Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Princess Bride: A Modern Classic


 This summer, it seems my writing theme for this blog has been romantic movies, Summer Love movies.  I've talked about the appeal of Grease and Dirty Dancing. So, in keeping with that theme, I wanted to share an all time classic romance movie with you that has become a family favorite. I talk about Timeless Lovers on this blog: Westley and Buttercup fit that mold.


When I think of good love stories that have heart, humor, suspense and adventure, all wrapped up in a good costume drama with fantasy elements, one of my all time favorite romance movies is The Princess Bride.  

Made in the 1980's, it's directed by Rob Reiner, and has that certain quirky appeal of a Mel Brooks Movie. If you consider our unlikely hero in our medieval fantasy storyline, Westley, a poor young man who works as a farm hand for a woman named . . . . BUTTERCUP! 

Well, if you aren't smiling already at the silly name of our 'princess', it's your own fault.  Imagine being forced to go through your life being called Buttercup, it's almost as bad as a boy named Sue.  So, laughing aside, Buttercup has come to realize that poor stable hand Westley is in love with her. She realizes this because whenever she asks him to do something, no matter how stupid or trivial, he does it, and not only does he do it quickly and with a smile on his face, but he also says a certain phrase to her every time he does what she asks. If you don't know that magical phrase that makes Buttercup swoon, here it is:  

"As You Wish."

It seems simple, and if you are shaking your head at this simple phrase that actually makes her heart melt, there's a reason. We're told that Buttercup realizes every time he says those three words, he's actually saying three very different words to her:  "I Love You." 


It's something that every woman would swoon to hear, and that is part of the appeal in romantic writer's circles. Westley is the consummate hero in this story. He loves her, he'll do anything for her, including chasing after the bad guys who abduct her. He'll face Monsters (R.E.O.S.) and torture, come back from the dead if need be, to save his darling Buttercup. He's faithful, determined, and willing to please her. 

"As You Wish!"  


Okay, so these kids are off to a roaring start, they both love each other, story over, right? Not so fast. Because this is set in a medieval backdrop, the problem arises in that Westley has no money, and therefore cannot support Buttercup as his wife. He decides to go off on a grand adventure at sea, to become a sailor to make enough money to support his lady love and the family they will have. So, we have a weepy short scene where he leaves.  Then tragedy strikes, as she receives word that his ship was taken at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and all of the crew were killed. Buttercup is heartbroken. She sinks into depression. She mourns Westley for five long years. 

Then, to her surprise, she's betrothed to a prince, Prince Humperdink. (Yes, the names are deliberate, quirky humor at work here, so smile).  The Prince has chosen to take a bride of common blood to connect with the common people. Buttercup just happens to be the loveliest of the land. She agrees to marry him, but still mourns Westley and feels she can never love again. 

In the mean time, this prince has an agenda behind the wedding. He intends to have his bride kidnapped, killed and then blame the neighboring country for the crime so he can start a war. He hires mob boss called Vinzini. Vinzini is a short guy (played by Shawn Wallace) with a lisp. This short guy who talks funny believes himself a genius, so he's always telling people how he's figured out their moves before they make them . . . going into long descriptions of how 'you thought this and that and then you'll do this and . . ." Always ending his monologue with INCONCEIVABLE! 

Fezzick, Inigo & Vinzzeni



The other players in this delightful romantic comedy are Inigo Montoya, a sword fighter from Spain who is searching for the six fingered man who killed his father. He's hired by Vinzini to kidnap the princess bride. He goes about drawing his sword on everyone, asking to see their hand. He's prepared a speech for when he meets that six fingered man. "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!"  

Inigo's sidekick is a giant, from Greenland, named Fezzik. (played by Andre the Giant). Together, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya kidnap the princess, and take her away in a boat at Vinzinni's orders.  These two side kicks are loveable villians. They don't want to hurt the girl. They are just down on their luck and need a paycheck. They resist when Vinzinni orders them to kill her. Meanwhile, they are pursued by two different would be rescuers. Prince Humperdink is following them. He is trying to pretend outrage over the kidnapping but he has secretly arranged this entire episode.  

The other pursuer  is a mysterious man in black. 


 The man in black keeps following them, through the worst of the landscape. He follows them through the sea of shrieking eels and up the cliffs of insanity. He never gives up. The man in black, with a mask to hide his features, takes down first Inigo and then Fezzick. He doesn't kill them, he merely knocks them out. He wins a sword fight against the celebrated swordsman Inigo Montoya, and wins in hand to hand combat against the giant, both being almost impossible victories. Next, he must conquer the mastermind behind this plot, Vinzini. This is a battle of wits, and of course our mysterious man in black vanquishes the bad guy and saves the lady. He seems the hero of the day, winning against all odds as he pursues the abucted princess. 


