The Princess Bride

[This review includes spoilers.]

Grandson: "Has it got any sports in it?"
Grandfather: "Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."

The Princess Bride is often described as a fractured fairy tale, but I don't think that's accurate because it's so much more. In his original book, William Goldman took the standard elements of a fairy tale and twisted them off center into something exceptionally funny, while still retaining all of the elements that made it an enjoyable fairy tale. And then Rob Reiner took Goldman's story and translated it into a movie that was just as good and did the same thing, which is a remarkable achievement. The Princess Bride is a satire, a tale of true love, a touching story of bloody vengeance, and it's hilarious. It's unique, and defies categorization.

It's difficult to launch directly into a fantasy world, so Goldman cleverly encapsulated the fairy tale into a story that a grandfather (Peter Falk) is reading to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). I've always loved the skillful way it goes back and forth ("Is this a kissing book?" "She does not get eaten by the eels at this time"). Because the grandfather clearly loves the story he's telling, and at the end, his grandson does too, it bridges the generational gap between them. Lovely.

But it's the fairy tale that's important, and I love every minute of it. I want Buttercup and Westley to live happily ever after. I want Inigo to avenge his father and find peace at last. And there are so many scenes that are absolute gems. The duel at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity is probably my favorite because of the way the Man in Black and Inigo bond as they're trying to kill each other. The duel of wits with the iocane powder is priceless. I love the shrieking eels. I love the R.O.U.S.'s in the fire swamp. Inigo's duel with the six-fingered man is just wonderful, a perfect emotional climax to the movie.

The performances are also gems. Westley (Cary Elwes) is gorgeous, dashing, and ridiculous. Buttercup (Robin Wright) is earnestly beautiful and beautifully earnest, the perfect straight woman. Inigo's story is the most compelling, and Mandy Patinkin brings perfect comic timing as well as pathos to the role. It's not easy to pull off a line like "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" not just once, but many times, and to give it so much impact each and every time.

I can't say enough good things about Wallace Shawn as Vizzini; practically every line he says in this movie is terribly funny. Andre the Giant imparts such sweetness to the role of Fezzik, while still being physically imposing. Honorable mention to Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane. And Peter Cook as the minister, who made one small scene unforgettable; I start laughing even before he opens his mouth. "Mawwidge. Mawwidge is what bwings us togedder today."

The sight gags are special, too. The climb up the Cliffs of Insanity. Vizzini laughing maniacally before keeling over. Inigo leaning against the tree. Practically every scene with Westley after they give him the pill. The men standing guard in front of the gate makes me laugh every time I see it. But my favorite has always been this one:


"We are but poor, lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?"

If I have any complaint at all, it's that while Andre the Giant is well cast, Fezzik's lines are sometimes difficult to understand. The scene with the holocaust cloak in particular is almost incomprehensible without subtitles. Okay, I've always hated Inigo's hair, too. Small things, though. And I can't imagine The Princess Bride without them.

I still laugh out loud every time I watch this movie, even while I know the lines so well that I repeat them with the actors. It's that good. William Goldman is probably best known for writing one of the great movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I love that movie. But I love The Princess Bride more.

Quotes:

I wanted to put half of the movie in the quotes section, but I restrained myself and just listed my absolute favorites. So if I missed a line or two that you love, feel free to add it to the comments.

Westley: "This is true love. Do you think this happens every day?"

Vizzini: "And you! Friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed, in Greenland?"

Inigo: "Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?"
Fezzik: "If there are, we'll all be dead."
Vizzini: "No more rhymes now, I mean it."
Fezzik: "Anybody want a peanut?"
I love the way Inigo indulges Fezzik in his rhyming. It's so sweet.

Inigo: "You are sure nobody's follow us?"
Vizzini: "As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable ... Out of curiosity, why do you ask?"
Inigo: "No reason. It's only I just happened to look behind us and something is there."
Vizzini: "What? Probably some local fisherman, out for a pleasure cruise, at night... in eel-infested waters..."

