The Princess Bride
As far as it would be possible to make a great movie out of William Goldman’s book, this one succeeds. Since the screenplay was written by Goldman himself, I doubt it could have been made any better. But it would be totally impossible to put the entire richness of it on the screen. For one thing, how in the world would you deal with the brilliant conceit of framing the story as one that was read to him as a child, and his discovery that the book was chock full of really boring stuff about politics and satire about social customs? Those parts were printed in red, and they refer to his (non-existent) fat son, his experiences in Hollywood, and many other things. He did it so well that I personally know of two people, neither one of them dopes, who were taken in and thought there really was an S. Morgenstern. It remains one of my favorite books and movies. Goldman has said of it that of all his novels, this one was the most important to him. He has also stated that he has received more mail about The Princess Bride than all of his other novels put together, and that’s saying something, since he has written best sellers. Some magic element in the book really affects readers.
There is also Goldman’s distinctive style. The book opens with a recounting out how Buttercup became the most beautiful woman in the world, recounting the fates of previous record-holders. He does stuff like that so seemingly effortlessly, and it always enchants me. There is also such a wealth of back story, such as Fezzik’s early life, and Inigo’s father’s forging of the sword for the six-fingered man. That sort of thing could only have been included in a multi-part TV series such as we have today, but was very rare in 1987.
That said, I think the weakest point of the movie is some of the casting. Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, and especially Andre the Giant were perfect as Westley, Buttercup, Inigo Montoya (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”), and Fezzik. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane were terrific as Miracle Max (“I’m good at dead!”) and his wife. But I didn’t like Wallace Shawn as (“Inconceivable!”) Vizzini, and really hated Christopher Guest as Count Rugen and Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck. What were they thinking with those last two? All three of them should have been more menacing figures. For instance, Oliver Reed would have been perfect for Rugen.
Oh, well. Few movies are ever perfectly cast. These are nitpicks, I admit. I totally love this movie, even with its few flaws.