THE PRINCESS BRIDE, like a goodly number of classics—The Wizard Of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, to cite usual suspects from the fantasy genre—has developed most of its affection-base in the years since its release. Out of the gate in 1987, it drew positive reviews yet just a lukewarm $31,000,000 on a $16,000,000 investment. Not only were there over forty comedies of various types flooding the market that year, the fun-fantasy theme had a workout. This gentle, smart, quotable, goofy, adult-winking, kid-charming, family friendly fairy-tale had to compete for marquee space with The Witches Of Eastwick, Walk Like A Man, Spaceballs, batteries not included, Harry And The Henderson’s, Innerspace, Making Mr. Right, Ishtar, My Life As A Dog and Raising Arizona. Of those, only the last has shown legs as durable.
Scenarist William Goldman wrote the book for his daughters in 1973. The property was bartered and wished over for fifteen years by talents such as John Boorman, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, Richard Lester and Francoise Truffaut, until finally Rob Reiner took the director’s chair. Goldman securely kept the script in his own hands. Perfect casting (with maybe one exception *), just the right touch throughout, a deft blend of action, wisecracks, romantic sentiment and flat-out endearing silliness.
The hero, Cary Elwes, should have become a bigger star, this remains his signature piece. Pretty-princess-to-duel-over is the most-right Robin Wright. Mandy Patinkin informs us “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” They must navigate ‘The Cliffs Of Insanity’, a ‘Fireswamp’ and deal with ‘Rodents Of Unusual Size’, en route to settling the hash of evil dastards Chris Sarandon and Christopher Guest.
With the help of the massive Andre the Giant (who self-medicated his wrestling injuries with monster-sized intakes of cognac and wine), an ad-libbing Billy Crystal and Carol Kane, the journey is backed by a lovely song, the Oscar-nominated “Storybook Love”, written by Willy DeVille—shout-out to old Mink DeVille fans—in a music score by Mark Knopfler.
Great Elwes-Patinkin sword fight took a week to shoot, even with the actors expert after training for six months. Beautiful Wright was a mere 21. With Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Peter Cook. 98 minutes brim-stuffed with great lines. Nice kiss tops it off. What more do you need?
* Wallace Shawn: either you think he’s cute as a bug and automatically riotous from the get-go, or find him nasally irritating and/or he makes you faintly uneasy. I confess the latter. Danny DeVito was considered for the part, and I think would’ve pulled it off better. Shawn fans will pooh-pooh the blasphemy, saying “IN-CON- CEIVABLE!!”