This week’s memorable movie scene comes from the cult classic comedy-adventure The Princess Bride.
The 1987 film, directed by Rob Reiner (who also made the likes of This Is Spinal Tap, Misery, Stand By Me and When Harry Met Sally), was scripted by William Goldman (writer of the scripts for classic movies such as All The President’s Men, Misery, Marathon Man, The Stepford Wives and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid), based on his 1973 novel of the same name.
Good as the film is (and it is very, very good) the novel is even better, and well worth a read.
The central conceit of the book is that Goldman claims to be presenting an abridged version of an older work called The Princess Bride, “A Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure” by a author called S. Morgenstern from the fictional European country of Florin. Morgenstern’s work is described by Goldman as a satire of the excesses of renaissance-era European royalty and, in his introduction, he bemoans the level of boring detail in the original about Florinese history, politics and social etiquette.
Goldman, therefore, presents what he describes as the “good-parts version” of the novel, frequently interrupting the abridged narrative with asides about the sections he has omitted. He also inserts (fictionalised) autobiographical comments about his own life, in which he reveals that his Florinese father used to read him the story as a child, leaving out the dull bits, which is what prompted him to write his own abridged version.
The movie retains a similar framing device, with a present-day grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story to his bored grandson (former The Wonder Years star Fred Savage), who is stuck in his sickbed. Initially sceptical about the romantic nature of the story, the boy is gradually won over both by the story and his grandfather, who he had previously found embarrassing and a bit annoying.
The story itself is about a farmhand called Westley (Cary Elwes) who falls in love with beautiful but spoiled farm-owner’s daughter, Buttercup (Robin Wright).
Believing Westley dead when she hears his ship was attacked by pirates after he leaves to seek his fortune so that he may marry her, Buttercup becomes betrothed to a Prince and is then kidnapped by his enemies, apparently as part of a conflict with the neighbouring country of Guilder.
That’s where the scene below fits in the story, as the mysterious, masked Dread Pirate Roberts pursues the three kidnappers to take Buttercup from them for his own, unknown ends. Having defeated two of them – a giant called Fezzik (Andre The Giant) and master swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) – he catches up with the third, a Sicilian called Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), an arrogant, evil, self-styled criminal mastermind who is waiting for him.
In the confrontation that follows, one of them falls victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which, we learn, is never get involved in a land war in Asia (the book, remember, was written in 1973)…
The Princess Bride is a great film (the star-studded cast also includes the likes of Peter Cook, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane and Mel Smith) from an even greater book. I highly recommend them both. Enjoy!