The Princess Bride | 1987
As fantasy films grow ever more bloated with CG effects, there’s something disarmingly refreshing about Rob Reiner’s knowing spin on the classic adventure story, which has gone on to become one of the best-loved films of the Eighties.
It doesn’t hurt that the script is based on a book by William Goldman, the Oscar winning screenwriter of Marathon Man, All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
When her first love, the farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes), disappears, the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) dutifully agrees to marry smarmy Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). The Prince’s kingdom of ‘Florin’ is Haddon Hall, just south of Bakewell, Derbyshire, possibly the country’s finest fortified Medieval manor house.
It’s in the house’s Lower Courtyard that Humperdinck announces their upcoming betrothal. If you’ve visited Haddon, you might notice that the production added an extra tower behind him to give a more imposing appearance. The Prince’s chamber is the 14th Century wood-panelled Banqueting Hall.
Haddon Hall was built, and developed, from the 12th to the early 17th Centuries, before lying dormant for over two hundred years until the being restored in the 1920s by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland. The house is open for visits and tours from April to October (you’ll need to check ahead for the days and opening hours).
Haddon Hall has long been a screen favourite, appearing as ‘Thornfield’ in both the 2011 Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, and the 1996 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It’s also featured in Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane, with Helena Bonham-Carter, Joe Wright’s 2005 version of Pride And Prejudice, and historical romance The Other Boleyn Girl.
Before the wedding, Buttercup is abducted by the sly Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), and his accomplices, swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzig (Andre The Giant), in order to ignite a war between Florin and its rival kingdom, Guilder.
She’s spirited away on a boat across Black Park Lake, in Black Park Country Park on Black Park Road between Slough and Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire. Conveniently alongside Pinewood Studios, Black Park has been used in countless films – including such British institutions as the Carry On..., Hammer and James Bond films.
The ‘Cliffs of Insanity’, at which they arrive – having survived the shrieking eels – are the forbidding Cliffs of Moher, south of Galway on the Atlantic coast of County Clare in Ireland. A designated UNESCO Geo Park, the cliff went on to provide the rocky shore where Dumbledore takes Harry to find the horcrux in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince.
The ruins at the atop of the cliffs were built in the studio, but once Buttercup and the various parties following her start making their way across the countryside, it’s the wild moorlands of Derbyshire’s Peak District.
After winning a battle of wits with Vizzini, the Dread Pirate Roberts finds it’s not all plain sailing when Buttercup pushes him into the steep green valley.
As he tumbles down the slope, his cry of “As you wish” alerts Buttercup that the dread pirate is none other than her first love, Westley, and she wastes no time following him. The valley is Cave Dale, running south from the town of Castleton.
You can see more of the Peak District’s rugged slopes in period dramas such as Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice. Strangely, Castleton itself and nearby Winnats Pass are featured in 1974 cult horror The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue.
And then follows the kissing part. In his brilliant book on screenwriting, Adventures in the Screen Trade, author Goldman talks of his childhood disappointment at going to cinema after seeing the trailer for an action film only to find out that it’s what kids hate most – a ‘kissing movie’.
Montoya finally faces Count Rugen, the six-fingered man (unrecognisable Christopher Guest) – “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”, but it’s no longer Haddon Hall.
The climactic swordfight was filmed in the Baron’s Hall of Penshurst Place, family home of the Viscount de L’Isle, and another of England’s 14th century manor houses, in Penshurst village, Kent. And, by the way, that open fire in the centre of the hall is the real thing.
The Baron’s Hall is also the site of a fencing match in Barry Levinson’s 1985 Young Sherlock Holmes, while Penshurst is featured in The Other Boleyn Girl and Anne Of The Thousand Days.