The Princess Bride appeared in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a terrific presentation.
Sharpness seemed very good, with virtually no softness on display. Instead, the film looked tight and concise from start to finish.
Moiré effects and jagged edges were not an issue, and digital noise reduction didn’t seem to appear, as the movie came with a nice, light layer of grain. The flick lacked any form of source defects, and edge haloes also failed to mar the presentation.
Colors came across as vivid and lush. The fairytale costumes looked bold and bright and often provided some of the movie's most lovely images.
Black levels appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed smooth and clear. Everything about this transfer worked well.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield seemed oriented toward the forward channels, while the surrounds appeared limited to some music and the occasional ambient effect. They worked especially nicely during the scenes that took place on ships, which offered some creaking sounds to accentuate the experience.
Other than those exceptions, however, it was a forward affair, and a fairly good one at that. The front channels gave us a solid stereo image that seemed relatively lively. The soundfield wasn't exceptional, but it appears more than acceptable for a film from 1987.
Dialogue appeared warm and natural. A few scenes sounded obviously dubbed, but most integrated the speech neatly into the mix. Intelligibility was never an issue.
Effects were consistently crisp and clear, with no audible distortion, and few times we witnessed some nice bass as well, such as during the trek through the Fire Swamp. When the flames burst, they did so with splendid emphasis.
Best of the mix was the terrific reproduction of Mark Knopfler's score. It sounded clean and smooth and also came with some excellent low end, as the dynamic range of the music seemed much better than I'd expect from a moderately old film. Although the limited scope of the soundtrack let me rate it no higher than a "B+", the fine quality of the audio really worked well.
How did the Criterion release compare to the last Blu-ray from 2012? Audio was similar, though perhaps a little tighter. Visuals showed an upgrade, as the Criterion release offered superior accuracy, mainly because it lost some nagging edge haloes. While the 2012 disc seemed very satisfying, the Criterion version topped it.
The Criterion release mixes old and new extras, and we open with an audio commentary from 1997 that includes director Rob Reiner, writer William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk. All sit separately for this edited look at the source novel and its adaptation, story/characters, the tale’s path to the screen, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, stunts/action, and the movie’s release and reception.
Expect a thorough and entertaining view of Bride. The commentary covers a wide array of subjects and does so in a brisk, involving way that makes it an enjoyable listen.
Another feature that runs alongside the film, we get Audiobook Excerpts. This provides parts of an audiobook version of the Bride novel that Reiner read years ago. It becomes a great addition, as we’re able to compare the source to the film’s adaptation.
Called As You Wish, a program from 2001 runs 27 minutes, 18 seconds. We hear from Reiner, Goldman, Crystal, and actors Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, and Fred Savage. We also find some 1987 footage from folks like Andre the Giant.
My biggest complaint about “As You Wish” revolves around its length. Actually, I was surprised to discover it ran for nearly half an hour, as it flies by so quickly that it feels much shorter. That’s because it’s a fine little program that provides a wealth of fun information about the film.
Much of the material from Reiner and Goldman repeats statements heard in the commentary, but the new participants more than compensate for any redundancies. The footage from the set is uniformly interesting, and the interview subjects nicely describe the film’s genesis and its progress plus a lot of great anecdotes. It should have been longer, but “As You Wish” is still a fine documentary.
The featurettes continue with the nine-minute, seven-second Princess Bride: The Untold Tales. We hear from actors Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest as they discuss sets and interactions on location, memories of Andre the Giant, favorite quotes from the flick, and some general thoughts on the film’s success.
A few good insights appear here, and Guest gives us some funny moments, but don’t expect a lot of depth. This is a decent little clip without a ton of substance.
Next comes The Art of Fencing, a seven-minute, eight-second clip with Patinkin, Guest, and sword master Robert Goodwin. The show looks at the sword-fight choreography, the choice of blades, and some additional notes on that side of the flick. It’s a reasonably informative little piece.
Fairytales and Folklore goes for nine minutes, 16 seconds and it includes remarks from Sarandon, Savage, Wright, Patinkin and author Jack Zipes. The program looks at the appeal of fairytales, aspects of particular stories, and how Bride fits into this fabric. Zipes dominates and helps make this a pretty intriguing look at the genre.
Another piece, Miraculous Makeup takes up 11 minutes, 22 seconds. As implied by the title, it looks at how they transformed Billy Crystal into Miracle Max.
We get comments from Crystal and makeup artist Peter Montagna. They tell us what look they pursued and how they did it. We also see footage of Crystal as Montagna applied the makeup. It’s a tight little show with plenty of good facts.
Some “behind the scenes” footage appears in Cary Elwes’ Video Diary. This three-minute, 56-second piece provided raw video footage, mainly shot by the actor himself.
On top of this we hear remarks about the movie in notes from Elwes and Robin Wright. Again, this piece’s only shortcoming related to its length, as I could have watched much more of it.
Next we find a featurette called True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon. It fills 14 minutes, 59 seconds with a chat among Reiner, Elwes and Wright. The three interact well and give us enjoyable memories.
With Pure Enchantment, we locate a 17-minute, 17-second reel with Columbia University Professor Loren-Paul Caplin. He looks at Goldman’s screenplay and delivers an insightful view of its construction.
The Tapestry runs six minutes, 26 seconds and features Goldman. He commissioned textile artist Carol Burland to create a large tapestry that illustrates aspects of Bride, and Goldman shows us/discusses the artwork here. It’s not a fascinating reel, but it’s fun to see this special creation up close.
In Fairy-Tale Reality, we get an 11-minute, 54-second chat with art director Richard Holland. We also get some circa 1987 notes from production designer Norman Garwood.
“Reality” examines the movie’s sets, locations and visual design. It becomes a reasonably compelling overview.
Within Behind the Scenes, we get five clips: “On the High Seas” (3:52), “Fezzik, Vizzini and Buttercup” (4:48), “Westley and Fezzik” (4:38), “Miracle Max’s Hut” (2:32) and “Buttercup, the King and the Queen” (2:34). These provide raw footage from the set and offer a nice view of the shoot.
We can view each snippet with or without commentary from a mix of participants: “Seas” (Andrew Scheinman), “Fezzik” (Billy Crystal), “Westley” (Scheinman), “Hut” (Crystal) and “King” (Rob Reiner). Their comments don’t directly discuss the footage but instead they offer some general thoughts semi-related to the snippets. The commentary remarks aren’t great but they’re decent.
A few ads appear as well. We get two trailers along with four TV spots.
Finally, the package includes a booklet. It includes an essay from author Sloane Crosley and an introduction to the script from Goldman. The booklet adds value to the set.
During my many viewings of The Princess Bride, I maintained the same reaction. It was a very fun and charming little movie that may not merit its stellar reputation, but it remained consistently delightful nonetheless. This Blu-ray delivers excellent picture and very good audio plus a compelling compilation of bonus features. Bride remains a lovable film and this Criterion release becomes the best rendition on the market.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE PRINCESS BRIDE