The Princess Bride (1987): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

It’s not hard to figure out why “The Princess Bride” is considered one of the all time great cinematic fantasy classics. Even today it manages to stand as a movie that’s way ahead of its time and deconstructs a lot of the fairy tale and hero’s journey tropes way before “Shrek” ever popularized the idea. Rob Reiner injects a meta-mold to “The Princess Bride” helping it stand apart from a lot of the other fantasy epics we would have seen from the decade. His choice to make the story of Princess Buttercup told by a grandfather to his sick grandson is a testament to the incomparable experience of being swept away in a good book.

Peter Falk plays a grandfather who visits his sick grandson (Fred Savage) one day and decides to spend his time with him reading/narrating “The Princess Bride” to him. Despite the grandson’s cynicism, he inevitably gets sucked in to the magical tale of a young princess named Buttercup who realizes one day that she’s in love with the farm hand she’s ordered around her entire life. When he leaves to pursue a more promising future for them, Buttercup is chosen as the wife for the evil Prince Humperdink. When Buttercup is kidnapped by three vile thieves, she’s pursued by the mysterious man in black who is on a mission to rescue her.

Along the way we meet a colorful variety of characters that are subtle in their motivation and mostly fantastic in how they are fleshed out so subtly. There isn’t a single character that doesn’t spring from the film and come to life, and that’s thanks to the marvelous cast, all of whom represents classic fantasy tropes, while re-defining them. Rob Reiner directs a marvelous cast that includes Andre the Giant, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon and Mandy Patinkin, just to name a few. Patinkin and co-star Cary Elwes are perhaps two of the most exciting elements of “The Princess Bride” representing two classic tropes of the fairy tale genre. Patinkin is especially great as Inigo Montoya, the swashbuckling wandering warrior who is looking for the six fingered man that murdered his father. Elwes is also dynamic as the man in black, whose own skills for fencing and combat make him an admirable dashing hero.

Elwes conjures up classic Douglas Fairbanks with his turn. Director Reiner’s “The Princess Bride” has every single chance to become a cloying and silly fairy tale, but it works as an engaging fantasy adventure that never delves too deep in the fantasy realm. It’s primarily a human fairy tale with the man in black fighting for Buttercup, and Reiner offering audiences a near endless amount of quotable moments and memorable scenes. Whether it’s Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini shouting “Inconceivable!” to Inigo’s passionate declaration of vengeance, William Goldman’s script is timeless. “The Princess Bride” is a film that’s for just about everyone and anyone that can appreciate good storytelling, a classic romance, riveting action, and genuinely funny comedy. It’s just a classic that’s yet to be duplicated.

The new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray comes packed with extras. Most of the fans might enjoy the storybook presentation for the new release, though. The case comes bound like an actual hard cover storybook, and there is a full color illustrated forty page booklet with essays about the movie. This includes “Let Me Sum Up” by Sloane Crosley, “How It All Happened” by William Goldman, and a list of technical credits and detailed cast information. Within the new Blu-Ray there’s “True Love” a fifteen minute vintage program from 2012 with director Rob Reiner, and cast members Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, all of whom discuss working on the film, and its massive success. “Pure Enchantment” is a new eighteen minute program with Loren-Paul Caplin, the writer and professor of screenwriting at Columbia University, who discusses the unique aspects of William Goldman’s novel, and his screenplay for the movie.

“The Tapestry” is a new eight minute segment examining the tapestries William Goldman commissioned from artist Carol Burland for the film. There’s an extensive, exhaustive Making of the Film segment with six chapters, and five mini chapters included. Such segments include the thirty minute “As You Wish,” the vintage “The Princess Bride – The Untold Story,” the video interview with art director Richard Holland titled “Fairy-Tale Reality,” the vintage 2006 segment “Miraculous Makeup” discussing the make up from Miracle Max, a twenty minute multi-chapter Behind the Scenes presentation with commentary, and a vintage Cary Elwes video diary narrated by actor Robin Wright. Next there’s “The Art of Fencing,” a vintage segment from 2008 with Hollywood sword master Robert Goodwin who discusses various period weapons, and the fighting techniques used during filming.

“Fairy Tales & Folklore” is a 2007 archival interview with scholar Jack Zipes who explains why people love fairy tales, common themes represented within fairy tales, and the narrative construct of “The Princess Bride.” There is a slew of vintage publicity materials for the film including the US Trailer, Foreign Market Trailer, and four TV Spots. There’s an audio book for William Goldman’s novel “The Princess Bride” as read by Rob Reiner, and edited by Criterion in 1997. With this function you’re also able to compare scenes from the novel with segments from the film comparison. Finally, there’s a vintage commentary with director Rob Reiner, writer William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk.