The Princess Bride: Dread Pirate Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director:

Rob Reiner

Cast:

Cary Elwes……….Westley
Mandy Patinkin……….Inigo Montoya
Robin Wright……….Buttercup
Andre the Giant……….Fezzik
Chris Sarandon……….Prince Humperdinck
Christopher Guest……….Count Rugen
Wallace Shawn……….Vizzini
Fred Savage……….Grandson
Peter Falk……….Grandfather
Billy Crystal……….Miracle Max

Twentieth Century Fox and MGM present The Princess Bride. Written by William Golden, based on his book. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated PG. DVD release date: June 13, 2006.


The Movie

When the first Harry Potter movie was cleaning up at the box office, there was a TV spot in which a critic said it was “The Wizard of Oz of this generation.” Those who were conceived in the eighties may wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. Four-eyed Harry may have been a sight to behold, but it was a box office smash. Oz was a failure commercially. It wasn’t until many years later that people embraced the ruby-red slipper girl with a dog named Toto.

The same can be said for Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s classic story The Princess Bride. It did modest business in 1987, but would become a cult classic on home video. What the movie lacks in teenage wizards it more than makes up for with ROUSes (Rodents Of Unusual Size).

Like the advertisements suggest, this isn’t your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale. It’s one of those rare movies that can captivate both young and old. Rather than start with the standard “Once upon a time,” we get a grandfather reading the story out of a book. With eyeglasses hanging at the bridge of his nose, Peter Falk reads with a certain degree of cynicism to his ailing grandson. This particular story must be a good read, having been passed from father to son, generation to generation. During his reading he is occasionally interrupted by such remarks as, “Grandpa, is this a kissing book?”

Kissing is a part of this tale, but the femme in the story is neither a sleeping beauty nor white as snow. Buttercup (Robin Wright) is her name, and she’s a beautiful princess who cheekily orders around her stable boy (Cary Elwes).

Westley doesn’t speak much, only obliging her orders with three little words: “As you wish.” One day that little phrase rocks her like a hurricane. She comes to realization that when he said, “As you wish,” what he really meant was “I love you.” But before they can live happily ever after together Westley leaves to make his fortune.

Away at sea, his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. This pirate is no Captain Jack Sparrow or One Eye Willie. Roberts doesn’t take prisoners or allow anyone to survive. Heartbroken by the death of her dear Westley, Buttercup is forced into marrying Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), heir to the throne of Florin.

Before she can meet her husband-to-be, Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of outlaws – a Sicilian genius who considers Plato and Socrates morons, an ambidextrous swordsman, and a mighty giant. They have been hired to murder her and frame Florin’s enemy, the neighboring country of Guilder, so that Humperdinck will be forced to start a war.

Rob Reiner, who made a name for himself with his directorial debut This is Spinal Tap, presents The Princess Bride as a parody of swashbuckling movies and fairytale literature. Children will no doubt be mesmerized by the exploits at the Cliffs of Insanity or the Fire Swamp. Adults, who may have been awestruck when they were young, will enjoy the sly observances and witty dialogue. Aside from fairy tales, Zorro and Homer’s Odyssey must have inspired Goldman, as Westley and Odysseus both use their wits to survive impending danger.

That’s right. Westley is still very much alive. So much for that “Roberts doesn’t allow anyone to survive” comment.

Dressed head-to-toe in black, the same disguise as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Westley will stop at nothing in hopes of saving his beloved Buttercup. He valiantly clinks swords with Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), the Spaniard who is every bit as proficient left-handed as he is with his right. The fencing on top of a cliff is a beautiful display of action and excitement – reminiscent of Errol Flynn battling with Basil Rathbone inside Nottingham Castle. From there he contends with Fezzik (Andre the Giant), a bruiser who picks up boulders as if they were paperweights.

Without giving much away, during his journey Westley encounters a number of oddities, like a six-fingered man, and befriends Inigo and Fezzik. He fights rodents of unusual size and endures torture just so he can be with his one true love.

The Princess Bride strikes the perfect balance of humor, adventure and romance. All actors involved seem to be having a good time. Especially Billy Crystal and Carol Kane in small, supporting roles. Cary Elwes, though, steals the show. His performance as Westley, with his smart-alecky bravado, helps keep the movie upbeat and fresh. The result: A hero who is as quick with his sword as he is with his mouth. Which is a good thing. Because, it’s not everyday where your main character dies (supposedly) and lives to tell about it.


The DVD

Before I get to my description of the bells and whistles, I should point out that this is the third time The Princess Bride has been released on DVD. The first was a “bare bones” offering. No extras. The second was a special edition with commentaries and other special features. This re-re-release comes in both a Dread Pirate edition and Buttercup edition. The packaging may be different for these two releases, but the content remains the same.

THE VIDEO
(Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen)

The transfer for this Dread Pirate Edition looks good. There is some noticeable grain, and if you keep your eyes wide you’ll catch a speck on the print here and there. Flesh tones are lifelike and the blacks are spot on. Background images are well-defined even in dark scenes. For those interested, this transfer is much better than the original non-anamorphic release, and the colors are sharper than the special edition. But is a new transfer a good enough reason for someone to double dip?

