Review by C.J. Bunce
When you see someone get a project just right sometimes you know it immediately.
Norman Lear and Rob Reiner’s 1987 fantasy fairy tale The Princess Bride is a classic movie in every sense. Unforgettable scenes, quotable dialogue, and a superb story by William Goldman provided the recipe for a film that is not just a fun film to watch now and again but a film girls and boys and women and men alike will outright tell you they love. If there is a more incredible single scene in all of fantasy films than Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya in his final confrontation with Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen, then I have no idea what it is. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Intrepid borg.com writers Jason McClain, Art Schmidt, and Elizabeth C. Bunce each listed The Princess Bride on their top fantasy films of all time and if you want to read some good fan commentary on the film’s resonance 25 years after its premiere check out their past discussions of the film here.
Celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary, Universe Publishing, known among other things for producing high quality coffee table books, has released a beautiful and exciting look at the making of the film and memorabilia compilation for fans. The Princess Bride: A Celebration is the first companion book to the film ever created. Which in itself is astounding–a movie so popular and yet no one thought to release something like this before. The result is what any fan of any film would love to have–it’s the kind of book that has not even been done in this way for films like Star Wars or Star Trek, although many great varieties of books have looked behind the scenes at those franchises. What stands out for The Princess Bride: A Celebration is its volume of quality reprinted Polaroid images taken during production for costume, make-up, hairstyle, scene and design continuity. It is a collector’s dream to lay his/her hands on continuity Polaroids from a film production and this book gives the reader the feel that Rob Reiner let you browse a trunk in his attic that hasn’t been opened since 1987.
At 192 pages this volume actually includes everything (as you wish) you could hope for. Assembled like a scrapbook, there is unexpectedly no explanatory chapter text. Instead, the book is peppered with key quotations from The Princess Bride, reflections from Rob Reiner, Norman Lear and all the key cast members (except Fred Savage, the late André “The Giant” Roussimoff, and the late Peter Falk), including stars Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, and the Princess Bride herself, Robin Wright. In addition to more than 110 Polaroids showing continuity photos of everything from Robin Wright’s hairstyles to major costumes to character make-up to Fred Savage’s bedroom to stunt actors to the rodents of unusual size (ROUS)–The Princess Bride: A Celebration also includes full color screen images, previously unpublished shots of the cast and sets, black and white production negative prints, marketing headshot trials, art sketches of original design ideas, close-up prop photos (including sword hilts and Buttercup’s crown), location setting photos, and actual pages of the original script to follow along with the story as you move from page to page.
In addition to the photo and personal essays, you really have to commend the book design. It includes an evocative Maxfield Parrish-esque, storybook-inspired cover jacket and beneath that is a hardcover featuring two glossy, full color images of what could be a wedding photo of Westley and Buttercup and a fun publicity shot of Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn. The translucent vellum pages showing the original architectural blueprint schematics for Haddon Hall, The Pit of Despair, Buttercup’s Farm, the Pirate Ship, the Torture Wheel, Miracle Max’s Hovel, the Fire Swamp and the Castle are features you will not find in comparison with any other behind the scenes film book available for any other movie.
If you have a fan of The Princess Bride in your midst, getting him/her The Princess Bride: A Celebration on their next birthday is as close as you will find to a sure-fire win. If you’re not a fan of the film but love moviemaking this book will serve as an unprecedented look at film production that you’ll pull off the shelf again and again and hopefully it will serve as a guide for publishers in the future for book companions to hit films.