). In terms of video quality, the color saturation and accuracy were wonderful, and the transfer featured deep and detailed blacks. But there was a very edgy look to the video that betrayed the use of a LOT of electronically added edge enhancement. There was also plenty of digital compression artifacting, particularly in darker scenes, such as the journey through the Fire Swamp. A full frame version of the film was also included. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was somewhat better, providing a nice ambience for the film. There was little surround or rear channel trickery, but the dialogue was nicely clear, there was fair bass and Mark Knopfler's score was well represented. Sadly, there were virtually no extras other than a trailer, which was, as a Vizzini might say, "Inconceivable!"

Thankfully, you can finally forget the original DVD ever existed. If you own it, I recommend that you either sell it or burn it, and rush out to pick up the new The Princess Bride: Special Edition as soon as you can possibly do so. It's not quite the home run disc we'd all hoped for, but it's very good.

Let's start with the video. FINALLY, The Princess Bride can be seen in anamorphic widescreen! The quality of the image is very smooth and natural, with very little dust and dirt on the print. Grain is visible but isn't distracting, color is natural and accurate, and the blacks are again deep and true. If anything, the film looks a little darker on this DVD that the earlier edition, but I think that's an improvement. I'm guessing this color timing is more accurate. The video isn't perfect - it's often a little on the soft side. But the new anamorphic transfer alone improves the quality tremendously. And thankfully, there's no edge enhancement to be seen.

On the audio side, this Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also improved. It seems to have either been remixed or sweetened significantly. The earlier disc sounded good, but this audio seems fuller and richer, with a somewhat smoother and wider soundstage and more prominent bass. Dialogue is clear, Knopfler's score is well blended in the mix and the rear channels are actively utilized to provide good ambience. For a film this old, it sounds great.

The extras included on this new disc are pretty nice - not awesome, but certainly well worth the wait. First of all, you get an newly-recorded audio commentary with director Rob Reiner. He's very engaging to listen to, and has a lot of great stories to tell. It's obvious that he loves this film as much as the rest of us do. He does pause a bit too much here and there later in the film, but that doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the track. Better still, you get a second audio commentary with the writer of the original book and the screenplay, William Goldman. The gaps are a little greater, but Goldman's stories are wonderful and, in some ways, are even better than Reiner's. The real gem of the disc, however, is a new 27-minute documentary on the film, entitled As You Wish. It features some really great behind-the-scenes footage and stories, along with newly-recorded interviews with the entire cast (save Wallace Shawn and André the Giant - André is no longer with us). The fondness with which they all recall the experience of making this film, the wonderful stories about working with André and particularly Mandy Patinkin's recollections about creating his character, really make this a gem. Fans of the film will love it. The remainder of the extras are mostly filler, but it's good filler. You get a pair of 1987 EPK-style featurettes (each about 7 minutes long), a few TV spots, the theatrical and foreign release trailers for the film and a gallery of some 80+ photos (nicely indexed by subject). Good but frustrating is Cary Elwes' video diary, made up of home video footage the actor shot during the production. It's good because it's a great - and honest - look behind-the-scenes, particularly at the interactions of the cast off camera. It's frustrating because it's not nearly long enough. It's only about 4 minutes long.

The only thing that really left me wanting on the disc is the lack of deleted scenes or outtake footage. Given that the ownership of the film has transferred hands a few times over the years, it's probably not surprising that this kind of material isn't on the disc. It was probably impossible to find anything of this nature that had survived. But at several points in both the commentary and the documentary, the participants talk about how they kept constantly cracking each other up during filming. As much as I love this already funny film, you just know that the bloopers and outtakes would have just been a riot. Oh well - it's a minor and probably unavoidable weakness in an otherwise solid disc.

The Princess Bride is simply wonderful, any way you slice it. It's the Wizard of Oz for Generation X. If I had to name my top ten or twenty favorite films of all time, this would have to be high on the list. The film is charming, sharply funny, sweet, romantic and is fit to share with the whole family. What more could you want? As the trailer says: "Heroes. Giants. Villains. Wizards. True love. Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill fairy tale." Run out and pick this one up quick.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

The Princess Bride: Special Edition

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