was a preteen in the illustrious 1980s and as much
as I loved Family Ties and Remington Steele,
I watched a lot of movies. Many of them I watched
over and over again. In fact, I made my father rent
Real Genius so many times that he finally
saved himself some money and bought the damn tape.
Sadly, I had the dialogue completely memorized shortly
thereafter. (It was a moral imperative.) In the
years since, I have logged countless hours hawking
fake butter on popcorn in movie theaters, renting
porn to PTA members at my local video store, indulging
my imagination and bankrupting myself in film school,
and amassing a respectably largethough often
questionably broadvideo collection. (Yes,
Shanghai Surprise is there on purpose.) These
days, when I consider my desert island list, I feel
I have matured into a first stringer in the biased
and zealous sport that is watching movies in America.
then I spot a holdover from my innocent youth.
In the gruff and glamorous group that constitutes
my favorite films, The Princess Bride sticks
out like a virgin at the breakfast table the morning
after prom. Faced with this incongruity, I immediately
remember why it has remained on top all this time:
"We are men of action, lies do not become
us." On this lean scrap of dialogue rests
the indubitable value of the film as a whole,
but Im getting ahead of myself, as usual.
let me prime you. This is not a typical review,
as in a critique, but a review in the sense of
re-experience from a particular perspective. So,
if you havent seen this movie
Now! There are many good reasons to check it out:
"Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants,
monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles!"
In short, it is the perfect fairytale, low-sap
and high-satire with just as much character as
charm and a self-awareness that defies mockery.
Throw in an albino and André the Giant
in a speaking role and youve got a damn
near perfect flick.
that you have seen it (and love it, natch!), imagine
what these characters represented for a twelve-year-old
girl watching awestruck in the dark in 1987. You
see, despite its title, this is a movie about
men, and that is a subject to which I was paying
attention early on.
and Buttercup, our two in true love, were admittedly
somewhat empty ideals, easily molded to fit the
contents of our individual hearts and minds. Everyone
envied Westleys dashing, daring charm. All
of us believed that, like Buttercup, we too were
intrinsically lovablecomplete with a perfect
pair of breasts, or the beginnings of them. It
was in their friends and foes that we found the
qualities to seek or steer clear of in searching
out our beloved.
the ultimate example of those who talk tall and
walk small, showed us the danger of false pride.
When challenged in the slightest, he denounced
his compatriots, "When I found you, you were
so slobbering drunk you couldnt buy brandy!"
When faced with the fact that his flawless plans
are foiled on the boat, the Cliffs of Insanity,
and again on the road to Gilder, he consistently
spouts, "Inconceivable!" Besides bungling
a kidnapping, an escape, and the starting of a
war, in one final display of his true wit he drops
Humperdinck, the yellowest rat bastard of the
bunch, displayed the downsides to dating a killjoy
and a coward. He managed to get the lay of the
landliterally, if not by consentand
all he wanted to do was kill her so he could send
his legions to war. You just know this kid was
looking for a fixed fight from the day he was
born. When Buttercup refused to marry him he killed
Westley in a fit of rage, "You truly love
each other, so you might have been truly happy.
Not one couple in a century has that chance, no
matter what the storybooks say!" Not that
he wanted her for himself, mind you, he just couldnt
stand the thought that no one would ever feel
that way for him. Which is why Westley, of course,
never killed him but challenged him to a duel
To The Painan ordeal of amputation and disfigurement
meant to leave the loser with the lifelong anguish
of being obviously lesser.
Rugen, the six-fingered man, was simply a bully
and an antiseptic bore. After his first session
torturing Westley in his dungeon/study, the Pit
of Dispair, he explained that he was compiling
a definitive study on pain and said, "I want
you to be totally honest with me about how the
machine makes you feel
And remember, this
is for posterity." Then there is the fact
that he battled and scarred an eleven-year-old
Iñigo Montoya, for which I could never
forgive himever. This reprehensible sin
was compounded in the finale when Rugen told Iñigo
that his was the most pathetic story he had ever
heard. Well, apart from his requisite moment of
contrition, these are the last words he speaks.
the strong but not so silent type, shows the importance
of being a good sport and a good friend. What
can I say here that isnt glaringly obvious?
He was a poet and a walking wall ("Its
not my fault that Im the biggest and the
strongest, I dont even exercise!"),
and without his thoughtfulness our gang would
never have gotten to ride off into the sunrise.
"There they were, four white horses, and
I thought, there are four of us if we ever find
the ladyhello ladyso I took them with
me in case we ever bumped into each other, and
I guess we just did."
brings us to Iñigo Montoya. Though he was
not technically prince charming, he was the realistically
flawed versiona man whom we may hope to
meet and one day beguile. How, you might wonder,
could a drunk with revenge in his heart be the
you look, youll see that flourishing in
his imperfect humanity are a sense of duty to
his family, honesty, chivalry, loyalty, dedication,
determination, faith, self confidence coupled
with humility, and quixotic optimism. Need I remind
you that once the six-fingered man killed his
father and beat him in a duel, Iñigo did
nothing but study swordplay and pursue Rugenand
for twenty years? Or, that even though he meant
to "do him left handed" when he first
met Westley ("You seem a decent fellow, I
hate to kill you.") he ended up admitting
that only the man in black could help him? Or,
that he relied on the spirit of his dead father
for guidance in his most desperate moment? Or,
that he rushed Westleys "mostly dead"
body to Miracle Max for a cure? Or, that no matter
how many times Rugen seemed to kill him he rallied
again and said, "My name is Iñigo
Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!"
He was the embodiment of Westleys great
wordshe was a man of action.
Peter Falk, you might say that I am taking this
all very seriously, but to even the most worldly-wise
twelve-year-old girl Westley and Buttercup were
a sort of promise. It was as if someone was telling
us, if you are good and you are patient you will
find someone wonderful. Not for a minute did we
expect this to be easy, I mean, we were ready
for the modern day equivalent of the shrieking
eels. But listen, William Goldman and Rob Reiner,
now that we are older, we know: you mislead us!
The ratio of men of action to faithful women is
cruelly skewed. Men today are afraid of calling
us, much less pledging devotion. They wont
give us a seat on the subway, much less their
word of honor. They are loyal to bands. They are
devoted to PS2. They are determined to get laid.
Men, in this day and age, are boys.
outlook is bleak and cynical, I know, but its
not just mine. Most women I know, save for the
few fortunate and the fools, echo these complaints.
Heres my attempt at quixotic optimism: maybe
this consistent disappointment IS the faithfulness
part. Maybe we have to wait diligently for our
dearest loves to come for us before we have even
met them. Maybe they wont be quite as cool
as Iñigo Montoya (horrors), but hopefully
they wont be drunks or killers either. Maybe
they wont always say, "As you wish,"
but hopefully they wont make us say, "Im
not a witch, Im your wifebut after
what you just said, Im not sure I want to
be that anymore!" Massively disappointing
alternatives notwithstanding, I am holding out
for the ilk of Iñigo. I hope you will too.
us with your comments.