When I was in Year Seven, so, about eleven years old (in fact, definitely eleven years old, being as how I’m an August baby ‘n’all), one day our teacher was away for a lesson and so our form tutor took the period, but because he couldn’t be bothered or something, he let us watch the first part of a video (remember those?), The Princess Bride. I remember it being big and epic and scary and adventurous, with a love plot of some kind, but mainly about the adventure. And the big cliffs were really scary and there were these massive eels and a deep dark forest and an evil prince.
But I never got to see past the first forty minutes or so because people kept talking, our form tutor kept hitting pause to punish people into silence, and then the bell went for the next period anyway. I knew I wasn’t meant to like such a deeply uncool thing as a clearly very nineties fairytale, when all the kids in my class by that point were constantly quoting Forrest Gump and that awful film with cheerleaders and Kirsten Dunst, so I never breathed a word about it, but I always, always wanted to see the end.
So a few months ago I was in what H and her friends and I call ‘the sex shop’ (by which I mean Central Entertainment Exchange, or CEX, duh, we’re so funny, and I saw it on the shelf for £2.50, and so, now I’m a grown-up and don’t need to worry so much about things like ‘cool’, and only marginally about things like £2.50, I bought it.
I’ve been so busy these past few months, out of the house four evenings a week as well as every day, usually out with friends on Friday evenings anyway, and away for a number of weekends (leaving out for a moment that I was doing some seriously uncool things like IVFDF, the Church Weekend Away, and visiting my grandmother), so this term I’ve hardly watched any TV (and that would be on iPlayer whilst getting on with other things like packing/tidying/etc anyway) let alone found the time to sit down and watch a whole film (seriously this term my main source of narrative entertainment has been a couple of pages of a book sometimes before I go to sleep, and The Archers (oh I’m such a catch)), and anyway, I reach the end of term and I’m at my aunt’s house and having finally made sense of packing and not started cooking supper yet I decided to sit down and watch The Princess Bride.
I wish I had got to see it when I was eleven; I would have loved it. Heck, I enjoyed it now. It’s definitely a kids’ film, but it’s great fun. The love plot is soupy when relevant – swelling violins and chaste sunset-lit kisses and big declarations of undying love – but completely unobtrusive the vast majority of the time, since due to the complex twists and turns of the plot the lovers actually share the screen for probably about ten minutes total and spend eight minutes of that time with him fighting giant rats and swooping her out of the way of flames and killing things with his sword, and her twittering about looking scared and swishing her hair about (as heroines go she could definitely be more gutsy, but then, with a name like Buttercup, what can you do?). So basically that’s pretty much ideal for a pre-teen audience, keep the girls happy with a bit of kissing, but don’t do it enough that they get disgusted/bored. The script is pleasingly witty but obvious – I don’t think I would have found it so obvious at the age of eleven, but of course the villains are a bit pantomime and the hero always has a brilliant and biting comeback to more or less everything. There’s a swordfight, a distinctly unscary torture device, an albino, a tree with a secret door, lots of great costumery, Billy Crystal (I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned he can do no wrong), Andre the Giant (oh yes that’s right), adventure, comedy, suspense, and a friendly grandfather to remind you all that it’s all just a story, just when you get most scared.
Funny, though – I don’t think it would get made now. I think kids of the right age to enjoy it are just a bit too knowing, aren’t they. They watch films ostensibly aimed at teenagers and adults, I think. I mean, ten years ago I felt embarrassed about enjoying this film just when I was bang in the demographic to which it is aimed; who knows how it would go down now. Can you imagine Jumanji being made now? Or Flubber, or The Secret Garden, or any of the films we grew up on (she says, running out of ideas because she spent seemingly most of her childhood reading books instead)?
Anyway, that’s not the point. The main point is, The Princess Bride. And also, someone please remind me how every time I hear the words ‘pride’ or ‘prejudice’ I make yet another mental note to buy the BBC DVD of Pride And Prejudice since we only have it on VHS, and I haven’t got round to replacing it yet, and would that same kind someone forcibly drag me onto the Amazon site or something so that I actually do so? Thanks.