It’s been 30 years since the cult phenomenon ‘The Princess Bride’ leaped off the page and onto the screen. We love ‘The Princess Bride’ here at MFR, as we love any successful adaptation from beloved book to instant cinematic classic. William Goldman’s 1973 fantasy novel plays a trick on readers, successfully convincing a whole generation that what he published was just the “good parts” version of a Medieval fairy tale. In fact, Goldman regularly received fan mail for a time requesting that he release the complete text and let the readers decide for themselves just what the “good parts” of the story were.
Truthfully, Goldman created this façade just as he created Buttercup, Westly, Fezzik, Inigo and the rest. But it didn’t stop readers from begging for more, and so the book was adapted for film in 1987. Since then, watching ‘The Princess Bride’ has turned into something of an event, with “quote alongs” and shadow casts mimicking the tradition of Rocky Horror screenings. And yet, a pure viewing on your ‘home theatre’ is just as (if not more, in this writer’s opinion) enjoyable. What made the adaptation so successful?
‘The Princess Bride’ is a love story, plain and simple. Well, maybe not so plain and simple upon repeat readings and viewings. There are multiple love stories at play, and Buttercup and Westly are just the most obvious of the bunch. But in the book, there is an implied love story between author and text, that Goldman would prepare something so archaic for current audiences and enhance its enjoyability for generations to come. In the film, that love translates to Grandfather and Grandson. Initially, Grandpa (Peter Falk) is willing to skip over the kissing bits to keep his Grandson’s attention and help him feel better when he’s sick. Of course, by the end, the Grandson (Fred Savage) doesn’t mind a little kissing and wants to hear the whole story again, immediately. Same, buddy.
Then there is the father-son love story between Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the father he dedicates his life to avenging. Another tale of love and devotion develops between Fezzik (Andre the Giant) and Inigo—a love based on platonic devotion no matter the odds.
And finally, what makes ‘The Princess Bride’ just as good on screen as it is on the page? Buttercup is kind of way more bad-ass in the movie than she is in the book! Robin Wright was awesome long before she trained a tiny Diana in ‘Wonder Woman,’ and this time she did it in floor-length gowns. Buttercup is in stereotypical damsel-in-distress danger throughout the film but hardly blinks at any one of her captors. She knows that the love between her and Westly transcends all logic, and she stands behind that even when a weirdly good-looking pirate threatens her life. She joins the fight against R.O.U.S.es and comes up with a plan to leave clues behind to better her chances of rescue. Not to mention, she JUMPS OUT OF A WINDOW before riding off into the sunset with her band of misfit heroes.
For all its fantasy elements, ‘The Princess Bride’ is more realistic than it seems at first blush. And more than that, it transcends time and setting to become a tale thick with “good parts” from beginning to end.