Criterion loads this edition up with a number of special features, adding a couple of new ones while porting over not only features from the previous MGM/Fox releases but also the features that have been, until now, exclusively available on their own LaserDisc special edition from 1996. This edition does drop the commentaries recorded for MGM’s first special edition DVD (which featured director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman) but it instead replaces it with the better commentary Criterion recorded for their LaserDisc, featuring Reiner and Goldman again, along with producer Andrew Scheinman and actors Peter Falk and Billy Crystal. Like most of Criterion’s group commentaries at the time everyone has been recorded separately and then edited together.
It’s a nicely put together track, covering the film’s production, and it’s been edited to go along with what’s happening on screen. Goldman probably has most of the track, covering the background to the book and the movie and explaining how proud he is of the story and film (this and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are the only two things he’s done that he is proud of). He also talks a bit about the adaptation process and what goes behind adapting a book for film. Reiner and Scheinman show up less than I would have figured, yet despite having bit parts both Falk and Crystal pop far more than I would have expected. The background to the production proves to be especially intriguing, as it was something that took a while to get off the ground and interesting talents had been attached to it. It was also great listening to everyone talk about working with everyone, Crystal being especially taken by Andre the Giant as a person, and Reiner shares some amusing stories about Wallace Shawn’s insecurities. I enjoyed this track more than the MGM one, finding it moved at a better pace thanks to the editing, so if you haven’t listened to this one in particular yet it’s worth giving it a go here.
Also taken from the Criterion LaserDisc is another alternate audio track, the audiobook, which presents excerpts from the actual audiobook released for the original novel, featuring Rob Reiner. These excerpts are pulled to match the specific scene on screen at the time and it is an interesting addition, seeing how the film visualizes the text and what changes were made. Including the actual book would have been a great idea of course (though probably not possible), but this is a decent alternative.
The remaining supplements can be found under the “Supplements” menu, starting with a 2012 feature found on Fox’s Blu-ray, True Love, a 15-minute discussion between Reiner and actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. A lot of the material here is covered in the commentary (and some of the other features) but there are a handful of deleted scenes scattered about, including raw footage for the original ending, and I enjoyed when the three talk about fans approaching them about the film.
Pure Enchantment is a new feature exclusively produced by Criterion for this release. In it screenwriter Loren-Paul Caplin discusses the work of William Goldman, with a particular focus on The Princess Bride, obviously, while also looking at how Goldman has structured his scripts over the years, breaking rules along the way. Though it works as a feature about Goldman it ends up also turning into a solid examination of screenplay structure. It runs 17-minutes.
Also new to this edition is a 6-minute feature about a tapestry Goldman commissioned after completing the book, representing key sequences found in it. Goldman hosts this feature and he talks about the sequences represented and then talks a little about Andre the Giant on top of that. It’s a shame it ends up being so short because it proves to be a very engaging extra.
Criterion then creates a little sub-section called “Making the Film,” which starts off with the 2001 making-of As You Wish, featuring interviews with members of the cast and crew. It runs 27-minutes and is typical for most MGM produced features of that time, covering the film’s production in-depth from beginning to end through talking-head interviews. Accompanying this is a 9-minute featurette from 2007 called ”The Princess Bride”: Untold Tales featuring Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage, and Robin Wright, where the participants share some tales around the production, primarily about the atmosphere on set and stories from the hotel they stayed at.
Fairy Tale Reality is another new feature created by Criterion, which features art director Richard Holland talking about the film’s sets, with some archival footage of production designer Norman Garwood mixed in with some behind-the-scenes footage. Holland covers how they spruced up actual settings to give it that more fairy-tale look, and then also talks about working with the director of photography to make sure it’s all going to be captured properly. This is then followed by a 2006 feature called Miraculous Makeup, featuring interviews with Billy Crystal and makeup artist Peter Montagna talking about the creation of the character Miracle Max in the way of traits and looks. The features run 12 and 11-minutes respectively.
Criterion then ports over more content from their LaserDisc edition, this time in some behind-the-scenes footage. We get five segments here, running between 2-and-a-half minutes and 5-minutes, for a total of less than 20-minutes. You have the option of watching the footage on its own or with a commentary. Scheinman and Crystal appear on two of the commentaries while Reiner appears on one. Crystal probably offers the better tracks, talking about what it’s like making a cameo and then talking fondly about Andre the Giant, mentioning a project he was working on at the time called My Giant (remember that one?), which was based on his experience with the wrestler/actor. I don’t believe any of thismaterial has appeared anywhere else so it’s great to have access to it again.
Also from the LaserDisc is footage from Cary Elwes’ Video Diary, which only runs 4-minutes and has both Elwes and Wright narrating over it. The footage isn’t too revealing but the two talk about working with each other and Elwes recalls his sword training, which is included in the material.
That then leads into a 2007 featurette called The Art of Fencing, featuring Robert Goodwing talking about the film’s trainer/sword master, Bob Anderson and the art of sword fights in Hollywood films. There is then a feature on Fairy Tales and Folklore, also from 2007, featuring scholar Jack Zipes talking about the power of fairy tales, their purpose throughout time, and how the film plays on certain conventions. For a studio produced piece it’s actually not a bad scholarly addition. The two features run 7 and 9-minutes respectively.
The disc then closes with a series of trailers and TV spots. The North American trailer clearly indicates the studio had no idea how to market the film.
The packaging for the Blu-ray edition is also quite nice, being clothbound and taking on the look of a hardbound storybook, perfectly suiting for the film. There is also a booklet attached inside. First is an essay by Sloane Crosley, how it has held up, and sharing her experience of watching it with her niece, trying to show how different generations can still gravitate towards the film (my kids like it). This is then followed by an excerpt from “Four Screenplays” with William Goldman recounting how the story of The Princess Bride came to be.
Not everything gets ported over from previous editions: a couple of other featurettes are missing as are the two commentaries from the MGM DVDs and Blu-, but I think Criterion has tried to cut most of the fluff out, brought over only the supplements that are worth the time, while also preserving their previous LaserDisc exclusives. They’re not perfect but this is probably the best collection of supplements gathered together for the film. 8/10