The Princess Bride on Blu-ray disc
William Goldman's novel makes a terrific movie – and a wonderful Blu-ray disc as well.
Goldman adapted his book for Rob Reiner's film, a classic family fantasy that combines classic fantasy themes with humor, great dialog, and wonderful performances.
Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), growing up, develops and fondness – and later a love – for Westley (Cary Elwes), a handsome, hardworking and dedicated stable boy who, alas, is spirited away by pirates and presumed dead.
Life, having to go on, brings Buttercup to the attention of prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), the bad guy of the piece. He wants her at all costs and, when she in turn is kidnapped by a small gang of thugs trying to start a war (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Pantinkin and Andre the Giant), heads after her with his minions – and head minion Count Rugen (Christopher Guest).
Hilarity, romance and adventure ensue in this fairy tale for the modern generation.
This is a delightful movie, one the whole family can enjoy because it's kid-friendly, but not dumbed down so adults will race for the fast forward (or eject) button.
Goldman's script uses the hook of a sick little boy (Fred Savage) whose grandfather (Peter Falk) drops by to cheer him up by reading him a book – which happens to be The Princess Bride. The kid's all set to squirm out of it, not wanting something about kissy-love stuff, but grandfather prevails – and wouldn't you know, the kid starts getting into the story.
We return to this set periodically, but most of the movie follows the action of the story, from the Cliffs of Insanity through the Fire Swamp (and its Rodents of Unusual Size) and the Pit of Despair to a finale that's pretty much as you'd expect and as you'd want.
This was only Rob Reiner's third film as a director and one could argue it's still his best. And while the actors never quite wink out at the audience, they do tread a fine line – and it works, beautifully. This is a marvelous film in every way, including its the production design, musical score, you name it.
As you might wish, the Blu-ray does it justice, truly. Presented in 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), the picture quality is very nice, indeed. The colors are deep and rich and the blacks are excellent (check out Westley's pirate costume to see), with a nice feel of depth overall. Detail is excellent – watch the costumes to see the work that went into them.
Likewise the audio, which is presented in dts HD 5.1 Master Audio, uses all five channels well. There isn't a lot of deep bass via the low frequency effects channel, but the rest is great, with good channel separation and dynamic sound.
Extras abound, too, including a second disc on which the movie is presented on standard definition DVD – a nice way to get the film and prevent future obsolescence by having the Blu-ray version waiting for you when you upgrade.
But back to the BD, which is why we're here. There are two audio commentary tracks, and both are worth hearing. First up is director Reiner, and the second is Goldman. We preferred the second but, as mentioned they're both worth while.
There's also a pretty good selection of features, the best of which is "As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride," a pretty good documentary on the film featuring nearly everyone you'd want to hear from. There's also a look at the makeup, a bit of a silly feature on the Dread Pirate Roberts featuring some real life academics – or so we're led to believe. Other featurettes include "Love is Like a Story Book", "The Untold Tales" (which is basically some inside anecdotes from the cast/crew).
Cary Elwes also contributes a video diary and there's a feature on the art of fencing, which we were surprised to learn has nothing to do with getting rid of stolen goods.
The DVD doesn't have a many extras, but we really didn't care. In fact, we enjoyed many of the extras on the Blu-ray, even though some weren't in HD widescreen and therefore the picture was stretched, but as usual it's the movie and its presentation that we really care about. Fortunately, The Princess Bride makes the grade, easily.
The Princess Bride, from MGM Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.