The Princess Bride: Adventure, Sword Fights, True Love, and Fred Savage

The next film on our list has adventure, sword fights, true love, and Fred Savage.  I'm talking, of course, about The Princess Bride, the 1986 classic starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright.  It scores a position at #694 on the TSPDT list.

The Princess Bride is the story of a devoted grandfather reading a story to his sick, grumpy grandson, who interjects with his approval/disapproval throughout the movie.

But it's really about Westley and Buttercup, a pair of lovers who are separated for five years.  Westley runs off to become a sailor so that he can provide for Buttercup, but his ship is quickly ransacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never takes prisoners.  Presumed dead, Buttercup declares that she will never love again.

Flash forward to five years later, when she's engaged to Prince Humperdinck. (Seriously, these names, people.)  Settle down, she doesn't actually love him, she's marrying him because he gets to pick whoever he wants as a bride.  Unfortunately, he doesn't so much want a bride as he does a convenient catalyst for war between his country of Florin and their neighbor Guilder (presumably the noble land of Dollar will remain neutral).  He plots to have his fiancĂ©e killed, and have Guilder framed for it.

That's where Vizzini (the short, shouty "mastermind"), Fezzik (the giant), and Inigo (the Spanish swordsman) come in.  They kidnap Buttercup and take her across the sea, only to realize that they're being followed by a mysterious ship.  The group lands at the Cliffs of Insanity (hyperbolic much?  They're just pretty high cliffs) and Fezzik climbs up the rope with the other three on his back.  Bitches better recognize.

Unfortunately, the mysterious Man in Black follows them up the rope.  Le gasp.  So Vizzini leaves Inigo at the time and instructs him to kill the Man in Black.  But not this guy:

This guy:

Just so we're clear.

Inigo is sporting enough to give the Man in Black a second to catch his breath before the duel, also taking the time to tell him about his unhealthy obsession noble quest to kill the man who killed his father.  Then they have a nice, long, Errol Flynn-esque sword fight.  Inigo loses, but the Man in Black doesn't kill him, just gives him a concussion. Swell.  The Man in Black then moves onto Fezzik (played by Andre the Giant), and of course he's able to take him down in hand to hand combat.  I'm beginning to think he might be related to Mighty Mouse.

At last he finds Vizzini with a blindfolded Buttercup, and challenges him to a battle of wits.  It's the classic "I put poison in one glass and you have to figure out which one it is" trick...with a twist: he actually poisoned both glasses, and is immune to a poison.  Whoever this guy is, it's clear he is skilled in the art of badassery.

So Vizzini's dead, and he takes Buttercup.  He's kind of rescuing her, but he's also got a bit of an attitude and isn't particularly nice.  It's hard to blame him though, because it turns out he's Westley and he comes back to find Buttercup marrying another man.  It's quickly resolved, however, because Buttercup doesn't love Humperdinck, and after pushing Westley over a hill, she realizes who he is.  Smooth.

They head into the Fire Swamp to escape Humperdinck and his men, but eventually they have to come out.  Buttercup agrees to go back with Humperdinck if they'll let Westley live.  He promises, but it turns out that men who plot to kill their brides don't have the same sort of honor code as most people.  Westley is taken to be tortured by the Count (who coincidentally is the guy who Inigo is looking for).  And after Buttercup rejects Humperdinck, he goes a bit off his gourd and kills Westley.  For reals.

So Fezzik and Inigo track down Miracle Max, the (incredibly Jewish) miracle worker who was fired by the king.  They bring Westley back to live, but the full effects of the miracle take a while, so he's pretty much paralyzed.  Nonetheless, they need him to come up with a plan to storm the castle.  Luckily, Westley's pretty much a genius (and was seriously underutilized as a farmboy).

They break into the castle.  Westley finds the recently married Buttercup about to kill herself, Inigo is stabbed by the Count, and Fezzik goes off to find some horses for their escape.  Yikes.  Luckily, Westley exploits Humperdinck's cowardice to capture him, and apparently stab wounds are no match for determination and a little can-do attitude, because Inigo kills the Count.  The merry band escape from the castle and, presumably, live happily ever after.  The End.

Random Musings:

  • Oh Fred Savage...I will never stop getting the chuckles when I see the oh-so-very 80s baseball video game you're playing.  Little did you know that your children would play baseball by swinging erratically at thin air while clutching a small white controller.

  • Buttercup?  Really, Buttercup's mom and dad?  Out of all the possible flora related names, you went with Buttercup?  How do you expect anyone to take her seriously?

