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Tag Archive: The Princess Bride 30th anniversary


Last week The Princess Bride turned 30 and it returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies partnership (more classics are on their way to your local theater so keep an eye on the Fathom Events website for updates).  We’re big fans of The Princess Bride here at borg.com–more than five years ago it made 3 of our 4 lists of all-time favorite fantasy films.  This week’s screenings included Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director and producer Rob Reiner, and what shines through is Reiner’s enthusiasm for the film, three decades later.  He’s had several hits, from This is Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and The American President, and more, and now in theaters is his latest–LBJ.  But so few films are beloved like The Princess Bride.

Why does it work so well?  Part of the film’s success is due to its sincerity.  It’s true to its source material, William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride–the favorite of the author’s works.  Reiner tells a story of the difficulty in getting novelist William Goldman to sign over the film rights.  After countless big names were denied, Reiner was successful by agreeing simply not to change the story.  Goldman, who won Oscars for his screenplays to All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also penned the film adaptation, further ensuring his original vision.  The story is bookended as only a fairy tale could be told (with a few interruptions) by Peter Falk’s Grandpa and Fred Savage’s Grandson, just having storytime.  The Grandson’s 1980s room provides plenty of nostalgia for kids from the period–a “Refrigerator” Perry poster, a Cubs pennant, Burger King The Empire Strikes Back drinking glass, He-Man action figures–this Chicago kid had a fun room.  But the family bonding is the thing–an old book keeping a story that bridges generations, inside the movie and out, told by an old man with glasses, gray hair, and a fedora.  And the story is sweet and about love–nothing in the movie is embarrassing or gross or disturbing–it’s safe territory to kick back and have a good time–for everyone.

Rob Reiner’s humor must also be a big component of the film’s success and appeal.  His choices, his casting, his own humor comes through, no doubt influenced by a lifetime in film thanks to his comedy dad Carl Reiner.  Carl belonged to that classic comedy school that also includes Mel Brooks.  It’s Brooks’ Young Frankenstein that The Princess Bride reminded me of the most in the theater.  What Young Frankenstein was to classic monster movies, The Princess Bride was for the fantasy film genre.  Is The Princess Bride a parody?  It doesn’t have those obvious, direct ties to specific classic scenes like Young Frankenstein, but it’s an homage to several–from Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to Zorro and from Ivanhoe to Captain Blood and Sleeping Beauty.  The Pit of Despair, where Cary Elwes’s Dread Pirate Roberts is tortured, looks as if it could have been designed by the same crew as the laboratory set in Young Frankenstein (it didn’t but it did share its set designer–Richard Holland–with fantasy classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal).  But Rob Reiner’s humor is his own.  He never sits on a joke like the old masters of Hollywood comedy.  He leaves a laugh and keeps moving, which keeps in step with classic fantasyland storytelling.  You can laugh but the goal is the goal:  Rescue the Princess!

The classic archetypes are there: the Princess (Robin Wright), the Farmboy Hero (Elwes), the Three Woodsmen (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant), a Wizard (Billy Crystal), a Crone (Carol Kane), an Albino (Mel Smith), and plenty of Villains including the Evil King (Chris Sarandon)–with a classic “rescue the Princess” plot.  But the movie is also unique.  What else has Rodents of Unusual Size?  The accents of Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman?  An ad-libbing Billy Crystal partnered with a wonderfully badgering Carol Kane (Humperdinck! Humperdinck!)?  A real giant?  Two brave, swashbuckling heroes and two key villains (don’t forget Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen).  And the quotable lines!  It surely has as many big lines as Caddyshack: As you wish… My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die… Never get involved in a land war in Asia!…  Inconceivable!…  I do not think that word means what you think it means… Mawwiage! … And an endless litany of “boo”s.  The Pit of Despair!  The Cliffs of Insanity!

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Moviegoers will hear a different kind of “BOOooo!  BOOOooo!!!” in theaters this coming week.  The Princess Bride turned 30 this past week and TCM Big Screen Classics is back again partnering with Fathom Events to round out a major year of retrospective screenings.  You’ll have two days only to see Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, Fezzig, Miracle Max & Valerie, Prince Humperdinck, Vissini, and Grandpa back in theaters, tomorrow, October 15, and Wednesday, October 18.

The Princess Bride?  Back on the big screen?  Inconceivable!

You can also get in on a “twivia” contest for great prizes.  Check out the contest here.  Accompanying this return to theaters is a 30th anniversary home release of the film (which does not appear to offer any updates to prior versions), available in a Blu-ray and Digital HD combo and on DVD.  Fans of the film should take a look at one of the better behind the scenes looks at any movie in The Princess Bride–A Celebration, previously reviewed here at borg.com.  It has some great Polaroid photographs from director Rob Reiner.  And if you haven’t read the original story to your kids or grandkids, get William Goldman’s classic novel, still in print and available here.  Goldman won Oscars for two other all-time greats: All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

You can’t beat this cast and the actors who were all at great places in each of their careers–Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, André the Giant, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage.  For the younger generation: yes–that is the same Robin Wright who starred in Wonder Woman earlier this year and Blade Runner 2049, in theaters now.  A true classic, last year The Princess Bride was added to the National Film Registry, which identifies and preserves select films typifying the American film heritage.

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