Twitter Plot Summary: A classic fantasy tale read by Columbo and starring that chap who was Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood.
Five Point Summary:
1. Cary Elwes as a pre-Mel Brooks Robin Hood!
2. His name is Inigo Montoya, if you didn’t know.
3. That machine goes up to 50, not 11.
4. Is that Billy Crystal…?
5. Sorry Andre the Giant, I’m not sure what you’re saying…
It’s the sheer quotability of the script that strikes you first. Not content with being a po-faced fantasy adventure, The Princess Bride has fun with the concept whilst at the same time being entirely faithful to the genre. There’s an evil prince, a heroic masked figure, a distinctly European swordsman, and a giant. Literally – Andre the Giant in this case. It’s sadly clear very early on that despite being a professional wrestler Andre didn’t have much in the way of acting ability, and he mangles half of his dialogue thanks to his thick French accent. Still, he adds colour to proceedings, even if he technically isn’t that much of a giant.
On the villainous side is Chris Sarandon as the evil prince, intent on marrying the princess and thwarting the good intentions of Westley/The Man In Black, played with dashing derring do-ness by Cary Elwes, later to take on a similar role as Robin Hood in the Mel Brooks spoof Men In Tights. There’s also Christopher Guest as a sinister, goatee-beardy type who is a world away from his role as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel. Robin Wright also puts in a spirited performance as the titular princess bride in her first feature film appearance. You’d hardly tell based on her work here. Yes she’s the classic damsel in distress archetype, but she’s not entirely helpless and that’s what sets her apart.
Whereas Hawk the Slayer was horribly cheap in both performance and production, The Princess Bride doesn’t suffer from that particular ignominy because it doesn’t use excessive amounts of dry ice and doesn’t have Jack Palance (or, indeed, anybody else) overacting to the nth degree. Instead it’s a good old fashioned fairy tale – no complicated storyline, just a simple quest to rescue the princess and seek revenge on the man who killed Inigo Montoya’s father. That leads back to my comment about the quotability of the script – this is just one amongst many – “As you wish!” and “Inconceivable!” being the two other principle quotations – but there are many littered throughout that are squabbling for your time and attention.
Wrapping all this up is that it’s a story being told by Columbo himself, Peter Falk, to his grandson who is ill in bed. This provides some context for the slightly out there world in which the story takes place, without having to justify why certain things are as they are – it’s a fairy tale being told by a grandfather to his grandson, what more do you want? It also creates opportunity for some comic asides from both the grandson and the grandfather as they work through the story.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t also mention Rob Reiner as director – everything has his gently comedic touch to it and is another strong entry in his catalogue. Witty and not averse to having fun with the fantasy genre, The Princess Bride is a delight for audiences old and young alike. Don’t let the fantasy aspect put you off, it’s a blast from start to finish and, most importantly, doesn’t talk down to its audience.