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Needing the perfect last-minute Christmas gift? Or the ideal way to start the new year right? As you wish.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will begin the new year in inconceivably fun fashion with a special performance of the iconic cult classic "The Princess Bride," playing live alongside a screening of the film on Jan. 1-2 at the Bradley Symphony Center. Because while the 1987 fantasy favorite is one of the most quotable movies of all time, composer (and Dire Straits frontman) Mark Knopfler's score is just as essential to the film's timelessly touching love story, ticklingly hilarious punchline inventory and tricky tonal tightrope glory. (No more rhymes now, I mean it!)
Don't believe me? We are men of action; lies do not become us – but even if that line doesn't work, here are several of the best musical moments from "The Princess Bride." Six of them, to be exact, as a tribute to the man who killed Iñigo Montoya's father and should prepare to die.
1. Buttercup/love theme
There's a lot to adventure through in "The Princess Bride" – from shrieking eels to foes-turned-friends to cliffs of insanity to fire swamps and a dramatic mawwage. Which doesn't exactly leave a ton of time to emotionally establish the romance that links all of those fantastical elements together and drives the grand story. And yet, in just about 90 seconds, "The Princess Bride" gets audiences to fall entirely for with its young countryside loves.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes deserve much of the credit, being gorgeous and packing heartfelt sonnets of romantic yearning into just a few words (merely three in the latter's case), as well as the warm sun-dappled cinematography. But don't overlook the impact of the score here either, the tender light guitar strings growing into a lush orchestral love theme, setting the perfect earnestly swooning and simply sweet tone that endures through everything. Even rodents of unusual size.
2. Our heroic villainous henchmen
It's easy to take for granted how well the wild story swings in "The Princess Bride" work. For instance, typically, we're not supposed to quickly enjoy the company of the henchmen who just kidnapped half of our romantic leads and plot to start a massive war with her eventually murdered body. But screenwriter William Goldman's script finds a perfect balance of making them both a little villainous and ominous while also a little noble, troubled by their consciences and refusing to go as far as Vezzini wants, and even a little goofy. But in case Goldman needs a little help, there's the warmly strumming strings playing a little mischievious and jaunty theme in the background as we learn more about Fezzik and Iñigo. It's a little adventurous, a little ominous, a little playful and even a little tender, helping to establish that they're a threat ... but nah, not really. It's a key part of establishing that tricky tone – earnest, sarcastic, thrilling, hilarious, romantic, goofy – that's made "The Princess Bride" so beloved still decades later.
3. The Cliffs of Insanity
"Queasy" is not a word I often use to compliment something – but in case of the music during the chase up the Cliffs of Insanity, it's exactly the right word to describe exactly the right score chiming in. Throughout it all, you have the usual action adventure score, setting the mood and creating building tension as the Dread Pirate Roberts quickily crawls up the rope, alarmingly catching up to Fezzik, Iñigo, the kidnapped Buttercup and the very perturbed Vezzini. But joining the typical orchestral score, perfectly escalating and growing in intensity, you have these wails of sound – a haunting shriek of unsettling strings – that totally adds to the surreality and tension of the moment, hanging off the side of some giant cliffs as a shadowy stranger gains on our bickering villains. It sends a well-earned shiver up the audience's spine and makes the cliffs and this chase up them feel as insane as they should.
4. The Dread Pirate Roberts vs. Iñigo
"The Princess Bride" is filled with great lines and moments, but an early highlight is easily the duel between The Dread Pirate Roberts and Iñigo Montoya, two foes who would hate to kill each other and hate even more to die. The swordplay is sharp and tensely assembled – with the witty script its only equal, their hilarious and quotable banter adding the ideal punctuation to their intense parrying. The score's is as on its games and toes as our two fighters, with the strings going maniacal and on edge, the music nimbly emphasizing the beats (both dramatic and comedic) for added excitement and humor, sliding strings and what sounds like castonets adding a little playful shading to the whole ordeal since this is all supposed to be FUN in the end. It's music as sharp and as pointed as the fencing on the screen.
5. "My name is Iñigo Montoya ... "
As I mentioned in the "Return of the Jedi" music moments piece, sometimes it's not about the music a movie plays but the music a movie doesn't play. In the "Star Wars" sequel's case, a well-timed musical halt enhances the thrills; here, it enhances the laughs. Everyone knows this iconic line – but while the quote gets all the love, the music's essential too, helping set up the tension of Iñigo finally coming face-to-face to the man who killed his father, scarred his face and forever altered his life's path. After a few bombastic musical stabs to match Iñigo's swordplay, the score fades to a quiet but present violin note, adding to the humming intensity of his emphatic line delivery before fading out to start seemingly the duel to end all duels ... only for the six-fingered man to hilariously bail and scamper away. It's a perfect tension-popping punchline – and the moment would hit nowhere near as hard if the music didn't set things up, and sneak away, so perfectly.
6. A four-horse finale
I'll be honest: As great as the score is in "The Princess Bride," the actual music playing in the movie ... sometimes doesn't sound so great. It was the '80s, so we're dealing with the synth trends of the time and the limits of digital recording, and this seemingly wasn't a big budget production demanding a big, swooning orchestra. As a result, the music can sound a little thin or tinny – especially on your laptop speakers. Even so, the heroes' final escape at the very end still sounds wonderful: Fezzik and Iñigo's strumming theme starting things off, the wonderfalling harp as Buttercup falls through the air to freedom, the romance theme playing at full-throated gorgeous strength, everything coming together one last time in triumphant celebration. No wonder Fred Savage doesn't even mind the kissing during this part.
And if the finale's score sounds that lovely on laptop speakers with a mediocre mix and '80s digital music compression, imagine how lush and overwhelmingly glorious it'll sound with a full-sized orchestra behind it, live rather than through a laptop. Get used to the opposite of disappointment.
"The Princess Bride" live with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will hit the stage and screen on Jan. 1-2 at the Bradley Symphony Center. For tickets, call (414) 291-7605 or visit the MSO's website. And happy holidays!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.