OR Why The Princess Bride is one of the most faithful adaptations while also supposedly removing the entire conceit of the source material.
Because, well, it is.
The Princess Bride film is one of the most successful and best known of all those fantasy films from the 80’s that Hollywood was releasing to try and capitalize on Star Wars. It’s on several people’s best films and favorite films lists (including mine!) and for good reason, it is an excellent film. I mean come on, it’s got fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles– it’s got everything. It’s also adapted from a book, written by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay. It’s to the point that in the introduction to the 25th Anniversary edition of the book, Goldman remarks “If you’re reading this, dollars to donuts you’ve seen the movie.” My copy is actually a very nice hardback that contains both the 25th anniversary introduction and the 30th, along with the original one that sets up the whole premise of the book.
Does it help that the author wrote the screenplay? Certainly, and Goldman certainly had experience with adapting– he also wrote the screenplay for his own Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and would later adapt Stephen King’s Misery which was considered unadaptable and is also the only King adaptation with an Oscar (Best Actress Kathy Bates).
But ultimately what works about the book was never going to work on film, and what works about the film is projected right onto the page. The biggest problem about a beloved adaptation of a book is that it can supplant the original images of the text, but given how close the text of The Princess Bride is to the film, it’s less of a concern than for most others. It really is that good an adaptation.
Of course, many would consider such a thing, well, inconceivable.