Vizzini: "He didn't fall? Inconceivable!"
Inigo: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
The most quotable line in the movie. I use it a lot.

Fezzik: "You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted."

Inigo: "I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?"
Man in Black: "Do you always begin conversations this way?"

Fezzik: "Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?"
Man in Black: "Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future."

Man in Black: "I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But for now, rest well and dream of large women."

Vizzini: "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia', but only slightly less well-known is this: 'Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line'!"

Buttercup: "You mock my pain."
Man in Black: "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Westley: (looking around the Fire Swamp) "It's not that bad. (Buttercup looks at him) Well, I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely."

Humperdinck: "Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work. But I've got my country's five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I'm swamped."

Inigo: "Offer me money."
Rugen: "Yes!"
Inigo: "Power, too. Promise me that."
Rugen: "All that I have and more. Please!"
Inigo: "Offer me anything I ask for."
Rugen: "Anything you want... "
Inigo: "I want my father back, you son of a bitch!"

I'm not much for hobbits or Harry Potter, so this is my favorite fantasy movie. I love every scene and every line. Am I being too effusive? Inconceivable!

Four out of four white horses,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

19 comments:

Valerie said...

I’m so glad you reviewed this movie. This was the first movie I fell in love with. It’s so completely ridiculous but wonderful at the same time.
Another frequently used quote is “get used to disappointment”

Mark Greig said...

Wow, you really can read minds, Billie.

You've summed up perfectly everything I love about this film, right down to Peter Cook's wonderful cameo. Its just perfect.

Josie Kafka said...

Woo-hoo! I love this movie, too, and your review was perfect. I think I might re-watch this tonight.

I have just one quote to add, since you already got my favorites: "I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!"

There is one problem with this movie, though. I watched it so much as a kid that I am still scared of eels. I can't even eat them at a sushi restaurant. Those teeth--ugh!

Paul Kelly said...

Let's not forget Billy Crystal's marvellous cameo...

"The King's stinking son fired me, and thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?"

Sooze said...

I have never seen this movie all in one sitting...I catch parts here and there when it is on TV...I keep saying "I gotta watch this whole thing someday..." and then never get to it.

With your review and the comments, it has just jumped to the top of my summer "to-do" list.

Jess Lynde said...

Sooze, you've never seen this whole movie? Inconceivable! :)

I once took a communications class in which the professor asked the class, "What's the greatest movie swordfight ever?" And someone immediately called out The Princess Bride, and the professor hoots "That's right!" We then got to watch the fight. I can't remember why movie swordfighting came up in the first place, but I was thoroughly delighted to suddenly be in a room full of love for this film. I adore this film like no other. And I always know I've met someone who could be a good friend when they can randomly quote this movie. (My best friend could recite the entire movie from start to finish when we were kids. I'm guessing she probably can't do that anymore.)

Quotes I've always liked (that weren't otherwise covered above):

Westley (to Count Rugen): "We are men of action. Lies do not become us."

Grandson: "Jesus, Grandpa, what'd you read me this thing for?!"

Westley: "Give us the gate key."
Yellin: "I have no gate key."
Inigo: "Fezzik, tear his arms off."
Yellin: "Oh, you mean this gate key."

Westley to Humperdink: "It's possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again ... perhaps I have the strength after all. [slowly rises] DROP... YOUR... SWORD."

(For some reason, I really love the "It's possible, Pig" part. I find myself using that snippet.)

And one we always enjoyed quoting before heading off to client meetings at work:

Miracle Max: "Have fun stormin' the castle!"
Valerie: "Think it'll work?"
Miracle Max: "It would take a miracle."

Thanks for sharing the love for yet another favorite, Billie!

HellBlazerRaiser said...

The first time I read that you loved this movie was in your review of THE SUBSTITUTE (the LOST episode).

I remember the day of the week (Saturday), where I was (my oldest sister's house) and why I was there (llooonnnnggggg story) when I first saw this movie. Because of that night, this movie will always hold a particularly special place in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Although my favorite quote is listed in your review you left out my favorite part.