  • know how Edward Cullen/Jacob Whatshisface pretty much ruined real men for a generation of impressionable girls?  Like, no matter how great a guy is, he's never going to measure up?  Pretty sure Westley did that for me.  Seriously...a guy is completely devoted to you, loves you even when you're a complete bitch, goes away and takes several levels in badass, and is still completely devoted to you?!  Real men didn't stand a chance.

  • I kind of don't even want to mention my favorite quotes, because they're all very well-known.  Quoting this movie is a bit like quoting Monty Python -- everyone knows the quotes, and it becomes a little irritating to hear these jabronies spouting off, "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."  It's like, good for you, you've seen a really popular movie, do you want a cookie or something?

  • So Inigo has been studying the sword since he was a kid, and the farm boy he's been practicing for like five years can beat him?  How do you look at yourself in the mirror, Montoya?

  • Funny anecdote: I'm left-handed, and left-handed people tend to notice when other people are left-handed, because it's kind of uncommon.  So the first time I watched this movie, I was like, OMG Inigo and the Man in Black are both left-handed!  What are the odds?  Then I was really disappointed.  That said, great swordfight.

  • I love the ridiculous falling down the hill scene.  So she pushes him down a hill, realizes he's Westley, and then she...falls after him?  That doesn't seen smart.  But bonus points for all the exaggerated "oof" noises as they fall.

  • OMG the Rodents of Unusual Size!  You're so camp but still I love you!  Buttercup, on the other hand, I do not love in this scene.  She's got a huge stick, and while Westley's on the ground literally wrestling with a giant rat, she pokes at it and then falls over.  Pretty weak, Princess.

  • "Jesus Grandpa, what did you read me this thing for?!" Oh Fred Savage.  Never change.  How cute is it that the little boy is getting all emotionally invested in the characters?

  • Miracle Max!  In a film full of fantastic characters, he is my favorite.  "Ooh hoo hoo, look who knows so much, eh?"  OK, I know I said I hate quoters, but I say that all the time.  In my mind it's OK because it's not immediately identifiable.  Seriously, how awesome is Billy Crystal here?  I want to marry him and be his witch/wife.  Screw Carol Kane.

  • When I was a kid I always got genuinely upset when Westley was tortured and killed.  It didn't matter that he was brought back to life like 20 minutes later.  I was convinced there would be negative health repercussions for Westley, and that just didn't seem fair.

  • "Mawwiage is what bwings us togewwer today."  This guy is a stroke of genius.  Especially contrasted with Fezzik's Dread Pirate Roberts bit, completely with horrifyingly scary burning Holocaust cloak.

  • Another highlight: the senile king.  Buttercup tells him that she's going to kill herself, and he's just happy he got a little play.

  • Love the fight between Inigo and the Count.  Cheesy and I'm pretty sure Inigo definitely would have bled out, but hey, it's iconic for a reason.

  • Am I the only one who has serious doubts that Buttercup was actually capable of stabbing herself?  She couldn't even fight off an ROUS.

  • Only Westley can pull off intimidating while lying paralyzed in a bed.  The "to the pains" speech is brilliant, as is his crowning moment of badass when he stands up slowly and says, "Drop. your. sword."

  • Love Fezzik.  The ultimate in gentle giants.  He makes Hagrid look like a douche.

So that is The Princess Bride.  There's something about this movie that just seems to appeal to several generations of viewers, and I think that will continue in the future.  It's often called the classic adult fairy tale, but most people forget how hilarious this movie is.  It's got this great, quirky sense of humor that doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes the cheesy moments acceptable, because it knows that it's being cheesy.  I love the framing device of the grandfather reading the fairy tale to his sick grandson, and all of the perfect little interjections he puts into the story.  There are so many rich, wonderful, memorable characters that are rare to find in any movie, let alone all in one film.  I mean, characters like Westley, Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max...they transcend this film and really have a place in popular culture.  Which is pretty impressive for a film that didn't really become all that popular until it was released on VHS.  I love this movie, always have, always will, and I can't wait to have kids so I can introduce them to it.

Thanks for reading, and come back soon for The Birth of a Nation.

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Luke said...


m.brown said...

I'm pretty sure 'He makes Hagrid look like a douche' is one of the best lines ever. I will make sure to steal that in conversation. Oh, I'm sure it won't work when I use it, but whatever. Classic.

From a fellow LAMBer, great stuff!

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