I can’t claim they were the first words my daughter learned, but I’m pretty sure “The Princess Bride” provided the first full speech she was able to recite:
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
And I’m saying there’s a pretty good chance multiple generations in your family can recite that speech too. When the movie “The Princess Bride” hit theaters 25 years ago today, it was not a breakout hit, though it did make a few million more than it cost.
Fantasy/fables based on books that aren’t “Harry Potter” popular rarely go gangbusters at the box office. But “The Princess Bride” seemingly became a home rental/movie channel/DVD classic because practically everyone whose ever been convinced to view the film has walked away a fan, if not an out-and-out fanatic.
It has created, beyond the speech of the swordsman Montoya (played by Mandy Patinkin) a collection of quotables, exchanges and terms so large that for those who speak geekspeak, it may almost rival “Caddyshack.”
If you’ve seen the movie, consider how many of these lines you recognize, and how many you know to attribute to Vezzini (Wallace Shawn), Fezzik (Andre the Giant), Westley (Cary Elwes), Buttercup (Robin Wright), Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) and the rest (If you have not seen this movie, stop wasting your time reading this piece and go see this movie):
“As you wish.”
“Is this a kissing book?”
“I’m not left-handed either.”
“This is true love -- you think this happens every day?”
“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”
“We are men of action, lies do not become us.”
“And YOU: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed, in Greenland?”
And then there are the exchanges, by far the wittiest repartee that’s ever graced this type of movie.
Vizzini: “HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.”
Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Buttercup: “You mock my pain.”
Man in Black: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something”
Inigo Montoya: “Let me 'splain.”
[pause] Inigo Montoya: “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
It's all such a strange story -- the actual tale of “The Princess Bride” and all the fake stories author William Goldman created around and within it, and everything that has come since.
The book came out in 1973, and purported to be a far-shortened version of an ancient satire of European nobility, written by S. Morgenstern. But there was no original, and no S. Morgenstern. The literary conceit of the book is that the author, Goldman, had it read to him as a child, grew up, tried to read it to his kid, and found out it was a brutally boring tome his father had edited on the fly as he recited aloud to create the wondrous story related to him.
In the movie, this conceit gets a nod as the grandfather, played by Peter Falk, reads to the grandson, played by Fred Savage, and appears to fumble around, skipping some things (though not all the ones Savage wants him to).
In the world of “Princess Bride” there also now exists a fake sequel, “Buttercup’s Baby,” and a whole weird Goldman melodrama that includes Steven King (Goldman is a close friend of King’s who’s scripted all the horror master’s best movies), rights battles, fake Goldman children with serious mental issues, fake wives, an international dust-up with the fictional nations of Florin and Gilder, and various other faux-dramas.
The truth appears to be that Goldman made up the story, essentially, as he told it to his daughters, and then transcribed it and added the oddities because … that’s just how he is.
On this 25th anniversary of the movie’s release, you may have realized some of this, or all of this, or none of it. What I know is this: “The Princess Bride,” filled with extraordinary actors, love, nobility, quests, fear and wit, is one of the great classic movies of my generation. Like other such classics (“The Wizard of Oz” comes to mind) it appears to have almost as much resonance with the younger generation.
And we are reaching a point where you cannot be considered culturally literate if you can’t identify the movie’s most famous quotes. So if you’ve never seen it, fix that. And if it’s been a while, fix that, too.