“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) in The Princess Bride
While living in Honolulu in 2012, the Consolidated Theaters in Ward Entertainment Center hosted a Throwback Thursday event where they showcased a classic film each Thursday night. One week was Jaws, and another was Pulp Fiction, and so on. As you might imagine, I was curious which film they would show next. An opportunity to see a movie in the theater I never had the chance to see when it originally premiered was an opportunity I welcomed. Every month, the theater unveiled its schedule for each Throwback Thursday, but I was rarely motivated by the selections. It’s not that those they showcased didn’t deserve the “throwback attention.” Of course, each film did!
Several months into the event, the theater announced a movie I was eager to see. The scheduled film included themes of true love, inconceivable moments, fire swamps, miracles, pirates, and revenge. The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite films. Sure, I have spoken of nostalgic films and use these terms liberally, but while countless movies have provided me joy, there is no film like The Princess Bride. But it premiered when I was too young, so I never saw it in a theater, only on VHS. When I asked my wife if she would join me to see The Princess Bride, she said, “sure, I have never seen it anyhow.”
In shock I quickly bought tickets and remedied one of the biggest surprises of our relationship. My wife had never seen The Princess Bride. Somehow, I had missed this terrible truth. At the beautiful theater in Honolulu, I finally watched a beloved film on a screen far larger than my family’s television of 19 inches in the early ‘90s. So, let me rewind the VHS, press start over on my Disney+ account, and scan your ticket to a conversation about a movie that made masks cool, rotten miracles acceptable, and other narrated films bend the knee. We are “stormin’ da” castle… The Princess Bride.
My “G.O.A.T.” Film
“Inigo Montoya: Who are you?– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) & Carey Elwes (Man in Black) in The Princess Bride
Man in Black: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know…
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
Inigo Montoya: ‘kay.”
I do not do routine film reviews. Those films I discuss come with a story, an event, something that triggers a need, or want, to explore the movies again. An opportunity to relive or recall my first or subsequent viewing. My love of POP! Culture, especially television and film, are one of the main reasons I started this blog. So when I write about a show, like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or a movie, it usually isn’t new, unless it’s “The Good Lord Bird,” and as I said, comes with a story or more profound meaning. With “Anna and the Apocalypse,” the rewatch revolved around the Christmas Holiday and that my wife Corinne and I saw it in the theater and loved it. With “Trollhunter,” that entire post came from my disbelief and surprise that Pat, my father-in-law, had seen this obscure horror movie. Recently, when I rewatched “The Raid: Redemption” and sat down with my brother Jeff for a chat, it was to discuss the most incredible action film I saw.
Who joined me for this The Princess Bride rewatch? My brother Jeff and I have held movie chats for over a year, and when one birthday approaches, that person selects the film without limitations. Last year, I chose Memento, and it was amazing! This year, feeling nostalgic, I picked The Princess Bride. The night before my birthday, Jeff and I had a lengthy conversation about the film, and the rewatch held up, of course. It makes sense that with my birthday coming up, I would invite Jeff to join me as we discuss one of my favorite movies of all time, although I did most of the talking!
As a child in the early ‘90s, I must have watched this movie every week, once released on VHS. Even now, as the film regularly airs on TBS, available on Disney+ and other stations, I watch no matter what I originally had planned. There is something about the film that makes me feel at ease. The story, the acting, the music, not sure if there is anything specific, or any one thing, but this movie is terrific. Welcome to The Princess Bride rewind, where I will discuss the film, elaborate on what the film means to me, and of course, award winners of categories modeled after Bill Simmons’ The Rewatchables podcast on Spotify.
Overall Thoughts on The Princess Bride
“Miracle Max: Have fun stormin’ da castle.– Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) & Carol Kane (Valerie) in The Princess Bride
Valerie: Think it’ll work?
Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.”
