I remember watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights, aged about 12, while on holiday from boarding school, and falling head over heels in love with Robin Hood himself, actor Cary Elwes. Shortly afterwards, I watched The Princess Brideand the focus of my crush shifted – I fell in love with a movie, and I haven’t looked back since.
There are a number of things to love. Inigo Montoya, the Spanish swordsman seeking to avenge his father’s murder, evil Sicilian mastermind Vizzini, the gentle giant Fezzik who loves to rhyme, and best of all, the eternal love of Westley, a farm boy thought dead and Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world. It’s a movie that takes the usual fairytale conventions – princes, princesses, swordfights, villains, young love et al – and turns them on their collective head. All this years before Shrek, plus far funnier and far more sophisticated.
The Princess Bride alumni haven’t done shabbily. Prior to this movie, director Rob Reiner had given us This Is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me. Post-Westley, he went on to direct, among others, When Harry Met Sally and Misery. All the actors, excepting Andre the Giant who died of heart failure in 1993, went on to have fair to good careers – Robin Wright married (and divorced) Sean Penn, and was Jenny in Forrest Gump, Mandy Patinkin is a veteran star of stage and TV, and Cary Elwes was (regretfully) in the high-grossing Saw.
But the best thing about The Princess Bride is easily the writing. Screenwriter William Goldman (Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy) adapted it from his own 1973 book and turned up a corker. It remains an eminently quotable film, and I still judge people based on their retention of the best lines. To anyone who says this isn’t one of the funniest films to ever grace a screen, I say one word only: Inconceivable!