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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: The Princess Bride 20th Anniversary Edition

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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted November 01 2007 - 04:36 PM

The Princess Bride
20th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Release Date: November 13, 2007
Studio: MGM Studios
Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h38m
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Video (Special Features): Mix of 1.78:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1 matted widescreen
Audio: English DD5.1, French DD2.0, Spanish DD2.0
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, Spanish
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
Packaging/Materials: Single disc keepcase with cardstock slipcover and collectible booklet
MSRP: $19.98

This 20th Anniversary Edition of "The Princess Bride" is now the fourth DVD release of the film in seven years, a testament to the film's popularity if not the distributor's willingness to capitalize on that popularity. Eighteen months ago I reviewed the "Collector's Edition," which can be read in its entirety here. Some parts of that review have been re-used here and have been tagged with italics.

The Feature: 5/5
It's hard to believe – dare I say it's inconceivable – "The Princess Bride," an instant classic if ever there was, would have to rely on the second chances of the video rental market to reach an audience. But that's what it took for it to become the popular quotation source we all know and love and what some have ventured to call "The Wizard of Oz" of the 80s generation.

It is conceivable – or should I say it's understandable – the marketing department of 20th Century Fox didn't know what to do with the film, at turns a full blown fairy tale Walt Disney would have animated; at others a postmodern skewering of its ancestry. The film preceded "Shrek," a film to take much broader and more aggressive swings at fairy tales (not to mention Disney), by 14 years with a heart and wit missing from its blockbuster second cousin. Only time will tell if "Shrek" will be as beloved when it reaches twenty. I myself am doubtful.

If you've somehow managed to never see the film – don't question yourself, question your friends and family who failed to share it with (or force it on) you. Because as the film clearly models through the grandson-grandfather relationship that frames "The Princess Bride" story proper, there is no reason for the film to go unshared if there is love between people.

Video Quality: 4.5/5
The video transfer on this 20th anniversary release is sharper and displays more depth of contrast and color compared to the 2006, two-disc release. Edge haloing is also reduced. The improvements may be due to fewer special features taking up disc capacity. As with the 2006 release, the picture is free of dust, dirt and damage. For reference, my comments about the previous release's video quality:
Video Quality 4/5: The two-disc edition shows a noticeable improvement in picture quality from the 2001 release. The picture has been cleaned of dust and dirt specks and is sharper than its predecessor. The new transfer is also brighter, displaying more pleasing contrast range and color saturation (the 2001 transfer had an underexposed quality that made me want to fiddle with my display's brightness setting). Some might miss the saturated colors of the previous release, but I suspect the more muted tones of the new transfer are accurate, given the similar look of other films from that time. Some minor edge enhancement is present (though only visible in moments with the most extreme contrast), with occasional softness and lack of detail in wide angle shots. Black levels are good overall, though a bit muddy in the darkest of scenes.

Audio Quality: 4/5
The 5.1 audio transfer on this release sounds the same as the one from the 2006, two-disc edition. For reference, my comments about the previous release's audio quality:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is primarily fronts/center-focused, with surround channels providing subtle support with the film score and some environmental effects. Though at times it is difficult to understand Andre the Giant, this has more to do with his thick accent than the audio quality, given the rest of the dialogue is clear and intelligible. The audio track serves its purpose with few bells and whistles.

This release also includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which is largely indistinguishable from the 5.1 option.

Special Features (Packaging): 3/5
"The Princess Bride" Collectible Booklet: Double-sided booklet that re-tells the story, one side from the perspective of Wesley and the other side from the perspective of Buttercup. Those interested in graphic design should be impressed by the two-way design of the title graphic.

Special Features: 2/5
The 20th Anniversary Edition includes none of the special features from previous releases, instead providing a brand new set that I doubt will be viewed more than once.

    • True Love and High Adventure: The Official Princess Bride DVD Game: Essentially a promotion for the downloadable game at www.princessbridegame.com, play through three games to earn points redeemable on the website (which was not finished at the time of this review). Two-thirds of the games rely on using the direction buttons on the DVD remote, which doesn't make for a very responsive control device. The other game is completing Fezzik's rhymes, which is rather easy. Obviously the entire thing is not meant for adults.

