Release Date(s)1987 (November 20, 2020)
Studio(s)Act III Communications/Buttercup Films/The Princess Bride Ltd./MGM/20th Century Fox (Turbine Media/Lionsgate)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a German import release. The 4K disc is unrestricted, but is essentially movie-only. The Blu-ray included in the package—with most of the extras—is locked to Region B.]
Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride is a classic tale of adventure, bravery, revenge, and the power of true love. It’s the story of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a common but beautiful girl who falls in love with a stable boy named Westley (Cary Elwes). Westley knows in his heart that their love is meant to be, yet has nothing to offer for her hand in marriage. So he sets off to seek his fortune, intending to return for her one day. Unfortunately, word soon reaches Buttercup that Westley’s ship has been attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts… and Roberts spares no one. Five years later, the egomaniacal Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) has chosen Buttercup to be his wife. She doesn’t love him, yet can’t refuse the man who’ll soon be king. But before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by the dastardly Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his two henchman, a Spanish swordsman named Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and a gentle giant named Fezzik (André the Giant). Is Buttercup destined to suffer a terrible fate? Will Montoya ever find the six-fingered man who killed his father? Who is the mysterious “man in black,” his quest vehement? (Anybody want a peanut?)
Perfect movies are rare indeed, but The Princess Bride must surely be one. Its screenplay, adapted by William Goldman (All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) from his own novel, is smart and wickedly funny, offering as much for adults as it does for children. (How many films do you know of that feature a battle of wits... to the death!?) The dialogue here is so quotable, it’s gone viral many times over. And the cast! If these actors had done nothing more than this, they would still be long remembered. Patinkin is brilliant as Montoya, a villain by circumstance with a wry twinkle in his eye. Elwes is so likable as Westley, it makes you cringe at all the smarmy creeps he’s played since. Wright is genuinely charming in her breakout role. Wallace Shawn damn near steals the movie in the aforementioned battle of wits. And how many directors would have cast André the Giant in a film? But he’s wonderful here—sweet and funny. Did I mention Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane? Then there’s the film’s clever framing device, which has a wise and doting Grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story to his sick grandson (a young Fred Savage of The Wonder Years). Add a warm acoustic guitar score by Mark Knopfler (on a break from Dire Straits) and you’ve got a sure winner. Bottom line: Rob Reiner has made a lot of great movies of the years (A Few Good Men, This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally). But for sheer enjoyment, none can top this.
The Princess Bride was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Joe Dutton cameras with spherical lenses, and was finished on film in the 1.85:1 “Academy flat” aspect ratio. The original camera negative was scanned by 20th Century Fox back in 2017 in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary. The result was released on Blu-ray then, and again in 2018 by The Criterion Collection following additional digital remastering (see our review of that disc here). It was also released Digitally in 4K with Dolby Vision, but no physical UHD release appeared until Turbine Media corrected this oversight—at least in Germany—with a Mediabook Limited Edition last June, followed by this regular Amaray package in November (each with HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision high dynamic range options). The good news is, both versions can be imported from Amazon.de. The better news is, each is fully compatible with UHD players worldwide. And the best news of all is that the 4K presentation is absolutely spectacular. Detail abounds in virtually every shot, with fine texturing more refined looking than ever before. Film grain is present at light-moderate to moderate levels and remains pleasingly organic throughout. The HDR grade allows for genuinely inky blacks with abundant shadow detail. Highlights are luminous, just to the point of being eye reactive. And the 10-bit gamut (12-bit for Dolby Vision, which offers a slight edge) results in the most natural looking color palette I’ve seen for this film to date. The shot of Westley and Buttercup kissing at sunset is simply gorgeous, with cloud and sky colors ranging from reds and oranges to aquamarine, pale green, and gold. For a photochemical film of this vintage, this presentation is reference quality. It’s just breathtaking. (I actually much prefer it, even to the Criterion release.) One wishes it were possible for every catalog film to look this good, but of course the condition and care of film negatives doesn’t always allow it.
Audio options on the 4K disc include 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, in both German and the original English, with optional German and English subtitles. The English mixes appear to be identical those found on the recent US Blu-rays, with the 2.0 intended to preserve the original theatrical stereo experience. The 5.1 mix widens the soundstage significantly, while adding a constant level of light ambience in the surrounds. There are some lovely touches here that enhance the immersion. When Humperdinck announces his marriage to Buttercup, the accompanying trumpet fanfare is crisp and clean across the front, with a light echo from behind. Aboard Vizzini’s ship, the sounds of wind, creaking rope, and of course the shrieking eels can be heard from all directions. The popping gas flares in the Fire Swamp have a satisfying punch. Dialogue is clear and clean at all times, while the score exhibits excellent fidelity. The overall tonal quality is pleasingly full, with a good foundation of bass. This mix doesn’t compare to modern action soundtracks obviously, but it’s an excellent sonic representation of this film.
Turbine Media’s 4K disc includes three extras only:
- US Theatrical Trailer (4K SDR – English audio – 2:18)
- German Trailer “D” (4K SDR – German audio – 2:17)
- International Trailer (4K SDR – English audio – 2:19)
The package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, as you might expect, this disc is region-locked, coded for Region B only. If your player can access Region B discs, here’s are the special features you’ll find on it:
- Audio Commentary with Rob Reiner
- Audio Commentary with William Goldman
- Music and Sound Effects Track
- True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon – A Conversation with Rob Reiner, Cary Elwes, and Robin Wright (HD – 14:59)
- True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon – Entering the Zeitgeist (HD – 15:07)
- As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride (SD – 27:19)
- The Princess Bride: The Untold Tales (SD – 9:07)
- The Art of Fencing (SD – 7:08)
- Fairytales & Folklore (SD – 9:18)
- Love is Like a Storybook Story: Fairy Tales & The Princess Bride (SD – 16:44)
- Miraculous Make-up (SD – 11:24)
- The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas (SD – 11:41)
- Cary Elwes’ Video Diary (SD – 3:57)
- 1987 EPK Featurette (SD – 7:48)
- The Making of the Princess Bride (1987) (SD – 6:55)
- US Trailer (HD – 2:19)
- International Trailer (HD – 2:20)
- German Trailer (HD – 2:18)
- TV Spots (SD – 4 spots – 2:33 in all)
If that looks familiar, it’s because it’s virtually everything that was included on the previous MGM/Fox Blu-ray and DVD releases (save for an old SD image gallery). So if you can’t play this disc, no worries—just pick up the 25th or 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray. If you can play this disc, however, you do get two exclusive items unique to this release: A Music and Sound Effects Track and the German Trailer. Of course, this disc doesn’t include the newly-produced features from the 2018 Criterion Blu-ray. In any case, it’s a nice batch of content for those with Region B or all-region players.
Do I wish that MGM would release The Princess Bride on physical 4K Ultra HD? You’re damn right I do! In the meantime, is Turbine Media’s German 4K disc worth importing? Well… if you love the film, you’re 4K-ready, and you’re not content with buying a 4K Digital copy, the answer is absolutely. As they say in the trailers, The Princess Bride is “not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale.” For just €22.99 (about $28 not including shipping), this UHD well worth a look.
- Bill Hunt