By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — Sword and sorcery films can be a tough sell. While the dragon, wizard and witch worshipping among us might enjoy watching mercenary warrior David Carrdine defeating rival warlords to the backdrop of copious violence and nudity in the cult classic The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984), or laugh hysterically at Lou Ferrigno throwing a grizzly bear into outer space in the horrendous Hercules (1983), these films do not enjoy widespread appeal. As enjoyable as it is chug Phillips excellent seasonal White IPA Electric Unicorn while absorbed by the fantastical Sorceress (1982) that features buxom blonde twins defeating an evil wizard king and an army of zombies (plus a mystical space lion who explodes an evil witch in the sky), these films are not widely known with justifiable reason.
Perhaps this is why Rob Reiner’s epic The Princess Bride (1987) is such a spectacular triumph. Like the enthralling George R.R Martin A Song of Ice and Fire book series and its extraordinarily popular HBO reimagining dubbed after the second novel A Game of Thrones, the movie supersedes the limitations of its often haphazard genre and has conquered the hearts and imaginations of countless. Herein lies a castle ruled by an evil yet eventually sniveling monarch, a damsel in distress, shrieking eels, a sadistic six-fingered count, a giant with incredible strength and a holocaust clock, a mysterious Fire Swamp occupied by the R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size), a torturous water device dwelling in the Pit of Despair, a magical healer and a fantastic sword fight between two undeniably lovable protagonists.
The premise is seemingly simple. A grandfather brings the S. Morgenstern-penned book The Princess Bride (read the actual book by William Goldman for the deceptively clever reference) so that he can read to his sick grandchild. The story begins with peasant girl Buttercup, who falls madly and reciprocally in love with the farm boy Westley. Westley leaves the farm to find his fortune and is reportedly killed at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts; Buttercup is forced to marry the heir to the throne of Florin five years later due to the law of the land.
From there, the story goes dramatically sideways, skirting between adventure, comedy, fantasy and fairytale with more quotable lines than one could shake a stick – or wizard staff, whatever floats your boat – at. Three hired ragamuffins kidnap Buttercup. They aim to leave her body on the frontier of a neighbouring land in an effort to inspire a war; a masked man in black begins chasing the group and eventually defeats a master swordsman in an excellent fight scene that could arguably be the best ever filmed, chokes out a massive giant and defeats their pompous ringleader in a battle of wits. To utilize yet another cliché in this cliché-ridden story, that’s just the beginning! The accompanying soundtrack is subtle and romantic, penned and performed by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
Twenty-seven years after its release, the legacy of The Princess Bride endures. Although a modest success when released, it was given unusually favourable ratings and has since gone on to become a classic, heralded by media and re-released in numerous editions. Be sure to catch it when it screens in Calgary with a crowd that’s guaranteed to be unusually rambunctious. After all, it’s already hard enough to resist screaming along to the best line delivered by master Spanish fencer Inigo Montoya:
“HELLO, MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE!”
See The Princess Bride at the Plaza Theatre on Saturday, August 22nd. You can buy the tickets online from Eventbrite.AB, Alberta, Inigo Montoya, Plaza Theatre, The Princess Bride