Wednesday, 19 May 2010

When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book.

No 122 – The Princess Bride

Director – Rob Reiner

Some films just age. This is not always detrimental to the story, but it means that the film, as a whole, is stuck in a certain period. From the opening sequence and the plinky plonky 8bit graphics, this film is very much of the 80s.

It doesn’t matter that much because it isn’t trying to be futuristic or show technology of any kind. It is a fairy tale, and can give off a timeless feel. And it does. It is a wonderful film to watch. It just all looks pretty budget.

It is obvious that a lot of the ‘outdoor’ shots are actually in a studio, they look artificial and are littered with the most obviously polystyrene rocks I have ever seen. It isn’t helped that whenever they do have an outdoor shot (especially if it is a wide angled shot) the film stock (on my DVD at least) goes all grainy.

It feels a bit like a 70’s sitcom, when you could easily tell which sections were filmed with which camera because the image quality would completely change.

When you factor in mythical beasts which are obviously people in (fairly unconvincing) suits, you have a film that is – visually at least – very naff.

And yet, none of that matters in the least. Because The Princess Bride is fun, ridiculous, escapist magic.

Maybe it is the strange way that 80’s cynicism and smart aleccary is blended into the fairytale myth that makes it more accessible. After all, you need a fantasy to have a sense of humour otherwise it all gets a little bit po-faced.

The Princess Bride has a fabulous sense of humour throughout. Whilst subtle (it is never knowingly overplayed) the setpieces provide wonderful laughs and thoroughly bonkers moments.

Let me list some of the things that I really like in this film.

The Rodents of Unusual Size – Yes, I know I’ve mentioned how intensely fake they look. But they’re REAL! They’ve been actually genuinely discovered. Surely that is quite exciting.

The Casting – there are so many excellent bit parts and cameos in this film. From the larger roles of the kidnappers through to the small roles that litter the film.

Columbo is in the film. Freaking COLUMBO! Narrating the tale... Amazing. ?But what of the characters within the story.

Firstly Andre the Giant… bless him, he just isn't an actor but he is hilarious in his stilted Arnie voice and the way that he picks up ‘boulders’ – there is no doubt that they are made of foam. He picks them up with such ease.

He is joined by Wallace Shawn in his kidnapping plot who slimes around with such a smug smarmy attitude you just want to bop him on the nose. Great work from the man who will forever be Rex in my eyes. Or Mr Hall.

We then get random pop ups from Peter Cooke in fine mutton chops and a stupid stupid Goons-esque voice. We have Mel Smith (how random) in preposterous white make up and we have a surprisingly unrecognisable (physically at least) Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. It is an odd juxtaposition to have such a fairytale setting with a fast talking neurotic New Yoik Jew.

Though, let me take this moment to ask an important question. Whilst we talk about casting, what happened to Cary Elwes? Actually, IMDB just told me he was in Saw… which I watched ages ago – I may have to watch it again to see if I can recognise him.

But really, Cary Elwes is much maligned. Firstly, he is beautiful (actually after checking in Saw.... he was beautiful). Genuinely a very pretty man and far prettier than Robin Wright is (I’m sorry to say) in that protagonist couple – and he is very witty. His accent may be preposterously British (in both this and Robin Hood Men in Tights – the only other film I can remember him being in) but his wit is dry, witty and sardonic. Just what you want from a romantic lead.

He also has one of the most wonderful sword fights with Inigo Montoya. Fighting due to nothing more than protocol, they admire each others handiwork and compliment each other on the styles used.

There is also some wonderful banter. But it is all hidden behind layers of civility. This is where the film’s humour really comes in. It offers us a fairytale staple (the duel to the death) and it manages to add just enough strangeness to turn it into a comedy.

The point where both duellers (duelling with their left hands) reveal themselves to be right handed is genuine class.

Which brings me to the greatest character in this film. The one character who pulls the film up from being an enjoyable piece of Sunday afternoon fluff, to the 122nd best film of all time.

Inigo Montoya – played by Mandy Patinkin, who has also recently been in nothing of note. Though the excellent Noel Clarke has cast him in his newest film 4 3 2 1. So here is hoping he gets a bit of a comeback.

Inigo is amazing. A drunk, who is hell bent on vengeance. He is a master dueller and the owner of the thickest Spanish Accent since Robert Rodriguez. He is on the search for the man who killed his father. A six fingered man. Christopher Guest in fact.

Once he gets attacked by Guest he picks himself up from the ground and staggers towards him. Repeating a mantra which makes him stronger with each step. Not only is it a powerful mantra for getting you walking, it is also one of the most iconic, beautiful and chilling lines and Patinkin’s delivery is fabulous.

You may uncover jokes and set pieces and joyous moments every time you watch The Princess Bride. But you will remember it for one reason:

Hello. My name is Inigo Montaya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

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