Hydropower for Medieval Torture in The Princess Bride

THE PRINCESS BRIDE 1987, 20th Century Fox

1987, 20th Century Fox

In my opinion, The Princess Bride (1987) is one of the funniest movies of all time.  And, it’s an energy movie!  In a classic scene, Westley the Farm Boy is tortured in the Pit of Despair, which looks like a laboratory out of a Frankenstein movie. Count Rugen (played by Christopher Guest) delights in causing pain and takes meticulous, scientific-quality notes on the efficacy of his torture device. Known simply as The Machine, it sucks the life force out of its victims.

A great sequence shows his turning the machine on to begin the torture. Adjusting the lever opens a gate that allows water to flow over a classic overshot waterwheel reminiscent of the mechanical power systems used for grinding grain or polishing glass in medieval Europe.  Falling water spins the wheel operating a series of gears and axles and creating a controlled series of motions. The waterwheel is a form of hydropower used in antiquity.  Today’s hydropower uses the same basic principles, but instead of sucking out our life force, they spin generators to give us electricity, which is a whole lot better.

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