I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the ultimate test for a movie is a test of time. Today we worry about what movies make the most at the box office—which has always been true to a degree. Which is why it’s all the more surprising when you find out that a movie we all know and love was either a flop at the box office (“Clue”), or did only middling success like Rob Reiner’s 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman, “The Princess Bride” was in development for years before Reiner finally brought the film to the big screen.
Goldman wrote a screenplay for the film shortly after the book was published when 20th Century Fox snapped up the rights to the film. At various points, everyone from Richard Lester to Francois Truffaut to Robert Redford was attached to the film. Dismayed, Goldman bought back the rights to his story. Following the success of Reiner’s 1985 film “Stand By Me,” he decided he wanted to bring “The Princess Bride” to the screen. Reiner had been a fan of the book since his father, legendary comedy writer and director Carl Reiner, gave him a copy of the book shortly after it’s publication.
Studios showed no interest in bringing the film to the screen, so Reiner took it upon himself to have the film made as an independent production, bringing in his old pal “All In The Family” creator Norman Lear in as executive producer. The story of “The Princess Bride” concerns a sick boy (a pre-“Wonder Years” Fred Savage) and his grandfather (the late, great, Peter Falk) who have come to cheer him up with a book that his father read to him and so on and so on.
Buttercup, played by Robin Wright in her breakout, is about to marry the scheming and rather not nice at all Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but Buttercup’s heart belongs to a farmhand named Wesley (Cary Elwes)—who hasn’t been seen in a week of Sundays. Just as Buttercup is about to become a Princess, she is kidnapped by a band featuring a Spaniard looking for the man who killed his father (Mandy Patinkin), a gentle giant played by Andre The Giant, and a mysterious pirate. “The Princess Bride” is a charming and delightful of a movie as any movie could be. As much as it has become a part of our pop culture today, it’s hard to believe that though critics in 1987 loved the movie, audiences largely stayed away. What a lucky time we live in where movies can be discovered on home video and become classics.
The Criterion Collection brings “The Princess Bride” to their catalog for the third time, but the first time on blu-ray for them, the film has been released on blu-ray before and Criterion has issued the film twice before on laserdisc. This new blu-ray edition features a new 4K restoration of the film created from the 35mm camera negative. Compared to the previous blu-ray release this new disc blows that one away. Right from the start the film’s colors pop and shine with a vibrancy that is lacking on the earlier release.
The commentary track from Criterion’s 1997 laserdisc is ported over here, it features Reiner, Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk. Also included is a really neat feature taken from the audiobook of the novel read by Rob Reiner, it’s been edited to be in sync with the film, allowing you to get an idea of how Reiner adapted the film. Also new is a look at a tapestry Goldman had commissioned based on his novel. Additionally, most of the bonus material from the previous DVD and blu-ray releases are included as well.
One of the best features though of Criterion’s blu-ray is the packaging. The movie is packed in a small, clothbound book. It feels exactly like the kind of books you’d check out from your elementary school library. It’s a wonderful touch, and one of the more creative packaging ideas I’ve seen from Criterion.
All in all, Criterion has done a truly fab job with their blu-ray of “The Princess Bride,” undeniably one of the most beloved films of the last thirty years or so. If you have the previous blu-ray and are wondering if this is worth getting, the answer is yes. Based on the image quality alone, you’ll find a lot more life in this transfer than what was on the previous disc. If you know someone who loves this movie, this would be a great gift for them as we get closer to the Christmas season. Highly recommended. see you next week.