Vizzini: "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia', but only slightly less well-known is this: 'Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line'!"

Laugh, laugh, laugh, half laugh... thud :)

Billie Doux said...

HellBlazerRaiser, it's so good to hear from you again! And I am so enjoying these comments, everyone. It makes the writing so worthwhile.

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

"I do not think it means what you think it means" is the line I quote most often as well, accent and all.

Another favourite is, "I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using." Gets a laugh from me every time.

Harry Earle said...

Wow another classic sounding film that I've never seen or ever heard of! I never thought I'd be glad a season of Supernatural had ended Billie, but it's awesome that you're getting the time to introduce/reintroduce us to lots of great cinema. *goes off to watch The Princess Bride*

1130am said...

This movie is all about "twoo wuv" for me. I have watched it so many times with my then boyfriend, now husband, that all I feel is love for every aspect of it.

You've hit on a lot of good quotes but I love the hag with the thesaurus in the nightmare:

"True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo. "

What a great review--as I always.

Greg said...

Yes, this movie is completely amazing. Outstanding review. The only thing you forgot were some quotes from the movie's best scene: the visit to Miracle Max.

My favorite is when he goes "all dead, there's really only one thing you can do... go through his clothes and look for loose change", but the lemon juice line quote above is great as well. I love the whole film, though.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

"HellBlazerRaiser, it's so good to hear from you again! "

Thanks!!! :)

2010 was a bad year for me and I apologize for the commotion I caused on your LOST finale review.

I'm looking forward to your TRUE BLOOD S4 reviews!!!

Mark said...

The quote I use fairly often (in addition to the ones already mentioned) is "There is something you do not know. I am not left-handed!" (Usually during volleyball, when someone has to spike with their off-hand.)

bagarnbakarskor said...

I think I was eight years old when I first saw this movie (thanks good old dad for being a film nut and somehow managing to procure movies from the U.S. before they were avilable for rental in Europe), and of course I loved the sword fighting like nobody's business. It went so far that I forced a friend of mine to learn the whole fight - at least the parts that were possible what with our limited budget - and act it out really quite violently with carefully manufatured plastic sticks. I should add that we were probably around eleven years of age at this time, and we trained so diligently that we at times beat the characters in the movie for pure speed. After a time we tired of the project, as children do, but it must have remained in our muscle memory, because during a party at my friend's house when we were seventeen and boozing it up with other insecure, pimply-faced adolescents, we found us two sticks and proceeded to play-act that we were improvising a sword fight. We hardly missed a beat, despite being drunk as all outdoors, and you better believe people were staring slack-jawed after we were done. It should be added that we never bothered with any dialogue (except for the switching hands scene).
The script and delivery thereof was a feature of the film I didn't come to fully appreciate until I was about fifteen or so. I still regarded the love story as sappy, forbidden territory, though. I didn't allow myself to appreciate that part of the story until the end of my teens.

It's a shame Cary Elwes has had such a disappointing career after starting out so promising.

Robin Wright has done as well for herself as could reasonably be expected, and I must admit I fell in love with her (well, her performance more than her character) upon watching the incredible "State of Grace" for like the tenth time, which in turn prompted me to watch "The Princess Bride" for maybe the twentieth time, and that's when I finally fell for Buttercup, as well.

CatherineJ said...

I'm such a sad fan that when I got married I walked down the aisle to 'morning ride' and our first dance was 'Storybook love' - I just don't think I could have married my husband if he wasn't a fan! As Anne Shirley puts in, kindred spirits are (for me) those who know and love this film

sunbunny said...

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think of this every time I hear someone misuse "literally." Consequently, the line is running in a constant loop in my head. Honestly, when did that word become so popular?

Katherine said...

Thank you sunbunny for taking the time to comment on The Princess Bride review. It caught my eye on the recent comments list and directed me to this lovely review and comments that I never would have thought to search out on my own.

I love this site.