Friday, March 2, 2007

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (Act III Communications 1987) MGM Home Video

Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride (1987) is a cartoonish fairytale that makes valiant attempts at tapping into the forgotten recesses of a child’s imagination. But the blending of roguish and playful elements has not aged well. Even for its day, the film did not take itself seriously. Yet, from today’s vantage and even in jest, the story seems to lack in that most elusive and essential of cinematic intangibles – timelessness - more manufactured and forced than genuine and not terribly sustainable in its make-believe.

Peter Falk serves as the film’s narrator/grandfather to a sick grandson (Fred Savage) who has reached the age of ‘not believing’ and therefore frequently interrupts the narrative with questions that seem too obvious and contrived. The rest of the film – told in flashbacks – regards the heart sore pining of roguishly handsome servant boy, Westley (Cary Elwes) who fantasizes of a lasting romance with the Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn).

Their idyllic amour is interrupted when Westley takes to the ocean to seek a fortune worthy of his love, but apparently dies in a stormy shipwreck. Not so, however. Westley survives and returns with riches in tow only to discover that Buttercup has accepted a proposal from the obsessive and boorish, Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon).

Determined to thwart the wedding, Westley befriends Indigo Montaya (Mandy Patinkin), who is seeking vengeance on the six-fingered man that murdered his father. He also gains a confidant in Fezzik (Andre the Giant) who becomes his most trusted, if simple-minded, though pure of heart, protector. But will Westley’s love and determination be enough to sustain his comeback? Can he reenter Buttercup’s heart?
The film is quite heavy on its ‘true love will conquer all’ scenario. But it is hampered by a screenplay that waffles between light-hearted tongue-in-cheek vignettes and quite perverse and much darker episodes. Consider Westley’s capture by the Prince and his very painful brain torture that leads to his temporary death.

A gruesome and macabre bit bordering on horror film schlock and terror, this scene is immediately followed by one of even more absurdity in which Fezzik and Indigo bring Westley’s body to a reclusive miracle worker, Max (Billy Crystal) for resuscitation. Overall then, The Princess Bride is a film recommended for the kiddy set. But it’s difficult to assess its’ lasting appeal on any audience member past their wonder years.

MGM’s Special Edition DVD exhibits an anamorphic widescreen image with dated colors and weak contrast levels. Though portions of this presentation are fair to quite solid, for the most part this is a rather middle-of-the-road offering. Blacks are rarely deep. Whites tend to adopt a slight yellow or blue tint. Fine details are often buried under an image that is moderate to softly focus. Occasionally, pixelization and edge enhancement break apart background information. Extras include an informative documentary on the making of the film with vintage and new interviews with cast and crew, an audio commentary and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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