Fantasy, Romance

The Princess Bride (1987)

There are some films that you automatically grab from the DVD shelf when you’re sick, or when you are feeling sad and are in desperate need of something comforting to turn to. The Princess Bride is one such film for me. This film never fails to leave me with a smile on my face. In this film wrongs are made right, love conquers all and good triumphs over evil.

Rob Reiner directs this film which is based on the 1973 novel (which I’ve yet to read)by William Goldman. The film presents us with a fairytale filled with romance, action, adventure, courage, revenge, giants, pirates, fun and magic. It is also a very clever parody of the various genres contained within it. The film has you laughing at lines and scenes that are clearly sending up these sorts of stories. Children will love this for the story, adults will also love it for that, but can pick up the parody side of the film and find even more to laugh at.The film also brings to mind the swashbuckling films of the 30’s and 40’s.  This and Stand By Me are my favourite films from Rob Reiner.

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The film begins in the bedroom of a young boy (Fred Savage)who is sick in bed. His granddad (Peter Falk)comes over to read him a story. That story is The Princess Bride. The first few lines make the boy think this is a romance story, and he is far from interested in it. As the story continues he starts to enjoy it and he (and us too)are soon completely hooked by the story. We see the story he is being read unfold before us on screen.

The Princess Bride tells the story of the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright in her film debut). Buttercup has been chosen to marry the handsome, vain and cold Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but she does not love him. Years ago, Buttercup was in love with the gentle farmboy, Westley (Cary Elwes)who has long been believed to be dead after a ship he was on was attacked at sea.

When Westley returns to her (now in the guise of  a mysterious man dressed all in black)their love cannot be denied. When Buttercup is kidnapped by Vizzini( Wallace Shawn)an intelligent, criminal mastermind who is desperate to start a war with Prince Humperdinck, Westley sets out to rescue her. Vizzini is helped in his kidnap plot by gentle giant, Fezzik (Andre the Giant) and the athletic, and super skilled swordsman, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). Inigo is also searching for a six fingered man who murdered his father. Inigo has perfected his sword skills, not for fame or for glory, but so he can be good enough to fight and kill his fathers killer.

Cary plays Westley as a mix of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, athletic, suave, cool in the face of danger and certain death, throwing witty lines around all over the place. He  steals every scene he is in and gets you wanting to know more about his character. Westley is heroic, intelligent, perceptive and brave. All he does, he does for love.

Robin is enchanting as the young woman desperate to be with her true love. For a film debut, Robin gives an amazing performance. You would not guess this was her first time in a film. Her performance is all in her eyes, and she steals many a scene with just a look. Buttercup is a strong woman and is true to her only love throughout the film, wealth and status mean nothing to her, only her one true love means anything.

Mandy Patinkin gives my favourite performance in the film, as the man desperate to avenge his fathers murder. Mandy has your heart breaking for his character one moment, and then has us all cheering when he fights and stands up to injustice the next. I love the way he delivers that famous line throughout the film “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die!” He says it differently throughout, but each time he delivers it, the line packs an emotional punch and is truly one of the great lines in cinema history. Apparently Mandy pictured the six fingered man as the cancer that killed his own father, so when he says that line it’s like he is seeking revenge on that vile disease.

Chris Sarandon plays Humperdinck as a villain who you love to hate. He is vain and pompous, and yet he is also intelligent, a skilled fighter and tracker, and is not someone you want to cross. He steals every scene he is in. I love the way he says this line “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan. I’ve got my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.” Cracks me up every time.

Chrisopher Guest is perfectly cast as the Princes right hand man, Tyrone. A skilled torturer and swordsman, he takes immense pleasure in killing and inflicting pain. Christopher plays the character so well that you want to boo and hiss each time he makes an appearance on screen.

Andre The Giant is loveable as Fezzik. He makes him brave and strong, but has Fezzik has slow reactions so isn’t much use in a fist fight, but he tries hard! It is a credit to Andre that he doesn’t let you see how much pain he was in. He was suffering back pain and was in agony throughout the shoot, but you would never know it to watch him. Andre died in 1993.

Wallace Shawn is hysterical as the cunning man of great intellect whose wit and words are his greatest weapons. I love the way he says “inconceivable!” all the time. He’s always been one of the great character actors and this is one of his greatest performances.

Peter Falk is perfect as the granddad who you wish was your own. This man knows the power of a good story and he knows the boy will soon be drawn into this tale. Falk acts as the narrator and guide in the film and is a welcome presence throughout.

Small appearances by Mel Smith , Peter Cook and Billy Crystal add to the comedy in the film, with Crystal  coming up with much of his own dialogue.

Fred Savage does a good job as the young boy who starts to see that books are magical, and reading is just as good (if not better in many cases)than watching TV or playing video games. I love the bit where he’s disgusted by the fact that this could be a kissing book. 🙂

The film was made on location here in the UK. I think that was a good choice as the landscape brings to mind a fairytale/medieval land. I recently visited Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire which was used as the location for Humperdinck’s castle. That was quite an experience, and I urge you to visit not only because it was in the film, but as it is one of the few remaining medieval castles. This was also featured in Jane Eyre (2006)and The Priory School(an episode of the Return of Sherlock Holmes TV series.)

A beautiful score by Mark Knopfler adds greatly to the film. This is such a fun film and is one that can be enjoyed over and over again and never gets old.  Isn’t this true of all fairytales? I also really like how the film captures how you see a story in your head when reading a book.

My favourite scenes are the following. Inigo in the forest asking his father’s spirit to guide his sword. Westley and Buttercup’s conversation on top of the hill where he says “life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The sequence in the fire swamp. Westley and Inigo’s swordfight (both Cary and Mandy practiced for months and became very skilled with swords, and that really is them both for the whole of that exciting sequence.) Vizzini and Westley matching wits over the poisoned cups. Buttercup in the eel lake. Inigo finally getting to face the six fingered man.

