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  • Gareth Crook

The Princess Bride (1987)

Updated: May 9, 2020

Confession... I don’t usually like fantasy films. I didn’t mind them as a kid and I think I quite liked this, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I’d put it in the same category as Labyrinth. To be fair, they’re both films that have garnered cult status. I’ve not watched Labyrinth in 30-odd years (nor do I feel the need to), but I’m guessing that this has aged better. I’d forgetten all about the story-telling narration device, Peter Falk reading ‘The Princess Bride’ to Fred Savage in his all- American bedroom, what a bizarre premise that seems, but it’s ridiculously charming and effective. The opening scenes are pure schmaltzy over blown medieval romance and would be pretty unbearable without Fred’s voice over, rolling its eyes. The Princess Bride is silly, but never really farcical, deftly balancing it’s comedic wit with what feels like a genuine love for its characters. Ah the characters, if you’re not smiling within 10 minutes, check your pulse, they’re all wonderful! I’m hooked... and so is Fred. Let’s not beat around the bush. It takes me no time at all to fall in love, it’s 100 times better than I recall. Do you like perfectly choreographed swashbuckling sword fights? This has you covered, with added academic commentary from the combatants. Too flashy? How about “You put down your rock, I’ll put down my sword, we’ll try kill each other like civilised people”. I’d also forgotten how quotable this is. “Life is pain (heiress), anyone who says differently is selling something” and of course “Hello my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” The dialogue really is bloody flawless, littered with fun quips and even the haughty grandising from Prince Humperdink is fun. He is the weak link here though if there is one. Cary Elwes is absolutely marvellous, his lovely exposition explaining his becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts whilst dodging death in the fire swamp is so simple and effective, it’s quite disarming and if you didn’t already root for our hero, you do now. Then bang, bloody quicksand! (aka Lightning Sand) and ‘Rodents of Unusual Size’ cementing it’s 80s calibre. If someone made this now (please say the rumours aren’t true) they’d ruin it with CGI. You really can’t beat a bloke in a giant rat suit. You also can’t beat Mel Smith in dodgy make-up or Billy Crystal layered in tons of it. It’s around this time too that I realise that Prince Humperdink’s right hand man is no other than Nigel “This one goes to up to 11” Tufnel!! and he’s still obsessed with numbers as he cranks up The Machine in The Pit of Dispair. It’s all quite simple though, a fairytale after all, the lower class good guys verses the villainous royalty, both chasing the prize that is Princess Buttercup. As we get toward the finale, the threatened wedding of Humperdink & Buttercup, I nearly fall off my chair as Peter Cook announces “Mawwage is what bwings us together today”. Just one of many truly fantastic moments. It limps a little as the final minutes draw in, but Andre the Giant keeps the tone light as Buttercup is inevitably rescued, Inigo avenges his father and the fairytale ends happily, I’m left with a warm glowing feeling and a mile-wide smile. To think I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this, “Inconceivable!”



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