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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Princess Bride - Dread Pirate Edition
The Princess Bride - Dread Pirate Edition
MGM // PG // June 13, 2006
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 1, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

One of those rare movies that really can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, The Princess Bride has enjoyed enduring popularity since it first hit theaters in 1987. Sony knows that and so it's back to the well one more time for the film's third domestic DVD release, this time in the form of a fancy-schmancy two disc set.

For the one or two people out there who haven't seen it, the movie begins with an elderly grandfather (Peter Falk of Columbo) telling a young boy (Fred Savage of The Wonder Years) the story of 'Princess Buttercup.' From here we see the story acted out and we learn how Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn of Forrest Gump) gives her heart to a young farm worker named Westley (Cary Elwes of Saw). Before Buttercup and Westley can run off together, Westley heads out on his own to find his calling in life only to be killed by pirates. Though her heart is broken, the beautiful princess is eventually coerced into marrying the sinister Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon of Child's Play). Before those two can tie the knot, however, Buttercup is kidnapped by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his two friends, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin of Yentl) and Fezzik (wrestling star Andre The Giant). These three plan to use the princess as leverage in a nasty political plot.

Luckily for Buttercup, the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts, the same man who is rumored to have killed Wesley some time ago, is on the scene and he intends to stop at nothing in hopes of saving the girl from their evil clutches. He heads off to find her and along the way finds a cast of oddball characters, creatures, and adventure.

An almost perfect cinematic fairy tale, The Princess Bride strikes the right balance of humor, adventure, romance and intrigue. Very well paced by director Rob Reiner, director of A Few Good Men and Misery, it moves along at a very fast pace but manages to build some interesting character development along the way which ensures that we really do care about the way that things turn out. Book-ending the film with the interaction between Peter Falk and Fred Savage is a clever twist that adds some nice humor to the film as does the presence of Billy Crystal, Peter Cook and Carol Kane all in brief but enjoyable supporting roles.

Cary Elwes steals the show with his performance, bringing to his character the kind of smart-alecky attitude he does so well in addition to the kind of dashing sense of adventure that should surround every good fairy tale hero. He has many of the best lines in the film and proves to be as quick with his wit as he is with his sword. His interaction with Roby Wright Penn is sweet but it is also often very humorous and they have a nice chemistry together on screen.

In addition to some really fun performances, however, The Princess Bride also looks really good. The cinematography and art direction do a really excellent job of capturing the detail of the sets and locations used throughout the movie and the film definitely feels like an old fashioned fairy tale because of this. Little details like the costumes and the background characters in certain scenes all add up to a fairly layered film that, if you pay close attention, contains some fun little quirks. The story itself packs the movie with humor that works for both children and adults and when it's all said and done, The Princess Bride remains a completely enjoyable slice of good clean fun even now, almost two decades after the fact.

The DVD

Video:

The Princess Bride: Dread Pirate Edition gets a very nice 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD that, in short, looks pretty good. There is definitely some grain present and if you keep your eyes peeled you'll pick up on the odd speck on the image here and there, but these are noticeable only rarely and there's very little to complain about here in terms of the visuals. Color reproduction is strong and there's a very nice level of both foreground and background detail in the image aside from a couple of scenes that are just a bit on the soft side. The reds don't bleed and the black levels stay strong as does shadow detail ensuring that there is a lot of background detail present even in the darker scenes. Flesh tones are lifelike and natural and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts to report. Edge enhancement and aliasing are noticeable in one or two scenes but again, thankfully they're really only problematic in brief instances here and there and more often than not they don't prove to be distracting. This disc definitely looks better than the original non-anamorphic release. As to how it compares to the previous 16x9 special edition? It does look better, the colors are stronger and there seems to be more detail in the image but it's hard to recommend someone to take the double dip based on the transfer alone…

Sound:

The Princess Bride comes to DVD this time with a new English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix and with optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround tracks available in French and Spanish. Subtitles come in English, French and Spanish and an English language closed captioning option is available for the feature only in English.

In terms of quality, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track does sound very nice on this release. Channel separation is handled very well with plenty of directional effects coming at you during the more action intensive moments, while dialogue remains clean and clear on both tracks. Background music and sound effects are properly balanced against the performers and the score sounds great and adds plenty of mood to the film. Everything is well balanced, bass is strong and appropriately bouncy when it needs to be, and while it would have been nice to have the original sound mix included on this disc for purists (something MGM manages to omit far too often), this track is of very nice quality.

