DANGER. Spoilers for The Princess Bride below. You have been warned. DANGER.

Whaddya mean you haven't seen that yet?!?! What are you, some form of cultural ignoramus raised on a desert isle? Get thee hence and rent, beg, borrow or steal this movie. Immediately. We'll wait. Go.

Westley: "Wh...wh..where am I?"

Albino (in raspy voice of Doom)"The
Pit of Despair! Don't even..." (hacks, coughs, spits up a loogie, continues in much more matter-of-fact voice) "...don't even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. And don't dream of being rescued, either - the only way in is secret. Only the Prince, the Count and I know how to get in and out."

Westley: "Then I'm here 'till I die?"

Albino: (dabbing at Westley's wounded shoulder with a damp cloth) "'Till they kill you, yeh."

Westley: "Then why bother curing me?"

Albino: "Well, the Prince and the Count always insist on everyone being healthy before they're broken."

Westley: "So it's to be torture?" (The albino nods happily.) "...I can cope with torture." (The albino shakes his head dramatically, dramatically no.) "You don't believe me?"

Albino: "Well..." (dabs away) "...you survived the Fire Swamp, so you must be very brave. But..." (puts away the cloths) "...nobody withstands....The Machine."


The Machine.

Contained in that simple phrase is all the horror of the Industrial age gone wrong; all the abuses of the Industrial Revolution laid upon the brow of the noble Renaissance Man (in this case, Westley). We are told that it was constructed by Count Rugen, the Six-fingered Man, as part of his lifelong fascination with pain and torture. Other than that, few details are available, save for those we can discern from its operation and those few he gives us.

It sucks.

Count Rugen: "As you know, the concept of the suction cup is centuries old. Really, that's all this is...except that instead of sucking water, I'm sucking life. I just...sucked...one year of your life away. Someday, I may go as high as five, but I really don't know what that might do to you, so let's just start with what we have, shall we?" (Dips pen to ink) "Now remember, this is for posterity, so be honest. How do you feel?"

Westley: (inarticulate whimpering)

Count Rugan: "Interesting." (Writes.)

The machine does, in fact, involve the placement of what appear to be glassine suction cups over the subject's body, in locations to produce maximum welting. Temples, chest, shoulders, wrists - none spared. From what we see of Westley afterwards, the expected haemorrhaging of vacuum pumping is visible. Of course, what other more hideous injuries these may hide - we have no idea..

It's Water Powered.

Yes; Count Rugen starts the machine by lifting a sliding control bar. Doing so opens a watergate, and the resulting flow begins to turn a water wheel, which is connected by unseen but menacing mechanics to the tubes and funnels surrounding Our Hero.

It's Purely Capricious.

I say this because unlike other movie villains, Count Rugen doesn't seem to have any plans to collect the life he is taking from Westley, nor to use it for his evil purposes. No; The Machine exists merely to take, to destroy, not to steal, really. Stealing implies use of the object by the thief. The Machine is more theological and biological vandalism; a graffiti of pain left across the creatures of God's image, inscribed there by a madman.

It Will Kill.

...as demonstrated by Prince Humperdinck when, in a rage, he subjects a victim to the top setting of '50.' Rugen, first appalled (at the waste, naturally) objects, only to be fascinated with the results, of course.

The Machine is the ultimate servant boogeyman; the proof of the insanity of a world that could produce it. It reduces us to numbers and to the small, wriggling specimens of hideous experiments, scarring us, traumatizing us and tossing us contemptuously away. As such, it can be used as a metaphor for all too many of today's social and civic processes and organizations - school, work, clubs, the technological rat race, politics in general, politics in specific, militarism, nationalism, rampant technofetishism and, of course, moral turpitude.

Fear it.

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