'The Princess Bride' swashbuckles its way on to Blu-ray with a very good 1080p AVC/Mpeg-4 transfer, nicely framed at 1.85:1. Given the shoddy treatment meted out to this film on previous releases, I was initially suspicious that the old standard definition transfer might just have been digitally upscaled to high definition. I was greatly relieved to find that I was wrong and that we are greeted with a new, clean transfer that's free of dust, dirt and print damage. At last, the movie gets a treatment befitting its status. The colours are wonderfully vibrant and skin tones are natural. Just as you'd expect from Blu-ray. The night shots in the 'Sea of Despair' (shot on Shepperton's flooded 'H' stage) have nice deep blacks.
There's a very fine veil of grain throughout the film that's only really noticeable on light backgrounds, but it's natural looking - as you'd have seen it on a film print. This would hint that no heavy use of DNR has been applied to smooth out the image - and that's something I welcome. There's also no ringing around faces or contours, so image sharpening has not been overdone. It was a pleasure to watch the high definition presentation bring out the best in Adrian Biddle's photography and prove that Blu-ray can easily look better than standard defintion DVD, given some care in the transfer.
The audio on 'The Princess Bride' has been re-mixed into an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that brings another level of brilliance to the production. Whilst dialogue is clean and crisp (except for Andre the Giant, who is sometimes hard to make out due to his pronunciation) and locked to the centre channel, the main stereo pair are used to make the most of Mark Knopfler's gentle guitar score. The surrounds come into play to add real ambience to the Fire Swamp.
In the sword fights, the clash of steel on steel sounds very convincing.
This is a big improvement over the Special Edition DVD release all round.
'The Princess Bride' comes with a host of extras. It comprises mostly material that was supplied with the Special Edition DVD but which has now been ported to HD. Well worth having all round. The presentation is completed by the inclusion of a DVD version of the movie and extras.
- Audio Commentaries:
We're provided with not one, but two separate commentaries - by Director Rob Reiner and Writer William Goldman. It would have been interesting to hear them both together but they might have disagreed. The most interesting is Rob Reiner who's track focuses directly on the film and what went on during the production.
William Goldman, although interesting, goes off at tangents talking about the number of times the film failed to get made in the past as well as discussing, at some length, the film 'Misery' starring Kathy Bates.
- 'As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride' (HD, 27 mins)
This is a fascinating look behind the scenes with reminiscences from the cast and crew. You get to see young Fred Savage, all grown up. They all have nice things to say about the production, which had no big Hollywood star to spoil the team feeling.
They all share their memories of Andre the Giant.
- Cary Elwes Video Diary (HD, 4mins)
This is a much cut down version of the video diary shot by Cary Elwes on a VHS camcorder. As a result it looks pretty ropey, but it takes us 'live' to the set. There was more of this footage on the Special Edition DVD release.
- Miraculous Make-up (HD, 11mins)
This short shows the transformation of Billy Crystal into Miracle Max at the hands of Make-up artist Pete Montagna. The whole process took 5 hours each day and produced a very convincing result. You too can become Miracle Max!
- 'The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Pirate of the Seven Seas' (480i, 11 mins)
This is an exercise in how to take all the fun out of a good movie. Wheel in a bunch of Historians and Academic types to attempt to link a character in a movie to one from history. All seem earnest except for Professor E.L. Rawscey, who looks like someone in make-up. Perhaps an extension of the mickey take?
- 'Love is Like a Storybook' (HD, 16 mins)
Based on the premise that 'The Princess Bride' may be the most perfect fairy tale ever told, the University types are at it again - trying to link the film to tradition, recounting the story (why?) and examining the structure of a fairy tale. How to suck all the oxygen out of a room - sheesh!
- 'The Princess Bride: The Untold Tales' (HD, 9mins)
This more recent short featurette has the cast and crew looking looking back on the movie and the good time they had making it. They point out that they now show it to their children and hope it will be passed down through the generations.
- 'The Art of Fencing' (480i, 7mins)
Fencing master Robert Goodwin explains just how good the sword fights in 'The Princess Bride' are and how Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin practiced in every spare moment to improve their skills. Credit is given to Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond who were fencing masters on the movie.
- 'Fairytales and Folklore' (HD, 9 mins)
Jack Zipes, author of 'Fairytales and the Art of Subversion', aided by the cast examine our need to tell fairy tales with a look at their roots in the past. Holy smoke, I've seen more interesting paint drying.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2mins)
This is a good guide for how rough the film could have looked on Blu-ray if nobody had taken the time to clean it up. It also partly explains why the film wasn't a blockbuster as the trailer was such a low key affair.
'The Princess Bride' is at long last released with a 1080p AVC/Mpeg-4 transfer that does justice to this charming, funny, witty, gentle send up of classic fairy tales. The picture quality is very good indeed with lively greens, deep blacks and well rendered skin tones.
The audio is supplied in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that provides clean dialogue, makes Mark Knopfler's score live and adds atmosphere to the whole movie by use of the surrounds.
The Extras provide fans of the movie with a welcome insight into the background of the production, both in the studio and on location.
All in all, a great package for those who know the film and a treat waiting in store for those who have yet to discover it.
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