I also think that if the events of this film had been a reality that the ending would have been considerably different. Towards the end of the film you get a sharp slap from reality as characters start dying or getting seriously injured. In reality I think Inigo and Westley would have died from what happened to them, Buttercup would have gone through with her threat and Humperdinck would no doubt have passed himself off as the big hero. I’d say the ending we get in the film is much better, even if it is only a crowd pleasing fantasy. Hey, aren’t dreams always thus?

Writing all of this has made me eager to watch this again. “As you wish”, my DVD player says to me. Alright then, I will. 🙂

What are your thoughts on this film?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Of Age, Page To Screen

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 6: Stand By Me (1986)

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This is one of the best films out there about friendship. It is also a fantastic coming of age story. The film shows us how precious and sometimes how fleeting friendship can be. People come in and out of our lives over the years, some find a permanent place in our hearts and lives, while some sadly become nothing more than a memory.

When I watch this I’m always reminded of my own childhood. During the primary school years, and into my early teens; I was part of a trio of friends who were so close that we were just like sisters. When the High School and College years approached we sadly drifted apart and hardly saw each other. As the years passed we saw even less of each other, until eventually we were no longer in each others lives. I will never forget either of them, nor will I forget the many happy times we spent together.

I love Geordie’s final line in the film about never having had friends like the ones he had when he was twelve , because that is just so true;  your childhood friendships will always be special due to the fun you had and the innocent period of your lives this took place in. Friends will come in and out of your life, but those childhood friends will always be in your heart.

Stand By Me is directed by Rob Reiner, and is based on the book The Body by Stephen King. It is set in the small town of Castle Rock, Oregon during the 1950’s. A young boy goes out to pick berries and fails to return home. A search fails to find him and he is presumed dead.

A group of friends – gentle and recently bereaved Geordie(Wil Wheaton), excitable and adventurous Teddy(Corey Feldman), wise and tough Chris(River Phoenix)and nervous and talkative Vern(Jerry O’Connell)- decide to go looking for him, thinking they might get an award(or at least some publicity)if they find him. Over a two day hike the boys are forced to quickly come of age and face up to the harsh realities of life. Their bond grows stronger and they have an adventure they will never forget.

I love this film so much because the characters and what they are going through are so relatable. We all had something happen to us when we were young that made us realise what life is really like, it sadly can’t all be fun and innocence for ever.

During the film each of these boys becomes stronger in some way and goes through a life changing event.  The performances from Wheaton, Phoenix, O’Connell and Feldman are extraordinary, given how young (and relatively inexperienced)they were as actors at the time. They are so natural and come across as a group who really could be friends. They look like they are having loads of fun in the scenes like the water spitting, walking the train tracks and their comic arguments and discussions.

Phoenix in particular is excellent as he plays the father figure in the group, and he is someone who has already grew up in many ways unlike the others. I love how protective he is of the others and how he has to act responsibly all the time. The scene where he breaks down and reveals his sadness is so moving and Phoenix makes your heart break for him.

Feldman makes Teddy’s anger totally believable. You really believe this is a troubled kid, he still loves his dad despite what he did to him. He is strong but of them all, he is probably the most vulnerable, although he’d never admit it.

O’Connell is the films comic relief, as the talkative and to the point Vern. I love how proud he is because he has brought a comb with him, so they can look good for the cameras. Vern is the one who says or does what most of us would do in some of these situations we see in the film.

Wheaton is the shy, sensitive and underappreciated kid who finds an inner strength he didn’t even know he had.  He undergoes the most change in the film, and Wheaton portrays it so well.

Kiefer Sutherland is menacing as Ace Merrill, the local bully and fearless/unbalanced leader of the gang called The Cobras.  Ace and his gang are also on their way to look for the boys body. Ace and his gang are the terrifying possible future that awaits Geordie and his friends; young men whose innocence is long gone, hardened due to life experiences and bad behaviour.

John Cusack is Geordie’s older brother, Denny. I love their relationship as it is one of the sweetest and most moving I’ve ever seen.  Denny is a football star and is popular in the neighborhood, he is the apple of his parents eye.

When the film opens, Denny has been dead for a few months. His death was unexpected and destroyed his parents. Geordie is grief stricken too, but doesn’t know how to deal with his grief, he hasn’t even cried for his brother yet. Denny’s death is made even sadder when we learn that he and Geordie were so close, and that Denny made their parents pay attention to Geordie instead of focusing on him all of the time. With Denny gone, Geordie is barely noticed at home and only has his friends to turn to for support and to talk to.

Richard Dreyfuss plays the elder Geordie, looking back on his bittersweet childhood memories. He also serves as the films narrator.

My favourite scenes are the following. The water spitting scene, especially the bit where Teddy spits his at Vern(it’s one of those moments that you can see coming and can’t help laughing at.) Chris saving Teddy from his suicidal train dodge. Geordie seeing the deer. Geordie’s story about the pie eating contest. Chris telling Geordie to take the college classes. The boys running from the train. All the flashback scenes between Geordie and Denny. Ace holding his nerve driving straight at an on coming truck. Vern debating with Teddy about whether a cartoon character could beat up Superman. Chris telling Geordie about the milk money.  The end where we learn what happened between the boys.

A moving and funny film about friendship, love, adventure and children coming of age. There is some gorgeous scenery in this and the on location work really adds to the authenticity of the story. There’s also a cracking soundtrack, featuring the title song by Ben E. King.

I always feel like I’ve walked the tracks with these boys and that I’ve experienced some sort of life changing event myself whilst watching. This is a great favourite and one of the best pieces of work from both Reiner and King.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.