I was 10 the first time I saw The Princess Bride. It was Christmas and I had received it from my godfather as a gift. My whole family gathered around my grandma’s old TV in her small living room. I reserved judgment about my prospect of actually enjoying the movie – “The Princess Bride?” It would definitely place in a “Girliest Title Imaginable” contest. But as the movie went on, I realized this was a textbook case of not judging a book by its cover (or its title). This movie had it all.
Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True Love. Miracles.
All this and more.
For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of viewing The Princess Bride (which is utterly, totally, and in all ways “inconceivable!”), it plays out as a story within a story. A grandfather (Peter Falk) reads a story to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) called The Princess Bride. The book centers around former farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright), two people who are desperately in love, but separated by circumstance. In this case, circumstance entails that Buttercup believes Westley dead—murdered by the Dread Pirate Roberts, a ruthless cutthroat who leaves no survivors. After Westley’s presumed death, the cowardly Prince Humperdinck seeks Buttercup’s hand in marriage and intends to make her his queen.
Not long after their engagement, Buttercup is kidnapped by three men trying to start a war with her country. Two of the kidnappers, Fezzik (Andre the Giant) and Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) aren’t really that bad…they’re just looking for a paycheck while Inigo, a Spanish fencing master, searches for the six-fingered man who killed his father 20 years previously. There is humor, drama, and a whole lot of self-awareness via comments by The Grandfather and The Grandson as the plot of the “book” is unfolds.
The Fargo Theater on Broadway showed this movie as part of its summer Kid Flicks program (a $3 movie ticket at 10:00 and 1:00 Wednesdays and $2 concessions). I’d never seen The Princess Bride on the big screen before and decided catch one of the showings.
There was a fencing demonstration and informal Q & A by the Fargo-Moorhead Fencing Club before the show started, tying into the sword-fighting scenes from the movie. For me, the best part was that the theater was full of people (mostly kids) who hadn’t seen the movie before. I’ve viewed The Princess Bride more times than I can count, but seeing it with a theater full of people who could be genuinely surprised by the jump-scares and laugh at the jokes for the first time allowed me to view The Princess Bride in a way I hadn’t since that Christmas with my family huddled around my grandma’s television.
While I sadly can never rewatch The Princess Bride with complete ignorance of the plot, I can still enjoy viewing it through the eyes of a child, much like The Grandfather as he read the story to his grandson for the first time.
What are your thoughts on this movie? When was the first time you remember watching it and what do you recall about the experience?