September Swashbucklers: The Princess Bride

Liz:

10 Reasons to Like The Princess Bride

  1. “As you wish” (especially when said as tumbling down hill)
  2. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  3. “Inconceivable.”
  4. “Rodents of unusual size? I don’t think they exist.”
  5. “He’s only mostly dead.”
  6. “True love”
  7. Swordplay left handed and then right handed.
  8. Both drinks had poison
  9. Names like Buttercup, the Dread Pirate Roberts, Miracle Max, and Prince Humperdinck
  10. A grandfather reading to his sick grandson, but skipping the kissing scenes at grandson’s request

Aside from being remarkably quotable, The Princess Bride has likeable and memorable characters (like Fezzik) and just memorable characters (like Vizzini), a great swashbuckling scene, a sweet giant, a fairy tale feel, and a touching frame story. To my surprise, it’s actually based on the 1973 fantasy novel of the same name by William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay for the movie. I have the book, though I’ve never read it. The book’s cover announces it is an abridgement (though its size belies that) of a work by S. Morgenstern. Don’t be fooled: there’s no such unabridged book or such an author. That’s just part of the fun.

What do you like about The Princess Bride? Have you read the book?

Jaz: Last month a friend confessed that she’d never seen The Princess Bride. “Inconceivable!” I thought. Hasn’t everyone watched this film?

Sadly, no. And for those who haven’t, I have this to say: you must watch this film at least once in your life. Add it to your bucket list (or whatever else you call it). For my part, I’ve seen it one too many times – and still the “game of wits” scene never fails to make me laugh. The Princess Bride has everything one could wish for in a fairy-tale swashbuckler: corny, dominating theme music, quirky loveable characters, cheesy special effects, over-the-top acting, improbable situations, and of course, plenty of swashbuckling swashbucklingness.

As I recall, the film was – overall – pretty faithful to the book. It omitted Prince Humperdinck’s former matrimonial interest, a woman obsessed with hats, and tweaked the ending to make it more palatable to American audiences (in the book the story ends with Inigo’s life in peril as they are pursued by Humperdinck’s men). Sorry, spoiler. You know me.

Another thing I like about The Princess Bride is how it revolves around a grandfather, the narrator, reading aloud to his young grandson who’s in bed with a cold. Every so often the boy interrupts when the story gets mushy: “They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?” and, “Is this a kissing book?”

Well, is it a kissing film? It’s a little bit of that, and so much more. But you’ll have to find out the rest for yourself.

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September Swashbucklers: Captain Blood

This month’s theme will be (drumroll, please) … Swashbucklers! We’ll start with the 1935 film Captain Blood, a highlight of the genre starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

 

Liz: “Will you be back for breakfast?” the housekeeper asked.

“Who knows, my pretty one? Who knows?” Peter Blood replied.

Who knows what will happen next to quick talking, quick thinking Peter Blood in this movie based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel of the same name. Peace loving physician to Jamaican slave to feared pirate captain, Blood goes from one adventure to another.

I love the witty remarks of Peter Blood (a perfect role for Errol Flynn) and the intelligent, bold way he plots and executes the escape of himself and his fellow slaves. Stealing the all but abandoned Spanish pirate ship as the pirates raid the town is brilliant. As is the way he later sails between two French ships with a French flag flying until just before he attacks them to once again save Port Royal.

I didn’t care for Peter and his friends becoming pirates and frequenting Tortuga, but I understood why the bitter Peter chose to do so. It is also fitting to the story that Peter should buy and then fight for Arabella Bishop, while pretending to ignore her.

Quick moving plot with many unexpected turns, sword fights and naval battles, memorable characters, romance, and a happy ending make this one of my favorite adventure movies. The actors themselves—Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone (the often featured swashbuckling villain) and many other familiar character actors—also greatly add to the enjoyment.

Favorite quotes:

“Hi ho for the Governor’s foot!”

“Do you think you could find a piece of timber about this long and this high?”

“I think so.”

“Good. Lash it to your spine; it needs stiffening.”

Jaz: Errol Flynn forever ruined my impression of pirates. It’s entirely his fault the mere mention of the word conjures images of an impeccably dressed, sword-fighting gentleman with a debonair smile. Especially the smile. And Captain Blood started it all.

The film follows the main character, Peter Blood, as he goes from being an honorable physician to a slave in the West Indies to a – surprise! – pirate captain and then to a –

But I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t watched it. And yes, I do realize I’ve spoiled the ending for pretty much every movie we’ve discussed. I couldn’t help it.

Colonel Bishop, the detestable evil despicable slave owner (played with a zest by Lionel Atwill), just so happens to be uncle to beautiful Arabella (Olivia de Havilland), who just so happens to fancy the impertinent Blood, who just so happens to be a slave for sale after being convicted of treason for treating a wounded man, who just so happened to be a soldier in the Monmouth rebellion.

Arabella buys Blood for 10 pounds, partly to spite her uncle, partly to rescue him from working in the mines, but mostly because he’s Errol Flynn. Of course we all know what ensues. Later, the brilliant Blood manages to escape on a ship with his companions and becomes the most well-known and respected pirate on the high seas.

Throughout Captain Blood, there’s enough swashbuckling action to satisfy even the most demanding classic action film fan: sword fights, explosions, raids, commandeerings, more sword fights, and … sword fights! The special effects are convincing and the fights intense. The film’s main death, shot on a rocky shore awash in foaming waves, was quite dramatic. I also liked the use of light and shadow, particularly in the opening scenes.

I love this film, partly because of the above-mentioned content, partly because I like the main character … but mostly because he’s Errol Flynn.