The Princess Bride


Director Rob Reiner’s genre-defying The Princess Bride, from the book and screenplay by William Goldman, is weird but somehow it works. A modest hit in theaters in 1987, this romantic, swashbuckling fairy tale struck a unique comedic tone (what a ball they must have had making this movie) with its quirky characters and absurd situations and has since grown to become a family favorite for generations.

When an under-the-weather preteen is visited by his granddad, armed with a prized book, an ordinary day becomes something very special as the narrative comes alive thanks to the old man’s indulgent oration. In less capable hands, this tale of treachery and true love, of foppish princes and sword fighting pirates, could have been unbearable schmaltz, but our enduring fondness for Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik, Iñigo et. al. is proof that it’s all in how you tell it.

The use of color is lush and evocative, notably in the elaborate period costumes and rolling green hills. Adrian Biddle’s photography embraces the charm afforded by the English/Irish countryside locations, with the occasional swing-for-the-fences beauty shot thrown in for good measure. The 4K clarity in this presentation is evident in the leaves, the grasses, even the coarse granules of lightning sand in closeup. Back in the present day, the carefully orchestrated mess on the grandson’s headboard continues to surprise exploring eyes with its many ‘80s treasures.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likely identical to that on the 2018 Blu-ray and it remains clear and full, providing a worthy complement to the Ultra HD image. Remixed for home theater, the track displays an impressive attention to detail, imparting welcome atmosphere to the surrounds that greatly embellishes the fantasy world. Mark Knopfler’s score, derided by some as an odd fit, is a curious blend of synthesized and traditional instruments that cogently drives the proceedings forward.

None of Criterion’s extras are new for this 4K edition, but the boutique label has been custodian of The Princess Bride since laserdisc and so has amassed quite a library of supplements over the years. Highlights include a commentary with Reiner and others, studies of the script and the fencing, and a menagerie of featurettes dating back to the original production, here with recent creator comments added. In one of the more painstaking bonuses, the audiobook has been meticulously edited and aligned with the movie as an alternate track, revealing both the similarities and differences between the prose and dramatic executions. Another holdover is the gorgeous clothbound book-style packaging, debossed front and back.

STUDIO: The Criterion Collection, 1987
HDR FORMAT: Dolby Vision, HDR10
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 98 mins., PG
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
STARRING: Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest