The Princess Bride: Criterion Collection (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A bedridden boy's grandfather reads him the story of a farmboy-turned-pirate who encounters numerous obstacles, enemies and allies in his quest to be reunited with his true love.

September 29, 2023 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“As you wish.”

As he lays in bed home sick from school, a young boy (Fred Savage) is visited by his grandfather (Peter Falk), who hopes to cheer up his grandson. He plans to read him a story, one called The Princess Bride, but the boy is reluctant, only to agree when he is told is has ample action within. The story follows a farm hand named Wesley (Cary Elwes), who has romantic feelings for a beautiful woman named Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn), but he lacks the money to wed her. So he takes off to make his fortune, but when he doesn’t return, Buttercup is promised to the repugnant Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). When Buttercup is then kidnapped as part of a plot to create tension between two powerful countries, a mysterious masked man embarks to rescue her. Will Buttercup be saved and even if so, will her heart ever heal from the loss of Wesley?

An instant classic, The Princess Bride is a wonderful movie. This is a film that the entire family can watch and fall in love with, a smart and wildly fun production. The younger viewers will be pulled into the fairy tale world, while adults will appreciate the writing, which is superb. The Princess Bride is simply loaded with quotable lines, delivered by characters that are memorable long after the credits roll. I haven’t seen a lot of movies that can entertain viewers of all ages in such a brilliant manner, but this movie succeeds on all fronts. There is action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama, and pure magic, all tied together with skilled efforts on both sides of the camera. The Princess Bride is a fantastic movie that will stand the test of time, so seeing it in such a lush presentation is a true treat. So whether you’re a new viewer or this is your five thousandth trip into this magical world, The Princess Bride on 4K is highly recommended.

Video: How does it look?

The Princess Bride has been on just about every home video format available and this is now its third (maybe fourth?) incarnation but this is the first time it’s been in 4K. But this time it’s different because it’s now in the capable hands of The Criterion Collection. As we might expect, there was a slew of technical information regarding this new 4K transfer, for those who like it and/or want it:

The Princess Bride is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The master was created from the 35mm original camera negative, which was scanned in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner at Deluxe in Burbank California. It was restored using the 1997 Criterion laserdisc master, supervised and approved by associate producer Steve Nicolaides, as a reference. On the 4K Ultra HD disc, the feature is presented in Dolby Vision HDR (high dynamic range)

I’d forgotten that this title had been part of Criterion’s LaserDisc collection, but this only adds more to the story. First off, I noticed a richer color palette, finer texture and a depth that I hadn’t experienced before. Colors seemed to have a bit more “pop” to them and even tired-looking scenes had a sheen to them that couldn’t be ignored. There is a fine layer of grain in some of the outdoor scenes (the majority of the film is outdoors, or in the forest) that give the image a very natural-looking quality to them. Honestly, I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is, hands down, the best the film has ever looked. Perfection.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio track is, again, the same thing that was included on the previous Blu-ray.  Having said that the vocals are crisp and clean.  The surrounds don’t get too heavily involved, but they are there for some added emphasis.  The front stage handles most of the action and does it well.  There are a few times when the mix sounded a bit brittle, but they’re few and far between.  As we might expect, this is the best the movie has ever sounded. Short of adding a DTS X or Dolby Atmos mix on this disc (which Criterion does not do), I can’t imagine this movie sounding any better than it does here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This is where the disc really shines. We get a lot of material from the previous DVD edition(s) as well as some new content created exclusively for this release. Let’s get started.

  • True Love – Circa 2012, this features actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright as they recount the film, its continued success over the years and some general information about the shoot.
  • Pure Enchantment – New to this disc is former professor of screenwriting at Columbia University, Loren-Paul Caplin. He discusses some of the themes in Goldman’s novel and how they perfectly translated to the screen.
  • The Tapestry – Quit literally, this is about tapestries. Author William Goldman contacted artist Carol Burland for the film and it does give a new found level of appreciation when watching the film. This too was a new supplement for this edition.
  • Making of the Film –  A series of six vignettes that detail some of the various aspects of production.
    • As You Wish – Taken from the 2012 Blu-ray, this features interviews with the cast and crew as they recount working on the film.
    • The Princess Bride: The Untold Story – This 2007 segment features actors Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Fred Savage, and Robin Wright as they discuss the long-lasting effects of this popular film.
    • Fairy-Tale Reality – New is this interview with Art Director Richard Holland. Holland discusses the unique visual style used in the film.
    • Miraculous Makeup – Billy Crystal discusses, along with his makeup artist, his character of Miracle Max.
    • Behind the Scenes – Taken from the 1997 Criterion LaserDisc, this is a series of short movies all available with commentary.
      • “On the High Seas”
      • “Fezzik, Vizzini, and Buttercup”
      • “Westley and Fezzik”
      • “Miracle Max’s Hut”
      • “Buttercup, the King, and the Queen”
    • Cary Elwes Video Diary – With narration from Robin Wright, these are some of Carey Elwes’ home videos. Note the video quality. Impressive…
  • The Art of Fencing – Another 2007 piece focuses on Robert Goodwin. He gives us the lowdown on some of the weapons and techniques used in the film.
  • Fairy Tales & Folklore – Jack Zipes author of “Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion” gives us his explanation on why people are drawn to fairy tales and their long-lasting influence.
  • Publicity Materials – A series of theatrical trailers and television spots.
  • Audiobook – Taken from the 1997 LaserDics and narrated (read) by Director Rob Reiner, this allows the viewer to compare portions from the book and their corresponding place in the film.
  • Audio Commentary – Taken from the 1997 LaserDisc, this features Rob Reiner, writer William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk. It’s a talkative track (essentially anything with Billy Crystal will be), but one that most likely not a lot of folks have heard.
  • Illustrated Booklet – a 40-page illustrated booklet featuring three entires by Sloane Crosley, William Goldman and some cast and crew information.

The Bottom Line

There was nothing wrong with Criterion’s 2018 Blu-ray of this movie. Everything here is identical except for, you guessed it, the transfer. If you’ve been dying to have this in 4K then that wait is over. But if you already own Criterion’s Blu-ray, I really don’t see a need to upgrade unless you just want/need that 4K disc in your collection.

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