    • The Princess Bride: Untold Tales (9m07s): Despite what the title suggests, many of the memories shared by the cast (including Robin Wright Penn, Mandy Patinkin, Fred Savage and Christopher Guest) is familiar, the sole exception being Patinkin's touching memory from the premiere screening.

    • The Art of Fencing (7m08s): Swordmaster Robert Goodwin talks about the history of fencing in film and provides an analysis of the film's different sword fighting scenes.

    • Fairy Tales and Folklore (9m16s): Author Jack Zipes talks fairy tales and how the film spoofs the genre.

Recap and Final Thoughts

The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features (Packaging): 3/5
Special Features: 2/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

In my review of the 2006 edition I expected the impending 20th anniversary of the film to include the release of a Blu-Ray edition. Unfortunately we get this lone, single-disc DVD release. While the video quality shows an improvement compared to the previous edition, the special features package is a severe step back with the loss of all of the previous elements and new items that won't be viewed more than once. The 2006 edition, which came with either Butter Cup or Dread Pirate Roberts slipcovers, ultimately remains the definitive release, but sadly it seems it is no longer in print. I suspect this 2007 edition was released as a stop gap until the high definition version (with all the past special features, I hope) finally hits the market.

Edited by Cameron Yee - 8/19/2009 at 01:16 am GMT

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   joshEH



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Posted November 02 2007 - 03:21 AM

Whoa...and here it was thought that the new "20th Anniversary" set would carry over the previous disc's rather hefty features.

What the fuck is MGM thinking?? Jesus. Not that I planned to actually triple-dip my "Dread Pirate Edition" or anything, but still...

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#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted November 02 2007 - 05:16 AM

Thanks, Cam. Looks like waiting for the BD to upgrade was the right choice. . .
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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted November 02 2007 - 08:07 AM

It sounds okay, but it's one of those things that I want but do not need--like the new Poltergeist edition. It just ain't enough...


#5 of 10 OFFLINE   JasonKZ


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Posted November 02 2007 - 10:58 AM

Dang, I feared this would happen and that Dread Pirate I sold off is starting to become pretty collectible. May have to buy back a buttercup edition instead..........

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Mike_Richardson


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Posted November 03 2007 - 07:50 AM

I wouldn't even say that. Given how seldom Fox bothers to put any extras on their BD releases, I wouldn't hold my breath that the BD will be an "upgrade" on anything but the PQ.

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   MTRodaba2468



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Posted November 03 2007 - 06:47 PM

Goddamn. This looks like a COMPLETELY pointless release afterall. I'll stick with the Dread Pirate Edition I have, despite the fact that the new release's cover art is undeniably cooler.

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Steven Good

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Posted November 04 2007 - 06:41 AM

Wait, what? I thought I had read online that the Buttercup/Dead Pirate features were being included in the 20th Anniv. release + new stuff? Arrggh! I sold my Buttercup edition intending to upgrade to this newer version. Guess I'll track down a used Buttercup set and skip this version.
Roger Ebert--"This is one more pathetic example of the dumbing of America--to show the films in the wrong aspect ratio to placate the stupid, instead of in the right aspect ratio to reward the knowledgeable."

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Travis Brashear

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Posted November 04 2007 - 06:50 AM

When, oh when, will you DVDphiles ever learn--never, and I mean never sell off an earlier version, no matter what the advance marketing buzz says, until the new release hits the stores and you can validate no missing features, no video or audio mastering errors, no dropped footage, no packaging snafus, etc. etc. etc. There are so many things that can and have gone wrong with upgrades and rereleases over the last few years that you can never assume anything anymore.
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#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted November 04 2007 - 12:54 PM

Jeez.....just how many times do they have to re-release a film? Weren't the other 2 (was it 2? I lost count.) reissues good enough? MGM is getting as bad as Anchor Bay these days. Posted Image
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