The Princess Bride is a popular film. A “serialized remake of The Princess Bride told in short chapters featuring celebrities at home during quarantine” was recently undertaken. Directed by Jason Reitman, who is helming the newest Ghostbusters film, the “homemade version” helped bring a sense of nostalgia and comfort for those seeking escapism during the pandemic from quarantined life. It’s easy to observe The Princess Bride’s popularity in shows that produced parodies/spoofs of the film, showcasing its nostalgic hold on those who came of age when the film was in their VHS devices. The Goldbergs on ABC, is dedicated to ‘80s POP! Culture nostalgia. Most seasons have Adam Goldberg, played marvelously by Sam Giambrone, engage in activities that inevitably mimic a popular ‘80s film/ television show. In episode 21 of the second season, “As You Wish,” we observe Adam enjoy fencing, but only because he could dress up as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts and act out scenes from the film. I, too, often quoted the film when I was young and acted out specific moments.
Released in late September/early October 1987, The Princess Bride is written by William Goldman and adapted from his book of the same name. Directed by Rob Reiner, who by 1987 had directed This is Spinal Tap (1984), The Sure Thing (1985), and Stand By Me (1986). That is an impressive run, and he followed The Princess Bride with When Harry Met Sally (1989), Misery (1990), and A Few Good Men (1992). The film was composed by Mark Knopfler and with an original song, “Storybook Love,” with music, lyrics, and vocals by Willy DeVille, nominated for the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song at the 1988 Academy Awards. With impressive acting performances by Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, and appearances by Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Falk, who serves as the narrator.
That is an impressive list of actors. I adore Billy Crystal and Carol Kane for their performance as Miracle Max and Valerie, as it provides short, hilarious, yet intense fun at the midpoint of the film. I fondly think about Peter Falk’s narration, as I am, weirdly, a massive fan of movies where the narration plays a central role. As a fan of Best in Show, it still surprises me that Christopher Guest plays the six-fingered man, Count Rugen, with such brilliance and menace. The entire cast is impressive, but when I think of The Princess Bride I, often only think of Robin Wright as Buttercup, Carey Elwes as Westley, and Andre the Giant as Fezzik. But my favorite is Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya. The backstory, the sword, the attitude, the scars, and the desire to get revenge – all elevate his character status.
The Princess Bride is rated 8.1 on IMDb, and a critics score of 97% Fresh and 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That is amazing, especially for a film that was not a box office explosion, making nearly 31 million on a 16-million-dollar budget. 1987 was an incredible year in the film industry. The highest-grossing film was Three Men and a Baby, took in 167 million dollars. It was a year that brought audiences Beverly Hill Cops II, Good Morning Vietnam, The Untouchables, Moonstruck, Lethal Weapon, The Lost Boys, Full Metal Jacket, Adventures in Babysitting, Wall Street, Dirty Dancing, Spaceballs, Over the Top, Predator, La Bamba, RoboCop, Raising Arizona, Monster Squad, and Plains, Trains and Automobiles. Of course, even more, classic films were released that year, but suffice to say, 1987 was a fantastic year for popular cinema in America.
Overall, the movie holds up exceptionally well. The one exciting thing that I did bring to this viewing was new information. A couple of years ago, I read Carey Elwes’ book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. I loved it, and was captivated by the peek behind the curtains look at the making of the iconic film. Anyone who is a fan of this movie should read this book. You will laugh, cry, and leave much happier than before you started. Elwes’ book, as well as cast member reunions, are made for people like me. I am a sucker for sentimentality, and toys, too, are something I get sentimental about instantly. I discovered that Funko Pop made a few The Princess Bride characters. I had to have them, so I purchased Westley, Buttercup, and Inigo. They did create a unique Fezzik pop for the 2020 New York City Comic-Con, but it’s pretty expensive online, and I have my limits! Funko Pops are adorable, and these The Princess Bride figures are wicked amazing.
Having read Elwes’ book and with three Funko Pop figures nearby, I rewatched The Princess Bride. I can easily quote the best moments and hum the score as particular scenes unfold on the screen – each viewing leaves me happy, and the rewatch didn’t change that pattern. But this time, I had the task of selecting a scene and performance that proved more impressive than the rest. At least I had Jeff to help me. Jeff is a fan of the movie and recently watched it twice with his oldest daughter. His thoughts are more grounded than mine. He, too, grew up watching the film and has fond memories of it, but where he can separate his enjoyment from his critical analysis, I have difficulty. This makes sense, seeing as how I put an incredible amount of stock in the film. To award winners, I needed to be willing to see some performances above others. Jeff helped me siphon through the awesomeness to pick the best scene from a movie where nothing missed its mark.
