The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Blu-ray (1994/2011)
Starring: Terrence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter
Director & Writer: Stephan Elliott
Studio: MGM [6/7/11]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Commentary track by director; “Birth of a Queen” featurette, Deleted scenes, “Tidbits from the Set,” “The Bus From Blooperville” Outtakes, Theatrical trailer
Length: 104 minutes
Whooee! What a kick of an outrageous comedy! One reviewer referred to it as “shockingly likable.” This 1994 Australian feature won an Academy Award for Costume Design – and no wonder. It’s a road trip movie with a big difference. Three drag queens buy an old bus, name it Priscilla, and drive across the Australian outback to do a scheduled show of their unbelievably-costumed lip-sync performances at remote Alice Springs. On the way they run into baffled natives, expected homophobic responses, and a host of unusual Aussie characters, including some supportive aborigines.
Each one of the three have their own reasons for deciding to leave Sydney for the Australian desert. Terrence Stamp is the oldest – playing a cynical transsexual. The most masculine-looking of the trio – played by Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) – turns out to have a (female, and most understanding and accepting) wife in Alice Springs. The three change in their relationships with one another during the trip. All three speak in their normal deep masculine tone. Stamp’s character conducts herself with great dignity, but she makes a pretty awful-looking queen. The dialog sometimes seems like clichéd gay banter, but may be accurate – I wouldn’t know. One of the most amazing costume bits is played by Guy Pearce, who gets himself on a high chair (in one scene a giant high-heeled shoe) on the roof of the moving bus, with long banner-flag-like fabric trailing way behind, lip-syncing to various operatic areas. The outback scenery is almost as eye-popping as the costumes, but not quite.
Musically, this film could be classified as a musical. It is full of pop, operatic and Motown-type hits, and fans of ABBA will go nuts with the several performances of their tunes. (I thought I was done with it in the Mamma Mia movie, but here it is again…) I understand the Blu-ray transfer is a big improvement over the original DVD release, but although it shows the fantastic costumes and Australian scenery to a T, it suffers from strange little occasional white spots that spill all over the screen. (A Criterion reissue would never have that.) And being a comedy, it has a happy ending.
— John Sunier