THE AUDIO
(Dolby Digital 5.1 – English; optional Dolby 2.0 – French and Spanish)

Dialogue is handled nicely from the front channels. For the more action-packed moments – fencing on top of the Cliffs of Insanity, for instance – the Dolby Digital 5.1 track handles the channel separation very well. The clinks of swords come at you from all directions. Background music and effects do not overpower the actors and their lines. As for options, the listener can view The Princess Bride in French or Spanish 2.0 stereo. Subtitles come in English, French and Spanish. An English language closed captioning option is available when watching the movie in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Those who purchase this release will no doubt be treated to a number of extras. Though, it goes without saying that if you already have the last special edition release, some of the features will look familiar.

First is a pair of audio commentaries on the first disc. We get a director’s commentary from Rob Reiner. This track is a carryover from the last release. Still, it is a good discussion of the feature film. Reiner explains how he took on the reigns of the project, budgetary issues, and working with the cast. Commentaries for catalog releases and older titles, with directors or other cast and crew, are a nice retrospective look. They allow the participants to explain how they feel about the project, now and then.

Also carried over from the special edition is writer William Goldman’s commentary track. Those who have ever seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or All the President’s Men know Goldman is proficient in writing original and adapted screenplays. He also wrote the fictional work The Princess Bride and its book-to-screen adaptation. Much like Reiner’s track, Goldman’s suffers from dead air, but the listener will get some good bits of information. The writer tells of his inspiration to write the story, how he wrote it strictly for his kids, and how the adaptation was going to be directed by Norman Jewison at one point. He also explains how the project was a hot potato. It went from studio to studio, only to run into a problem. Either heads of studios got fired before production would start or the studios would put up a “We’re Closed” sign. Aside from these two commentaries, a photo gallery is the only other supplement on the first disc. Everything else is on disc two.

If you want to start with the best non-commentary feature, then watch As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride (27:15). Again, this documentary was made for the last special edition but it is worth another look. This making-of has some solid sound bites and clips. Director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman explain how the project came together. The stars of the film chat candidly about their performances and experience of it all. Such comments include those from Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin. Lots of good stories, especially the fact that Goldman wrote the part of Fezzik especially for Andre the Giant, or Patinkin admitting that this film is “The Wizard of Oz of our generation.” Ah ha, looks like I was right.

To catch a glimpse of life on a movie set there’s Cary Elwes Home Movies. This close to four-minute piece is footage that Elwes shot while making the movie.

Rounding out the recycled material from MGM’s last special edition is the original 1987 featurette and a vintage making of documentary. Both extras are brief in length, a combined 15 minutes, and are basically EPK features used to market the theatrical release.

So, has anything new been added by MGM for this release? Yes. Is it worthwhile? That depends on whether or not the prospective buyer is a big fan of the film. Here’s what you can expect.

Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas (11:42) is a tongue-in-cheek historical analysis of the movie’s protagonist. It exemplifies the tone of the movie as it explains the Dread Pirate Roberts’ origins. Fictional pirate experts and scholars are interviewed and discuss whether or not the character is based on anyone of significance.

Another featurette new to the disc is Love is Like a Storybook Story (16:42). It contains interviews with authors and educators who explain the origins of the fairy tale. The Princess Bride takes the tradition of fairytales and turns it upside down. Happy endings usually involve a princess marrying her prince charming. Goldman’s story is about the love between a princess and a commoner. More than a fairy tale, it’s a swashbuckling adventure. The extra may be short but it helps the viewer understand the evolution of fairytales and how The Princess Bride is in a league of its own.

Miraculous Make Up (11:21) allows us to see the process of creating Billy Crystal’s memorable character. Miracle Max was inspired by Crystal’s grandmother and an old New York Yankees manager. Make-up artist Peter Montagna tells how he went about creating such ancient-looking character. Behind the scenes footage of Montagna and Crystal in the make-up chair emphasizes the process of the creation.

Completing the supplemental features is an interactive trivia game with quotes, a booklet inside the DVD case containing Fezzik’s Guide to Floran. It is an amusing mock up of what a tourist guide may look like if Floran were a real place. TV spots and domestic and international trailers, and previews for MGM DVD titles already released, are also included.

It should be pointed out that the menu for the special features on the second disc is an interactive map. By using your remote you can access the extras at the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair and Lotharon’s Castle.

Score: 8/10

THE INSIDE PULSE

The Princess Bride is a classic. Cult or otherwise, it has lost little of its charm over the last twenty years. It’s fun for kids. It’s fun for adults. The two-disc special edition sports a new video transfer and some interesting extras (many of which are ported over) to make the Dread Pirate Edition worth recommending. That is, if you don’t already own the previous special edition. If you do own the last release, you have to be a pretty avid fan of giants and ROUSes to want to buy this version.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Princess Bride
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

9
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)