Movie Review: The Princess Bride

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Image from The Princess Bride Ltd. site.
I didn't see The Princess Bride when it came out in theaters in 1987. Not many people did. Pulling up IMDB, the movies that I saw in 1987 when they did come out were Spaceballs, Can't Buy Me Love, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, Superman IV, and Teen Wolf Too. I turned 16 that year so I really shouldn't have been able to see Elm Street without an adult but this was the 80s where the way to get into an R movie as a teenager was to buy a ticket to that movie.

I can safely say that The Princess Bride blows all of them away. I first saw it in the early 90s while at UConn. I don't remember if a friend had it or someone rented it but a bunch of us watched it in my dorm room on my VCR, attached to an extremely tiny TV. It's pretty much obligatory viewing for those in gaming, if for no other reason than to get all the references other players will be making.

Though I didn't read Goldman's novel of the same name until several years later, the film is a pretty accurate adaptation, down to the metafiction of the tale being taken from a book. This isn't surprising, given he wrote the screenplay as well.

If you've not seen it, the best advice I can give is to do so now.

What's it about? It's the story of a boy home sick whose grandfather visits him and reads him the tale of The Princess Bride. The boy pretty much endures this until being drawn into the story. And what kind of story?
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it? 
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles... 
The Grandson: Doesn't sound too bad. I'll try to stay awake. 
Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.
As we enter the story from this framing device, we learn of the farm boy Westley and his love for the beautiful Buttercup. He goes off to seek his fortune and is apparently lost to the Dread Pirate Roberts. Is he dead though? "This is true love - you think this happens every day?" Of course not.

As the story progresses, Buttercup has been engaged to marry the prince of the land. But she has been kidnapped by some nefarious rogues working to start a war - the genius Vizzini, the hulking Fezzik, and the swordsman Inigo Montoya. Though as it turns out they're not such bad guys - in all honesty they're pretty similar to your typical D&D party.

Fezzik: You never said anything about killing anyone. 
Vizzini: I've hired you to help me start a war. It's an prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition. 
Fezzik: I just don't think it's right, killing an innocent girl. 
Vizzini: Am I going MAD, or did the word "think" escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass. 
Inigo Montoya: I agree with Fezzik.

You see I'm doing an awful lot of quoting. The movie is a goldmine of classic lines, many of which find their way to D&D games. I first heard of the movie when a two-weapon wielding Drow I was playing (hey it was second edition) lost one his weapons and I declared "I'll fight him left handed", unknowingly referencing the movie. ("If I use my right... over too quickly.") However, The Princess Bride is far more than a bunch of great quotes. It is full of all the things Grandpa promised - and full of them with absolute sincerity. True love is a power here. Both in the story and between the grandfather and the grandson. The characters are perfectly cast, from Cary Elwes and Robin Wright near the beginning of their careers as Westley and Buttercup to established actors like Peter Falk as Grandpa.

I was watching a special on The Princess Bride and Director Rob Reiner commented that as they were making it he indicated he didn't want to make another Wizard of Oz - something that didn't do particularly well on release but later found its audience as a classic.

‘The studio never knew how to market it,’ said Reiner. ‘We literally never had a trailer. They tried to sell it like a zany comedy. I remember having this conversation with Barry Diller, who was the head of Fox at the time. I was screaming at him. I said, “Barry, I don’t want to have a Wizard of Oz!” Because when The Wizard of Oz came out, it was a disaster – nobody liked it and it didn’t do well. I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, “Rob, don’t let anybody ever hear you say that. You’d be so happy to have a Wizard of Oz!”’
- Fiction Machine, This is True Love

The Princess Bride did in many ways become another Wizard of Oz. To this day it's one of my favorite movies, one that can always bring a smile to my face. And it makes for great quotes at the D&D table.


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