Most Rewatchable Scene
“Buttercup: We’ll never survive.– Robin Wright (Buttercup) & Carey Elwes (Westley) in The Princess Bride
Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
To enhance our movie chat, Jeff and I visited a local brewery where outdoor seating was plentiful, and the craft beers were delicious. We chatted for just over four hours, although we do get sidetracked a lot! How does one select a most Rewatchable scene from one of the most Rewatchable movies ever? Well, for one, you do so carefully. I awarded points to scenes during my rewatch, *** for incredible, ** for excellent, * for loved it. When done, I wrote down those with asterisks and debated their rewatchability. At this point, I often provide several nominations, scenes Jeff and I considered the most rewatchable, but I can’t this time. Why? Well, the most rewatchable scene was never in doubt, but here are a couple of honorable mentions.
While it didn’t win, the film’s opening is lovely. Here we observe a touching moment between a grandpa, Peter Falk, and grandson, Fred Savage, in a perfectly decorated 1980s bedroom, as Jeff argued. Then viewers are introduced to Buttercup and Westley by Falk, who serves as the story narrator. But the grandson would rather play video games than listen to his grandpa read a fairytale story, especially one with kissing. Film openings can be hit or miss, and this is undoubtedly a hit. You get the background to several characters, and the film’s tempo is established perfectly. Music, comedy, drama, and perfect narration all make the opening scene a classic. To be honest, the first 45 minutes of the film is rewatchable, so starting with the first scene was either a smart move or complicated my taking an aggressive approach to selecting a winner.
Within those first 45 minutes, one impressive scene is when Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo capture Buttercup and then, while in eel-infested waters, find themselves tracked by a mysterious ship. We also observe the battle between the Man in Black and Fezzik, which offers fun physical comedy. Of course, the scene where the Man in Black engaged in a battle of wits with Vizzini, a classic scene I will discuss later, falls within the movie’s first half. Yet, beyond 45 minutes, there are fewer rewatchable scenes but no less fantastic moments. The moments at Miracle Max’s place are hilarious, of course, as is the battle between Inigo and Count Rugen and his opportunity to avenge his father’s death. The Princess Bride is a rewatchable film, and those scenes are just a few that deserved a conversation.
When Jeff and I reached the moment where we discuss the “most rewatchable scene,” we both cut to the point and said, “so it’s the sword scene, right? When the Man in Black duels Inigo on the Cliffs of Insanity.” We agreed that this was one of, if not the, most straightforward winner of this category since we began having these chats. While we love the battle of the wits, enjoy Westley’s sarcasm on the hill with Buttercup and their journey into the Fire Swamp, and cherish watching Inigo get his revenge, there is no moment we look forward to more than the Cliffs of Insanity sword-fight. It has everything one could want. Drama, suspense, comedy, well-written dialogue, outstanding score, and a well-choreographed fight with some fun moments that illustrate the movie enjoys what it’s doing.
When I took my wife to see The Princess Bride, for her first time, at the theater in Honolulu, this was the scene I was most anxious to observe her watch. She loved it, putting me at ease, and offering me a sense of satisfaction that the iconic scene still resonates nearly thirty years later. After I read Carey Elwes’ book and learned the behind-the-scenes details of the “Cliffs of Insanity” scene, as well as the choreographed fight, I felt justified in my love of this cinematic moment. The day Jeff and I sat down at the local brewery I was eager to examine this scene. I enjoyed discussing the comedy, the face of Vizzini when he cuts the rope and utters the line, “inconceivable,” which is met by Inigo saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” I was excited to discuss Westley’s ability to outsmart opponents while never entirely giving away the game and Inigo’s traumatic backstory, his quest for the six-fingered man, and how “there is no money in revenge.”
Best Heat Check
“Vizzini: I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.– Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) & Carey Elwes (Man in Black) in The Princess Bride
Man in Black: You’re that smart?
Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
Man in Black: Yes.
