On Sept. 25, 1987, America first learned how to finish the following phrase: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father ..."
Of course, that's not exactly true. William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride had already been around for nearly 15 years by the time Rob Reiner's film adaptation hit theater screens, introducing readers to many of the characters, catch-phrases and concepts that would become instant pop-culture treasures. And given the odd structure of that novel -- it was a fantasy-adventure story, but also a satirical commentary on fantasy stories, a "good parts version" that indirectly skewered the likes of Tolkien -- it seemed like a faithful adaptation might never be possible.
But Goldman himself came up with a clever conceit in his own adapted screenplay: a kindly grandfather (Peter Falk) telling the tale to his grandson (Fred Savage) over the course of one sick day at home. And thereby we meet Buttercup (Robin Wright), Westley (Cary Elwes), the giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant), the vengeance-minded swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and a variety of dangerous encounters and narrow escapes. Only no kissing parts. The little boy hates kissing.
The film was hardly a blockbuster upon its release; it scored a whopping $30 million over the course of its theatrical run, barely beating out Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise as the 41st most popular release of 1987. It was, however, almost instantly a cult favorite, charmingly self-aware in its sense of humor even as it functioned as an actual rousing adventure. Lists created by film publications and industry organizations have named it among the greatest comedies, greatest screenplays, greatest love stories and a source of some of cinema's most quotable quotes. No one of a certain generation will not instantly know the reference point for "Inconceivable!", "As you wish," "mostly dead" or, yes, that quote above that ends, "Prepare to die." Its legacy is so rich that filmmaker Jason Reitman chose it in 2011 as the first in his series of live dramatic script readings, with Elwes getting a chance to play the villain role as Humperdinck and Savage returning to read as the grandson. Locally, the Tower Theatre even turned a late-night screening of The Princess Bride this summer into a prize-winning opportunity for a couple who rode up to the theater on horseback and got engaged on the spot.
If you're looking for a way to celebrate this auspicious anniversary with friends, join City Weekly for its monthly free screening at Brewvies tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 26; 21+), when The Princess Bride screens at 8 p.m. Could you find a more delightful way to honor this classic? It'd take a miracle.