The Princess Bride in 4K
The Criterion Collection has reissued Rob Reiners's 1987 classic “The Princess Bride” in a brand new 4K UHD blu-ray edition. This is largely based on their already wonderful 2018 blu-ray release of the film which I wrote about at the time of release. I’m reusing a lot of the words from that 2018 review, as outside of the upgraded 4K image, the material in this collection is the same, but I’ll come in with new thoughts about the video upgrade when we get there.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the ultimate test for a movie is a test of time. Today we worry about what movies make the most at the box office—which has always been true to a degree. This is why it’s all the more surprising when you find out that a movie we all know and love was either a flop at the box office (“Clue”) or did only middling success like Rob Reiner’s 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman, “The Princess Bride” was in development for years before Reiner finally brought the film to the big screen.
Goldman wrote a screenplay for the film shortly after the book was published when 20th Century Fox snapped up the rights to the film. At various points, everyone from Richard Lester to Francois Truffaut to Robert Redford was attached to the film. Dismayed, Goldman bought back the rights to his story. Following the success of Reiner’s 1985 film “Stand By Me,” he decided he wanted to bring “The Princess Bride” to the screen. Reiner had been a fan of the book since his father, legendary comedy writer and director Carl Reiner, gave him a copy of the book shortly after its publication.
Studios showed no interest in bringing the film to the screen, so Reiner took it upon himself to have the film made as an independent production, bringing in his old pal “All In The Family” creator Norman Lear in as executive producer. The story of “The Princess Bride” concerns a sick boy (a pre-"Wonder Years” Fred Savage) and his grandfather (the late, great, Peter Falk) who have come to cheer him up with a book that his father read to him and so on and so on.
Buttercup, played by Robin Wright in her breakout, is about to marry the scheming and rather not nice at all Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but Buttercup’s heart belongs to a farmhand named Wesley (Cary Elwes)—who hasn’t been seen in a week of Sundays. Just as Buttercup is about to become a Princess, she is kidnapped by a band featuring a Spaniard looking for the man who killed his father (Mandy Patinkin), a gentle giant played by Andre The Giant, and a mysterious pirate. “The Princess Bride” is as charming and delightful of a movie as any movie could be. As much as it has become a part of our pop culture today, it’s hard to believe that though critics in 1987 loved the movie, audiences largely stayed away. What a lucky time we live in where movies can be discovered on home video and become classics.
This new 4K UHD/Blu-Ray combo pack of “The Princess Bride” is technically the fourth time Criterion has issued the film, they did it twice during the Laserdisc era, and then their blu-ray from 2018. A new scan of the film was not made for this release, it uses the very good 4K restoration that was made for the 2018 release, but this time it’s been graded for Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range. So how does it look and is it worth an upgrade?
Yes, there is an improvement across the board. It’s not a dramatic improvement, but what it does, which I’m very happy about, is take an already great-looking restoration and make it all the better. The first thing that struck me is how richer the colors are, they’re more vivid and more present. Fine detail also is sharper and there is an improved clarity to the image overall. It’s impressive, not a night and day difference, but one well worth having if this a film you’ve been waiting to see on a 4K disc.
The packaging is the same hardcover book style as the previous release by Criterion, but just slightly larger to accommodate room for two discs, as a copy of the 2018 blu-ray is included as well, which holds most of the extra features. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, there isn’t any info on the source of this track, but it sounds great. Everything is clear and sharp. There isn’t much activity in the surround speakers, which leads me to think this is maybe a 5.1 re-mapping of the original Dolby Stereo track that would have been in theaters.
Bonus features begin with the commentary track from Criterion’s 1997 laserdisc, it features Reiner, Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk. Also included is a really neat feature taken from the audiobook of the novel read by Rob Reiner, it’s been edited to be in sync with the film, allowing you to get an idea of how Reiner adapted the film. Also new is a look at a tapestry Goldman had commissioned based on his novel. Additionally, most of the bonus material from the previous DVD and blu-ray releases is included as well.
Criterion has taken their already great edition of “The Princess Bride” and made it even better with a fantastic looking 4K, Dolby Vision HDR presentation of the film which shows a marked improvement over the previous release. This is one well worth having in your library, but if you’re happy with the old blu-ray, you’re gonna be fine sticking with that too. But I have to say, the deeper richness of the colors does really make this well worth upgrading to. See you next week.