The award for Best Heat Check is, by far, the best category. For more information, check out my post, Top 6 Movie “Heat Checks”. Jeff and I have watched movies and chatted about them since we learned to talk. But we have only held our movie chats for the past year. While The Rewatchables podcast inspired this, we have added to the categories or changed some of the award requirements, sometimes even renamed the categories. For example, we call the Heat Check Award the “Frank Grillo Best Heat Check Award.” We renamed it because both Jeff and I argue Frank Grillo is a badass, to who we awarded two Heat Check Awards for his performance in The Grey and Warrior. The Best Heat Check always provides us tremendous debate and rarely disagreement.
For The Princess Bride, both Jeff and I agreed the “core four,” Westley, Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik, were not allowed a nomination. I tried to persuade Jeff to enable Andre to the Giant, Fezzik, to be nominated, just so we could chat further about his presence in the film, his larger-than-life personality, and how memorable a character he left us. But it felt wrong. He was a central character the entire movie. I had a total of six nominees for this category, but the winner was, like our most rewatchable scene, never in doubt. Why nominate six? It allows Jeff and me to discuss performances we felt were worthy of the award. The lengthy process offers us a chance to explore the characters and actors. So, who made my list? Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdink, Fred Savage as the Grandson, Peter Falk as the Grandfather/Narrator, and the duo Billy Crystal as Miracle Max & Carol Kane as Valerie was nominated, and deserving of consideration. My runner-up was Christopher Guest as Count Rugen, who played the villainous six-fingered man perfectly balanced with slight comedy and brutal drama.
The winner was, of course, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini. I mean, who else, with such a limited amount of screen time, brought the heat. For someone who supposedly had a challenging time with this role, according to Elwes’ book, Wallace was outstanding, iconic, and easily one of the more memorable performances in a movie with several. Sure he was excellent in Clueless, has a wonderful voice as Rex in Toy Story, but this witty, hilarious, and delightful character actor will always be Vizzini to me. Whether it’s his constant misuse of a famous word, the sheer disbelief that someone could follow him, his sparing with Buttercup about eels, or scolding Fezzik for his slow ascent up the Cliffs of Insanity, Wallace, as Vizzini, is lighting fast with his comedic dialogue, offers wonderful facial expressions to enhance the comedy, and has a part that while brief, is unforgettable. Of course, his scene with the Man in Black at the “Battle of the Wits” easily allowed him to claim this prize. Wallace, in that scene, became Vizzini, and, as a viewer, I enjoyed his monologue about which cup held the poison. It is perfect nonsense but so hilarious that one can’t help but quote and mimic significant parts.
Who Won & Stole the Movie?
“Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?– Andre the Giant (Fezzik) & Carey Elwes (Man in Black) in The Princess Bride
Man in Black: Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”
The concept of winning and stealing a movie has produced debate between Jeff and myself. All in good fun, of course. It’s the category that frequently proves most challenging. Even when I watched Trollhunter with my father-in-law Pat, we both had a wonderful conversation around who won that film, eventually agreeing on the director, André Øvredal. Here, with The Princess Bride, Jeff and I did consider Director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman, but neither is who we remember most about this film nor who we argued is essentially the film’s soul, for lack of a better phrase. Even though the score by Mark Knopfler, from the band Dire Straits, is impressive and the song “Storybook Love,” by Willy DeVille, was nominated for a 1988 Oscar, it wasn’t enough to claim our prize, which is just as illustrious; right?
Who won the film? Jeff and I both agreed that Carey Elwes won the movie. He did everything required and is, more often than not, remembered for this role. Sure, Elwes was great in the Mel Brooks’ film Robin Hood: Men in Tights, had excellent moments in Edward Zwick’s Glory, and has had an incredible career with voice acting, as well as a role in Netflix’s Stranger Things, but The Princess Bride is rightfully his apex mountain. He carried significant moments of the film, Elwes uttered his dialogue with a mix of comedy and drama, and had the “leading man look” as well as chemistry with Robin Wright, Buttercup, to make the concept of “true love” a vital part of the film, believable. He was fun to watch as the Man in Black who took down a giant with his bare hands, battled a Sicilian when death was on the line, and fought “to the pain.”
