It’s been called a modern Wizard Of Oz. It’s one of Bill Clinton’s favourite movies. And it’s been released on DVD and Blu-ray so many times you’d need Count Rugen’s six-fingered hands to count them all.
“I’ve gotten more responses on The Princess Bride than on everything else I’ve done put together,” says novelist turned screenwriting legend William Goldman, who wrote the 1973 novel. “Something in it affects people.”
But on VHS, director Rob Reiner’s movie came into its own - much to the surprise of Twentieth Century Fox. “Fox just couldn’t figure out how to market the thing,” recalls Reiner. “Was it a comedy? A love story? An action-adventure? A spoof?”
At its heart, The Princess Bride is a film about heart - a story read to a sick kid (Fred Savage) by his crotchety granddad (Peter Falk).
It begins with romance (“Is this a kissing book?” moans the kid) but spirals off into a story of swashbuckling, rodents of unusual size, a rhyming giant and a castle in need of storming.
Winking and nodding at the audience - in an inclusive rather than snarky fashion - it’s a movie that muses on the nature of fairytales: why do we tell them to kids? What are they for?
“It’s a celebration of storytelling,” argues Reiner in featurette As You Wish: The Story Of The Princess Bride. It’s familiar from earlier releases, but there’s a smattering of new stuff here: half-a-dozen fresh featurettes include a Reiner/Elwes/Wright chat and a piece on, um, fencing.
Whatever their vintage, the extras are good value. Reiner’s anecdote-laden commentary recounts his meeting with a mobster associate of John Gotti who quoted him the line “Prepare to die!” (he was joking, thankfully), while Goldman tells how the movie tested off the scale with audiences, even outdoing the scorecards for Back To The Future.
Why wasn’t it a bigger hit back in 1987? Well, as Goldman once wrote in his screen writing bible, Which Lie Did I Tell?, “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.”
A quarter of a century on, this evergreen yarn proves just how true that is.