Every now and then, the motion picture industry kicks some absolutely serious ass throughout an entire year with a venerable array of odds and ends that go down in cinematic history. One such year was 1987 — which delivered unto us movies to satisfy every genre lover: action (The Living Daylights), sci-fi (Predator), horror (Hellrasier), and even romance (Moonstruck). 1987 also gave us an unprecedented glimpse at to what can happen when someone successfully adapts a fantasy/adventure/comedy/romance novel many previously thought impossible to film. Never an easy task, indeed — especially back when movies didn’t have overrated CGI effects to rely upon.
Nevertheless, Rob Reiner — the very same fellow whom most still referred to as “Meathead” at that point in time, and who had previously brought us This is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me — managed to take William Goldman’s story The Princess Bride and turn it into cinematic gold. By effectively once-removing the audience from the fantasy world it takes place in, Reiner’s The Princess Bride establishes a contemporary reality first, wherein a seasoned Peter Falk stops by to read the very same novel to his grandson (Fred Savage), who is sick in bed. Thus, we are able to visit and adjourn from Goldman’s fictional land at the drop of a hat — or, as Goldman frequently does in his own screenplay, whenever Savage’s character truly has to question what the heck is going on.
But it’s the imaginary Renaissance-era nation Goldman invented back in ’73 that fans of 1987’s The Princess Bride perhaps savor the most. The story — for those of you who have been mostly dead in the Pit of Despair all these years — tells of the extraordinary adventure a beautiful young woman named Buttercup (Robin Wright) goes through. After learning her beloved beau (Cary Elwes) has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup lamentingly decides to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon, looking just as fine as he did in Fright Night — though nowhere near as seductive). Then, on the eve of her wedding night, Buttercup is kidnapped by three completely madcap outlaws: a Spanish fencing master (Mandy Patinkin) with a grudge to bear against the six-fingered man who killed his father, a gentle giant with a knack for rhyming (Andre the Giant), and the nefarious Sicilian (Wallace Shawn) who masterminds the whole abduction.
Pursued by both Humperdinck’s soldiers and a mysterious man in black to boot, Buttercup and her captors are forced to hoof it across various treacherous lands and seas alike — through wooded areas inhabited by deadly (ROUS) Rodents of Unusual Size and a sinister six-fingered man (the great Christopher Guest) under the employ of the not-so-nice-after-all Prince. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane turn in memorable cameos as a delightfully crazy old Jewish couple (or Jew-ish, perhaps) who work miracles. Really, it’s a dynamic cast — one that anyone has rarely come even close to matching since — and Reiner’s superb and sly sense of direction is only heightened by Goldman’s own script (and really, who else could have adapted his story?).
Since its 1987 release, The Princess Bride has been issued on VHS and DVD more times than I would care to count. This, the “25th Anniversary Edition” from late 2012, is essentially a repackaging of the 2009 Blu-ray release (which was basically an HD upgrade of some of the later DVD releases, with the same Standard-Definition supplemental bits and pieces). As expected, the transfer is just as pleasing as the 2009 one, and boasts strong colors, fine detail, and is an overall must-have for fans and non-fans alike. The accompanying DTS-HD MA 5.1 English soundtrack does a marvelous job representing what many of us grew up watching in mono, and Spanish mono and French stereo DD audio tracks are also included.
Again, most of the special features included here have been ported over from previous home media incarnations, and include two audio commentaries and a shitload of featurettes. Two new items, however, are included here (they had to make this second Blu-ray release worth it somehow, right?) and consist of a new conversation piece with Elwes, Wright, and Reiner; and an odd secondary item wherein various members of the cast and crew — along with fans — are interviewed and dispel just how into the movie’s lasting pop-cultureness they truly are. And here all this time I thought every time someone said “As you wish,” they were quoting Boba Fett from The Empire Strikes Back. Huh.
Highly recommended — especially if you don’t already own the 2009 Blu-ray release, in which case I’d opt to rent this one first if you do.