Last Tuesday was the 25th anniversary of the theatrical openings of The Princess Bride, and this coming Tuesday sees the release of a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of the movie, which features a new two-part retrospective documentary. Also on Tuesday, a new print of the fantasy adventure classic will screen during the New York Film Festival, complete with a reunion of actors Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane and director Rob Reiner (no Fred Savage? Inconceivable!) for a post-film conversation.
So, we’ve got a new Scenes We Love this week to honor the beloved comedic romance (don’t call it a rom-com), and maybe this sounds like an impossible task. After all, if you love one scene from The Princess Bride, you love them all. We could just say, we love that 100-minute-long scene in which a stable boy-turned-pirate fights a giant, a genius and a swordsman in order to rescue a princess from kidnappers and then stop her from marrying an evil prince, all as it is told by an old man to his grandson. Then just embed the film in its entirety (if it were available this way). But we can isolate a handful of favorites — that’s six scenes, if we go by Count Rugen’s hand — and if there are any others you wish to bring up, we invite you to do so.
A Special Book
Before we get into the fairy tale, here is the opening and the front bookend of the movie, featuring probably the greatest grandfather/grandson moment ever, in film or otherwise. Really, we could include all of the external, modern day scenes with Peter Falk and Fred Savage as one long scene — we especially love the parts when the main story is broken into by interruptions from either the kid or the old man — but we’re kind of bound here to what we could find in embeddable form. Not satisfied? We could stop right now if you want. Would you rather just watch the whole thing streaming online for a fee? As you wish. Otherwise, keep your shirt on and let’s continue.
Swordfight on the Cliffs of Insantity
One of the greatest bouts of swordplay in cinema, and certainly the most amusing, here Dread Pirate Roberts/Wesley (Elwes) goes up against the master duelist Inigo Montoya (Patinkin), aka the Spaniard. Their fight is one of many in cinema choreographed by legendary (and recently passed on) Olympic fencer Bob Anderson, who is possibly most famous for performing as Darth Vader in the light-saber battles of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In addition to the skill and artistry on display here, the dialogue is also of note for fencing enthusiasts in the references to historical swordsmen Rocco Bonetti, Capo Ferro, Gérard Thibault d’Anvers and Camillo Agrippa.
Battle of Wits to the Death
For his encounter with the highly intelligent (or so he professes) Sicilian criminal Vizzini (Shawn), Dread Pirate Roberts/Westley engages the little, lisping man in a game of logical thinking, though this is just a sly cover for his trusting his tolerance to a deadly toxin. The poison used, “iocane powder,” is fictional, while the famous line about land wars in Asia being a blunder is definitely true for many men of history and players of Risk.
This part of the movie could very well have been the most forgettable or it could very well have been unforgettably awful. The Princess Bride is a very funny movie, but it’s not exactly a mad romp nor a pile-on of jokes for jokes sakes. Then Billy Crystal comes in and goes a bit over the top, as does Carol Kane. And somehow the sudden Borscht Belt tone doesn’t detract from the rest of the movie. In fact it fits quite well as one of many little vignettes. But can you imagine if they’d gotten, say, Robin Williams and Bette Midler? Appropriately, the casting is a bit of a bluff while the duo end up a movie couple we truly love.
“Hello, my Name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to Die.“
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“Mawidge” of “Pwincess Buwwercwup” to Prince Humperdinck
This is more of a performance we love, if you wish to be technical, though the officiating clergyman has a speech impediment in the novel too. Nevertheless, Peter Cook steals the show with his personification and uttering of words like “mawidge” and “twoo wuv.” Sarandon is great here, as well, but we’d believe it if we heard his delivery was actually out of pure agitation (caused by him trying to keep a straight face, that is). It’s a good scene for us to stop with as it reminds us that the movie is comically unkind to speech impediments and clever with different bad pronunciations of “true love.”