Inigo: Who are you?
Man in black: No one of consequence.
Inigo: I must know.
Man in black: Get used to disappointment.
Spinal Tap play dungeons and dragons. When Christopher Guest and Rob Reiner worked together on This Is Spinal Tap most of the dialogue was said to have been improvised. The Princess Bride although similarly farcical boasts a caring, touching and beautifully hip script by Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid author William Goldman. The Princess Bride still stands as an effective comedy, an interesting bedtime tale, and one of the greatest date rentals of all time.
The humor isn’t so much Austin Powers over the top or even Monty Python silly as much as it is street wise with a urbane modern consciousness. The character’s aren’t so much relics of the past as much as they are contemporary stowaways in a touching but goofy old fashioned fairy tale. In a weird way the defining role for this movie belongs to Andre the Giant, rather than the gorgeous fated lovers who effectively espouse eternal true love. The big guy is just to overwhelmingly friendly. To not to give in to his charming goodness seems almost impossible. This is easily the greatest film role for a giant of all time, although to tell the truth the only others I can think of off the top of my head are basketball players Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Airplane, and Gheorghe Muresan in My Giant, and the quality of those roles were pretty similar to both’s athletic careers.
The Princess Bride is the acting out of a fairy tale read to a sick boy (Fred Savage) by his Grandfather (Peter Falk). Essentially it tells the tale of two separated lovers kept apart first by circumstance and second by an evil Prince (Chris Sarandon) and his right hand torture expert ally Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), but despite its strong love story it is really an excuse to have fun with weird character roles and heroic situations.
I was pretty convinced at the time that Cary Elwes was in perfect position to become the next Errol Flynn. He’s almost as suave daring and impressive as Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones. His Westley out duels a fencing expert, takes down a giant, out wits a genius, and returns from being “mostly dead” all in the utmost dashing fashion, but essentially all it really got him was a bit of steady work and a chance to play Robin Hood in Mel Brook’s ninety-ninth rewrite of the legend of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Brooks’ parodies of old movie genre’s are way way over the top. Here everyone pretty much sticks to the reality of their roles, it’s just that they all have such cool dialogue flowing from their mouths that they can afford to wink at you a couple of times without throwing out something as silly as rapping fryers, coconut horses, or Busby Berkely chorus lines. The narrative is never sacrificed for the show stopping gag.
Mandy Pantinkin’s Inigo Montoya readily recognizes that he has wasted his entire life searching to avenge his father’s death. He admits hilariously that there seems to be little money in the revenge business, and his eventual disposal of Christopher Guest is perhaps the most heartfelt, touching and gratifying murder ever filmed. Chances are after watching it that you’ll be happier than a hippy the day Richard Nixon resigned. It’s almost enough to make me forget his horrible singing and forgive having to see him and a bunch of other Hasidic naked guys frolic in a wading pool in the Barbra Streisand epic that was Yentl. Almost, but not quite. Long live the dread pirate Roberts, whoever he is these days!