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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Princess Bride [Blu-ray]


(Rob Reiner, 1987)





Reissued January 4th, 2011 at a cheaper price!:


Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Reiner/Scheinman

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked

Runtime: 1:38:21.937

Disc Size: 40,664,407,496 bytes

Feature Size: 32,991,184,896 bytes

Average Bitrate: 44.72 Mbps

Chapters: 30

Case: Custom Blu-ray case

Release date: March 17, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio English 3856 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3856 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English SDH & Spanish



• Audio Commentary by Director Rob Reiner & Writer William Goldman

• Fairy Tales & Folklore* (9:16)

• The Art of Fencing* (7:07)

• The Princess Bride – The Untold Tales* (9:06)

• The Dread Pirate Roberts (11:43)

• Miraculous Makeup (11:22)

• Cary Elwes' Video Diary (3:55)

• Love is Like a Storybook (16:43)

• DVD of the Feature Film (with selected bonus features*)



The Film:

Is it conceivable that there is anyone out there who does not enjoy The Princess Bride? Even if you find the contemporary part of the movie where Peter Falk seduces his eight year old grandson (Fred Savage) into the world of fairy tales a case of interruptus (Fred, does); even if you find Billy Crystal's rendition of Miracle Max a little too much shtick or Carol Kane as his wife a little too shrill; and even if Andre the Giant was yet to meet his match in Hulk Hogan, is this not one of the sweetest, most entertaining 98 minutes on video? I ask you! (PacÚ, Ms. Kael.)

I had forgotten that The Princess Bride introduced those of us who don't watch daytime soaps to Robin Wright (in the title role) and gave Cary Elwes (Westley, the farm boy) a shot at having people recognize his name, perhaps even pronouncing it correctly (El-wez). By this time, Rob Reiner had long been something of a household name, not so much as a director, but as "Meathead", Archie Bunker's son-in-law, whom he played from 1971-79. His first stint as a director was in 1984 for the satirical and still iconic rockumentary This is Spinal Tap. His next movie, The Sure Thing, pretty much sealed the fate of the then nineteen-year old John Cusack. Stand By Me would do the same for River Phoenix – for a while anyhow. The following year Reiner made The Princess Bride and two years after that, When Harry Met Sally. After Misery (1990), A Few Good Men (1992), The American President (1995) and Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), Reiner's output slowed dramatically, but for a remarkable dozen years, he gave us at least six remarkable and popular films.



The Princess Bride is a tongue-in-cheek, but loving movie of a tongue-in-cheek, but loving book that pretends to be a version of a famous fairy tale by one "S. Morgenstern" (viz., The "Morning Star.") The book and screenplay is by William Goldman, whose previous credits include: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, All the President's Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far and Heat.

The Movie: 8
Peter Falk visits his grandson Fred Savage who is sick in his bed at home. To distract him from his aches, pains and video games, and to introduce him to the joys of books and stories Falk reads to him from the book "The Princess Bride." Grandpa says that it was the book his father read to him when he was a boy and that his grandfather read to his father. The grandson is impatient, but little by little he tears himself from his video game, finding himself seduced by forces beyond his control or apprehension.

The story is about a beautiful girl named "Buttercup" (Robin Wright) and a farm boy named Westley (Cary Elwes) and how they fell into True Love. Not having the money to marry, Westley goes off to make his fortune, but his ship is captured by pirates and all hands are presumed lost. Five years later Buttercup finds herself the intended bride of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) who has political designs beyond his own kingdom. He arranges for Buttercup to be kidnapped and for blame to fall on another kingdom, provoking an excuse for war. But the kidnappers (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant) are themselves chased by a lone pirate, the "Dread Pirate Roberts" who bears a striking resemblance to our own Westley. Puns and other lighthearted low humors abound, along with the swash and the romance.



Image: 4/7     NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I've always found video representations of The Princess Bride tough going on a large display. Thin and fuzzy they were. If it weren't for the movie, I would prefer they not take up space on my shelf. The new Blu-ray is an improvement, but not by leaps and bounds. Though no fault of the transfer process I'm reasonably sure, the image is never much better than fair: It is soft and thin, sometimes filtered to the point of fog. Unless lit by a strong light source such as direct sun, skin tones and garments show a fine film grain in place of what little texture remains. Contrast and color rarely "pop", but then the original photographic intention was to ensure that the story would maintain a remote feel.













Audio & Music: 7/8
Clearly the lossless DTS HD-MA mix ensures that The Princess Bride has never sounded this good on video. While most of the material is front-directed (dialogue and most of the music) there are plenty of occasions where the surrounds and effects come into play: Note the screaming eels and the rumbling fire pit.



Operations: 8
The menu design is both clever (making use of the rope-climbing up the cliff motif from the movie) and easy to use. It lacks only summary information about each special feature.


Extras: 7
There are several new features here since the DVD dating from 2006. These are all in 480p and include: the half hour "As You Wish" – The Story of The Princess Bride, where Reiner and Goldman talk about how their project came into being, the tone of story where the fairy tale theme of True Love would be placed front and center. They also talked about how they went about casting of relative unknowns in the leading roles, especially wanting to echo the swash and buckle of Douglas Fairbanks. "The Dread Pirate Roberts" crosses back and forth over the line between historical fact and satire (more droll than dread.) Miraculous Makeup details the conversion of Billy Crystal into Miracle Max. In between sword fighting lesson, Cary Elwes' Video Diary remembers what Andre the Giant had to endure as a boy when his size became the object of derision. Finally, "Love is Like a Storybook" looks at the history of the fairy tale from its beginnings as an oral art form in the Middles Ages. What is most important to note here is that fairly tales, even in written form, are meant to be read, and read aloud to children.



Other features are common to both the Blu-ray and the accompanying new DVD: The Audio Commentary by Reiner & Goldman, and "Fairy Tales & Folklore," which explores why and how fairy tales have the hold on us that they do, and how The Princess Bride fits into the genre (an interesting segment, I thought). In "The Art of Fencing" we see how the actors learned how to wield a sword reasonably convincingly and how Cary and Mandy learned how to do it bi-laterally. "Untold Tales" is a retrospective look at the impact of the movie on both the actors and audiences in general.



Bottom line: 8
I don't imagine that The Princess Bride is going to look much better than on this Blu-ray, which is a bit of a shame, really. The audio is fine and the new extra features have a couple of items worth the effort. But the main thing is that fans of the movie are going to want to best there is. That would be this Blu-ray for the foreseeable future I imagine.

Leonard Norwitz
April 1st, 2009





Reissued January 4th, 2011 at a cheaper price!:

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

The LensView Home Theatre:





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