From Germany with love – “The Princess Bride” on 4K Ultra Disc
Updated: May 9, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
British actor Cary Elwes was 23 when he played Westley the farm boy and American actress Robin Wright was 20 when she played the beautiful Buttercup.
(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)
“THE PRINCESS BRIDE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD; 1987; PG; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Goggle Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon” two-part featurette
Family classic “The Princess Bride” is now available on 4K disc – but only in Germany. Lionsgate, who has European distribution, packaged the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in a splendid padded 50-page digibook, with essays in German and behind the scenes photographs. Plus, in November a two-disc 4K version was released.
The film has been available on 4K digital in the U.S. for over a year from MGM. I already had the copy on Apple – iTunes, but there’s no substitute for the more robust physical disc for picture and sound. At this point, there’s no hint if or when a 4K disc will arrive in the U.S. Remember, 4K discs are not coded so it plays on any 4K player no matter its location.
The fairytale itself is as much fun as ever – still, the higher resolution gives it polish we’ve never seen before.
(1&2) A year before starring on the TV series “The Wonder Years,” Fred Savage plays the sick-at-home grandson. Peter Falk from TV’s “Columbo” plays the kindhearted grandfather, who reads the story of “The Princess Bride.” (3-5) During the included 2012 interviews, Elwes and Wright both admit they had a crush with each other during the production filmed in the U.K.
The carry-over “True Love” featurette enclosed on the Region B Blu-ray (playable on All-Region players, and European players) includes the 2012 interviews with director Rob Reiner, author/screenwriter William Goldman, actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright – giving the complete storyline. Goldman (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “All the President’s Men”) a two-time Oscar winner, wanted to write a story for his daughters. One asked that it be about a princess; the other a bride, Rob Reiner tells us. To please both, Goldman created “The Princess Bride.”
The novel was written in 1973 and, for nearly 15 years, Goldman tried to get it to the screen. Originally, director Norman Jewison (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “In the Heat of the Night”) was going to helm, placing the first scene during the depression, with the grandfather carrying his sick grandson to the hospital. But after viewing “This Is Spinal Tap,” Goldman found his director in Reiner. Shot for $16 million all in the U.K. with no stars, this fairytale about true love has become a cinematic classic.
Reiner reacts like a proud grandfather to the multi-generational aspects of “The Princess Bride.” It still brings families together. “That gives me the biggest kick,” he says. He also admits he wasn’t going to make the film unless he got Cary Elwes to play farm boy Westley, Robin Wright the beautiful Buttercup, and the seven-foot, four-inch wrestler André the Giant as Fezzik the lovable giant.
The rest of the unfamiliar cast included Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck; Christopher Guest, fresh from “Spinal Tap,” as attendant Court Rugen; Wallace Shawn as ‘inconceivable’ schemer Vizzini; and Mandy Patinkin as the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya, “You killed my father. Prepare to die.” There’s young Fred Savage, just before “The Wonder Years,” as the sick-at-home grandson. Known- actors play the secondary characters with Peter Falk from TV’s “Columbo” as the kindhearted grandfather, who frames the story to his reluctant grandson; Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, the crazy little wizard, and Carol Kane as his equally wily wife, Valerie.
(1) The HDR toning provides a full and rich spectrum of colors - evident by the shade of red of Prince Humperdinck’s costume. (2-3) He plans to marry commoner Buttercup, on the countries 500th anniversary. "My people, the Princess Buttercup!"
Initially, MGM didn’t know how to market “The Princess Bride,” and it failed to find an audience even with positive reviews. Patinkin tells how he went to a theater in the hip Westwood section of L.A. to hear the audience’s reaction. “There wasn’t anyone there,” he says. “It hadn’t germinated yet.” Not until its arrival on home video, first on VHS tape and then DVD, did it became a favorite – much like “The Wizard of Oz” was misunderstood during its theater first run.
The Blu-ray offers two enjoyable commentaries, one with Reiner (whose track is a vast improvement over that for “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally”) and an excellent one by Goldman, who talks about bursting into tears when he wrote about the death of Wesley at the hands of “The Machine.” The disc also includes a half dozen more featurettes.
“The movie becomes more complex the older you get. There’s a sense of loss in it as well. There’s a sense that life has terrible turns in it, that it’s possible to almost die in the quest for love.” — Actor Chris Sarandon
(1&2) Mandy Patinkin as the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya, Wallace Shawn as ‘inconceivable’ schemer Vizzini and André the Giant as Fezzik the lovable giant, sail off with the kidnapped Princess Buttercup. They send her horse with fabric from a Guilderian soldier, to trick the prince into thinking the sworn enemy of Florin abducted his love. (3) The duel at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. (4) The Man in Black takes on Fezzik the lovable giant.
The 4K Ultra HD disc is sourced from a 4K scan of the original camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio). It extracts excellent sharpness from wide shots to extreme close-ups. Plus, the natural film grain is ever-present giving “The Princess Bride” a true cinematic experience.
It’s a shock to see how much richer the colors are presented with the three HDR formats coded from the standard HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDR10+. The lush, green pastures of central England are gorgeous, far surpassing previous editions. The shade of red found in Prince Humperdinck’s costume is remarkable. Facial toning is natural and balanced without any red push, while the blacks are deep and dark. The overall contrast spectrum is complete.
The English track is the same six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack found on previous Blu-ray edition, mostly balanced for the dialogue-driven film. There are some excellent environment sounds pushed around the room. (Nothing like the shrieking eels, and sound of suffering from Wesley.) Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler wrote the score featuring a blend of synthesizers and warm acoustic sounds, especially guitar, from the composer. For German viewers, there are German subtitles if they want to hear the original sound, or a dubbed German six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack.
“‘The Princess Bride’ does teach us that we shouldn’t give up. That death can’t stop true love. We can all be heroes in our own little way.” — Actor Cary Elwes
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1&2) Westley and Buttercup enter the Fire Swamp to evade Humperdinck’s search party and run into a gang of ROUSes. (3&4) On the other end of the forest, they are captured by Humperdinck and his menacing six-fingered assistant.
(1) Buttercup prepares to marry Princess Humperdinck. (2) “Boo! Your true love lives” yells the woman. (3) “I need you to guide my sword. Please. Guide my sword.” (4) Inigo Montoya and Fezzik bring Westley’s body to the home of Miracle Max played by Billy Crystal.
(1&2) Peter Cook plays the Impressive Clergyman during the marriage of Prince Humperdinck and Princess Buttercup. “Mawwige is whut bwings us togevveh today.” (3) “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”