If Carey Elwes won the film, did he do enough to block someone from stealing it? Like the Heat Check Award, Jeff and I also renamed this category to “The Del Griffen Who Stole the Film Award.” We named it after John Candy’s character in John Hugh’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which Jeff and I discussed last November, and I based a travel nightmare post around. You see, that film is Steve Martin’s film. He is the lead, even if it is a buddy comedy. John Candy not only stole the movie, he won it as well, thus producing one of the most fantastic movie “thefts” Jeff and I discussed this year. With The Princess Bride, Elwes’ win has held firm in the years since, helped by its pop culture status, powerful film nostalgia, and exceptional book. Even so, there was another performer who stole the film.
As I said to Jeff, Mandy Patinkin might not have officially won the movie, but he stole it, and to steal The Princess Bride may be as, if not more, important than winning! Elwes didn’t do anything to lose the film, but Patinkin did more than enough to steal it. Jeff and I didn’t consider anyone else for this category, and it wasn’t tough to reach this conclusion. No matter the scene, Patinkin dropped line after line of tremendous and perfectly delivered dialogue. Inigo Montoya is his defining role, at least for me. His quest for revenge, his sword-fighting ability, and his ability to be both funny, as well as seriously dramatic are incredible. Whether he is negotiating help from Miracle Max, helping Fezzik thrown down rhymes, or offering support to the Man in Black and then dueling him with his father’s sword – all are moments that Patinkin crushes.
While Patinkin is funny at several points in the movie, his performance in the last ten to fifteen minutes is emotional. The character’s final moments feel strangely out of place, but it works perfectly. When he finds Count Rugen and utters his famous “Hello” line, Count Rugen flees, so Inigo pursues him, and the music gains a haunting intensity. When he catches up to his father’s killer and is, in return, stabbed, it seems as though his quest will come up short, seemingly like Herman Melville’s Ahab. Ahab, who, upon finding the white whale who took his leg, Moby-Dick, attempts to fulfill his maniacal desire for revenge but is defeated by his adversary. Inigo’s fate is anything but certain. Count Rugen, feeling as though victory is within his grasp, offers a brutal observation.
“You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. You’ve been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? I think that’s about the worst thing I’ve ever heard. How marvelous.”– Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) in The Princess Bride
But Inigo gains his strength and continuously utters his famous “Hello” line, throwing Count Rugen off balance. As Inigo takes command of the fight, He corners Count Rugen, knocks down his sword, and slashes him on both cheeks, just as he had done to Inigo years before. At this point, goosebumps stand at attention on every viewer’s arm.
“Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) & Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) in The Princess Bride
Count Rugen: Yes!
Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…
Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Anything you want…
[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!”
As soon as he uttered that line, the music increased, and Inigo stabbed Count Rugen through the stomach, killing him, thus completing his quest for revenge. For a movie with silliness, fun, and true love, this moment is dramatic. Yes, Mandy Patinkin stole this film and is easily my favorite character in it and maybe one of my favorite characters of any film. That is why I procured an Inigo Montoya Funko Pop. It is displayed in my office, reminding me of a movie and a quotable character who is iconic and, well, badass. If I ever meet Mandy Patinkin, I will thank him for this character and his role in Dead Like Me while asking him to continue the story of Inigo Montoya in a limited Netflix series!
“Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) & Carey Elwes (Westley) in The Princess Bride
Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.”
After Inigo defeats Count Rugen and meets up with Westley, they deliver the lines of dialogue above. The dialogue is wonderful and synchronized with each character’s overall disposition. For Westley, some sarcasm and positive thinking, yet Inigo, offers a deeply emotional reflection on his fear of a path forward in life, with his quest for revenge concluded. I wonder, if Ahab had been victorious and killed the mighty leviathan, would he have uttered similar words? I appreciate the sentimentality. It’s been thirty years since I originally watched The Princess Bride; its inspiration is vital and observe the film with intense sentimentality.
The Princess Bride is my favorite film; therefore, this post is a passion project, but I knew it would require time, energy, and an official rewatch with my brother Jeff. In all honesty, I wanted an excuse to discuss the film, quote some lines, laugh about the R.O.U.S., or dive into minor details of some of my favorite scenes. While one of several movie rewatches I have posted on this blog, this is more emotional. Sure, I have sprinkled in brief movie discussions with posts about travel and cultural amusements and longer deep dives. Still, few conclude with a moment that often brings me to tears. When Savage says, “Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.” To which Falk replies, “As you wish.”