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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Princess Bride (1987)

"You fell victim to one of the most classic blunders, the most famous of which isnever get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less famous is this: Never goin against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"
- Vizzini (Wallace Shawn)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 31, 2000

Stars: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin
Other Stars: Andre The Giant, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn
Director: Rob Reiner

Manufacturer: Sunset Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:38m:00s
Release Date: July 18, 2000
UPC: 027616806420
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+AB- D+

DVD Review

I've always thought of The Princess Bride as one of those comedies that has a little something for everyone—moments of very obvious humor and some more subtle. The film is based on the novel by legendary screenwriter William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplay), a sort of farcical take on fairy tales about a damsel in distress rescued by the brave lover. The resulting film is an entertaining, lighthearted twist on the normal swashbuckler, arguably in the same vein as, say, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but not quite as eccentric.

Bride sets itself up as a story read to a young, bed-ridden child (Fred Savage) by his visiting grandfather (Peter Falk), and the audience is brought along for the story. The tale begins with Buttercup (Robin Wright), a young girl who falls in love with her stable boy, Westley (Cary Elwes). Tragedy strikes, however, when Westley is killed by pirates on the open sea and Buttercup, devastated, retreats into her own world.

Years later, the sleazy Prince Humperdinck chooses her as his wife-to-be. This plan becomes complicated when 3 mysterious villains (Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin) kidnap Buttercup with the intention of killing her, but even more so when she is kidnapped again by the "dread pirate" Roberts! Despite the enormous popularity of the film, I'm sure a there's a few people who haven't seen it, so suffice to say, Buttercup winds up in a world of trouble and only a heap of fairy tale clichés will save her.

One of the things that I've always liked about the film is its style of presentation. For example, the constant interruptions back into the real world where we see a relationship build between grandson and grandfather. There's also the simplicity with which the story is told, giving the film an almost exaggerated look. Princess Bride manages to be simultaneously cheesy and technically well-made at the same time. The characters are bold caricatures of stereotypical heroes and villains in fairy tale literature, but at the same time are given an added dimension of witty humor.

I've never really been a fan of Rob Reiner's films, but Princess Bride has a lot going for it, mainly in its personality and character. It quickly becomes obvious that care was taken in selecting the cast for this film to fill the vividly written roles, from Robin Wright's memorable entry into film as Princess Buttercup, to Wallace Shawn's manic, all too short-lived performance as "criminal mastermind" Vizzini. The better roles seem to be the more subtle ones, like Christopher Guest's Count Rugen (who one can almost see slowly becoming Nigel Tufnel from This is Spinal Tap) or Mandy Patinkin's fierce Spanish fighter, Innigo. I honestly would have preferred that the film kept its satirical tone all the way through, but I suppose some romance and adventure has to come in eventually. Also worth mentioning is how the film is "family friendly." Though some of the humor is aimed a little high, most of the movie is easily lighthearted enough to be appreciated by youngsters, despite the minor violence.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicnono


Image Transfer Review: Princess Bride is double sided, featuring the matted 1:85:1 version on one side and the full-screen version on the other. The 1:85:1 version was how the film was theatrically presented and preserves the intended visual composition. The "black bar" matting is removed in the full-screen version. Both versions have excellent color balance and clarity. Extremely sharp black level is also present. A few minor instances of compression artifacts pop up, but only in 2 or 3 scenes. Overall, it is an extremely good image that adds a significant amount of quality and detail to the VHS image we've all gotten used to over the years. While, technically, I recommend the widescreen version, the differences between the 2 presentations are minimal because of the fact that the movie was matted, rather than actually shot in 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The widescreen version looks a little less harsh, though, mainly because the fullscreen seems to expose too much top and bottom of sets.
The film does not feature any kind of 16:9 enhancement, and for some people this has turned them off the disc completely. So, if you own a 16:9 capable set, unfortunately this will be an issue for you. However, if you're willing to accept this flaw, the image is otherwise top-notch.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A new Dolby 5.1 mix graces this DVD release, and overall it's well done. The track is very front-loaded, with the surrounds only being sparingly used for occasional ambience. Some directionality and imaging has been added to the on-screen action, but not much. The LFE is hardly used at all, except for a few moments in the "Fire Swamp" sequence. The general crispness of the sound and dialogue have been largely improved over previous releases, and the film now sounds much more theatrical and loud. Arguably, this could have been done with a digitally remastered 2.0 Pro-Logic soundtrack, but to be blunt, I guess the "5.1" label goes farther.

The Spanish mono track is, as you may expect, extremely disappointing.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Here is where the disc's main controversy comes into play. The DVD was initially being prepared by Polygram who were assembling a special edition version with many supplements. Somehow (through reasons I don't fully understand), the rights to do this edition lapsed back to MGM who decided not to continue the work, but instead released this bare-bones edition. This has, as you might imagine, disappointed many people. As a result, the disc features only a trailer. The "collectable booklet" that's touted on the back cover is just a standard keepcase insert with some trivia about the making of the film. I'm not sure what a "collectable booklet" qualifies as, anyway. The animated menus are nice, but they are not themed to the movie very well and use this cheesy, medieval music that's not featured in the actual soundtrack.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Undoubtedly this disc will split fans of the movie. Some people will reject it completely for it's lack of features, while others might not really care. Either way I think it deserves a slightly better treatment eventually. I also think the dual-sided disc was pretty dumb. With no extras, both versions could have fit on a single sided, dual-layer disc. More over, since the widescreening is only matting, it probably could have been taken care of by a special subtitle track (like the model storyboard footage on The Abyss' second disc). Regardless, Princess Bride has earned its classic status. Even though it might not be roaringly funny or fantastically exciting to some people, it's still an admirable attempt at a purposefully flawed fairy tale. Recommended.

 


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