Extras:

Where this release really trumps those that have come before it is in the extra features department – however, it should go without saying that if you have the last special edition release of this disc, some of these will look awfully familiar. First up is an audio commentary with director Rob Reiner. This is the same track we got on the last SE release but it is a good discussion of the film despite some moments of awkward silence here and there. Reiner covers some interesting pre-production stories and tells us how he came on board to direct the project. He covers budgetary issues, working with some of the cast members and does a fairly decent job of explaining his part in the picture and telling us how he feels about the movie in retrospect.

Also carried over from the last SE is a second audio commentary with writer William Goldman, and it's actually a little more interesting than the one that Reiner provides though again, there are plenty of instances of dead air that do drag things out a little bit here and there. Goldman tells us where the ideas for the story came from, how it started as a story that he wrote for his kids and how the movie was to be directed by Norman Jewison at one point. He covers various changes that happened to his original idea and how he feels about the movie overall. Both this and the director's track are worth listening to if you're a big fan of the movie though the dead air might get to more casual fans as both tracks do suffer from that all too common problem. These two commentary tracks are, aside from the still gallery, the only supplements on the first disc in the set. Everything from here on out is one disc two.

Once you get through the commentary tracks the first thing worth checking out on this disc is a documentary on the making of the film entitled As You Wish: The Story Of The Princess Bride. Once again, this was originally made available on the last SE of the disc but it is an interesting look at how the movie was made by way of some solid interviews with the people who worked on the film. Director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman cover how the project came together whereas we hear about life in front of the camera from some of the actors used in the movie such as Cary Elwes and Fred Savage. There are plenty of fun anecdotes in here, and at just over twenty-seven minutes in length it does a good job of giving us the low down on the film's creation.

MGM has also supplied a section called Cary Elwes Home Movies that contains a nice selection of footage that Elwes shot on set during the making of the movie. This is the same three and a half minutes of on set and behind the scenes footage that Elwes shot that was on the last SE but it's enjoyable enough in that it at least provides us with a glimpse into what his work day was like while he was on set.

Rounding out the recycled material from the last SE, MGM has also supplied the original 1987 Featurette and a Vintage Making Of Documentary. Both of these are pretty brief and are basically glorified promotional spots made around the time that the film was going to hit theaters but they're fun in that they contain some interesting footage which makes them worth a look.

So with all that material carried over from the last release, has MGM actually put anything new on this release? And if so, is it worthwhile? A lot of that depends on how big a fan of the film you are, but there is at least some new material here…

Up next is Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend Of The Seven Seas, which is a 'historical analysis' of the character from the movie. It does a good job of staying in the tone of the movie as it explains the origins of the character from the movie and details his biography – sort of. This piece starts off by explaining how Goldman's original book became a hit and in turn how it inspired the movie. From here we're treated to interviews with fictional pirate experts who discuss whether or not the character in the movie was based on a historical figure or not. This piece runs eleven minutes and forty seconds in length.

Another featurette on the disc is Love Is Like A Storybook Story which contains interviews with authors and educators who explain the origins of the typical 'storybook story' and what requisite fields are traditionally required in such writing. It's an interesting albeit brief look at where fairy tales come from and how they've evolved over the years. This documentary clocks in at just shy of seventeen minutes.

Miraculous Make Up is an interesting little documentary that examines what went in to creating Billy Crystal's memorable character. Crystal explains the make up process he had to go through to make his character look as old as he does in the movie, and make up artist Peter Montagna explains how he applied everything to Crystal's face to make it work. There's some interesting behind the scenes footage here and we get to see some of the make up being applied. This featurette runs just over eleven minutes in length.

Rounding out the extra features are an interactive trivia game entitled The Quotable Battle Of Wits, a sizeable still gallery of behind the scenes production photographs and promotional artwork, and a booklet containing Fezzik's Guide To Floran which is an amusing mock up of what a tourist pamphlet might look like if Floran were a real place. Four TV spots and the domestic and international trailers are also included (though they're not listed on the back of the packaging with the rest of the supplements). Previews for a few other MGM DVD releases are also included. Stylish animated menus are provided for both discs and chapter selection is available for the feature.

NOTE: This re-re-release of The Princess Bride comes in both The Dread Pirate edition and The Buttercup edition – while the packaging is different, the content of the discs in the set is the same.

Final Thoughts:

This film has lost little of its charm over the years and it remains a humorous and entertaining adventure story that holds up really well. A great selection of interesting and very thorough supplements combined with the very nice audio and video presentation awarded to the film make The Princess Bride – The Dread Pirate Edition highly recommended if you don't already own the previous special edition release. If you've already got that one, you'll have to be a pretty die-hard fan to splurge on this version when so much of the supplemental material has been ported over.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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