Saturday, June 27, 2015

20: The Princess Bride

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

This is another one where it's on the border between being truly of its genre and being a parody of it genre: the love/adventure/quirky thing is played out very carefully and the humour so drily (Billy Crystal's appearance apart) that you wonder if it's actually totally serious. But then you look at the director and realise it was made by the same guy who did This Is Spinal Tap and conclude that there is an underlying current of parody taking place. And once you can place the film in that particular frame of reference, it becomes a total delight to watch - and like the Blues Brothers, it's one you can watch over and over and it gets better each time.

The story itself is actually quite strong when you consider that most people remember the set-piece scenes, the characters and the quotes rather than the plot itself. But when you think about what actually happens, you realise that William Goldman's original novel was very strongly plotted with twists and turns and a good amount of character depth. The reason most people don't appreciate this, however, is because the rest of the film is so strong: the ensemble cast (including Peter Cook no less, more about him in a later list...), the scenery, the music (Mark Knopfler again, feel free to flick over to the Top 5 songs in the music list if you've forgotten about him already) and the quotes...

"You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line"! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"

"We'll never survive!" - "Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has."

And you know what's coming last...

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Mark Kermode reviews films for BBC Radio Five Live and, besides often quoting that line along with his sidekick presenter Simon "straight to the heart of the periphery' Mayo, uses The Princess Bride as something of a standard against which to judge other movies of a similar tone. In particular, I recall the review of Disney's "Enchanted" in 2007 where Amy Adams played a typical Disney animation princess who is thrown into the 'real world' - Kermode's strong recommendation of this film included the notion that "It's not 'The Princess Bride' but very few things will ever reach that level'" - the mere fact of comparison to The Princess Bride, even if the other movie isn't as good, is a recommendation in itself.

But most importantly, we need to do this one last time:

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

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