But wait, there's more. Buttercup, learning he is the man who killed her love, is angry. She shoves her would be rescuer down a ravine in her anger, saying "You killed my only love, you can die for all I care!" As he falls, he says, "As You Wish.. . .". Buttercup realizes it's Westley come back from the dead to rescue her. Turns out The Dread Pirate Roberts didn't kill Westley after all, but instead the DPR retired, and gave Westley his ship, his men and his title of Dread Pirate Roberts. Turns out our fair haired farm boy Westley has become a Pirate!  Okay, if it werent' romantic enough with the separated lovers, the kidnapping, the forced marriage to the bad guy and the hero coming back seemingly from the dead to rescue his darling, the pirate hero with a mask is a done deal, at least for me! I'm a sucker for a man in a mask. 

 The reunited lovers are being pursued by the Prince's men. They hide in the fire swamps, which have Rats Of Enormous Size rumored to live there. Everyone in the movie refers to them as the R.O. E. S.. In one line, Buttercup mentions to Westley the dangers of hiding in the fire swamps. "Oh, you mean the R.O.E.S.?" Westley asks in a wry voice. "I dont' believe they exist." He says this as he's eyeing one up that is slinking behind her, but of course he's so gallant he does not wish to frighten his lady love with the news that the fearful creatures exist.  Later, one attacks, and he saves her, but is bitten himself in the scuffle.

Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, and his wife. They wave and say "Have fun storming the Castle, Boys!"

The storyline is like a fractured fairytale. The dialogue is to die for. So many great one liners come from this movie. After they leave the fire swamp, the lovers are captured. The princess is taken back to the castle to marry Humperdink, and Westley is taken to the dungeon, tortured and killed. Humperdink decides to have his bride strangled on her wedding night instead, and blame the neighboring country for the crime, to get his war going. The good/bad guys, Kind hearted Inigo Montoya and Fezzick, want to help the princess. Fezzick  finds Westley's body in the dungeon. He calls on Montoya to help him with Westley. In order to stop the wedding and save the princess bride, the pair need a master planner, they need Westley's master mind to plan the rescue. But, he's dead. They need a miracle, so they go to a wizard named Miracle Max. Miracle Max is played by Billy Crystal. You'll love him in this. After examining the body, Max proclaims that Westley is not truly dead, only mostly dead, and there is a big difference.  Max shoves a pill down his throat. It takes several hours to undo the dead part, so Westley slowly comes around, but is paralyzed. He can talk, he can plan but he can't move to carry out his plan. So, Fezzick carries him on his back.

Storming the castle, Fezzick drags paralyzed Westley Behind him

The three unlikely heroes plan to storm the castle together, Fezzick, Montoya and Westley. Of course, the six fingered man is there, and Inigo faces him at last. The prince seems to have won, as Buttercup is married to him. She arrives in her chamber, and well . . . guess who is lying in her bed, unable ot move? Westley! He's come to rescue her from the Evil Prince. It's a classic, you'll love the clever, sarcastic dialogue, and the romance, and the sword-fighting, the scheming, and the kissing.   

The story is bracketed by another storyline, a sick little boy is visited by his grandfather. The grandfather is reading him the story of The Princess Bride. The kid is upset when grandpa reads about Westley and Buttercup kissing. He tells grandpa he doesn't like this story, he doesn't want to read a kissing book. Grandpa reads further. The kid says. "Okay, being captured by pirates is good!" When he learns Westley's demise and the events that follow.  By the end of the story, the kid is hooked. He cares about Buttercup, Westley, Inigo and Fezzick. He wants Westley to prevail against the evil prince and get the girl!

 Isn't that what romance is all about, getting togther. Yes, the kissing scenes, but it's overcoming adversity and conflict so that two people can be together. This story, like every love story, has it's moments of misunderstanding, of quarrels, anger, and yet, in the end, the boy gets the girl. They kiss, they run away together, they have a happily ever after. To Buttercup & Westley (AKA The Dread Pirate Roberts!) our timeless lovers this week. 


The story is told with such brilliance, such quirky, loveable characters, that you can't help but love them all by the end of the movie. Inigo gets revenge, Westley gets Buttercup, Fezzik obtains friends in Inigo and Westley, and Prince Humperdink is punished by Westley for his crimes. Its a fairy tale, a classic tale retold for modern audiences. William Goldman is the author of this story, not Rob Reiner. Rob Reiner seems to get the most credit for the storyline, but it was a book that was made into a movie, a movie that endures thiry years later as a romantic classic.  So, as summer wanes, and you are looking for something different to watch, check out The Princess Bride. If you've seen it before, you'll love it. If not, you'll be hooked on an instant classic. 

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