General Zod as an aging transsexual? Agent Smith and Leonard Shelby as flamboyant transvestites? Strange things are afoot at the Circle K….
THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT was an international smash back in 1994. Ostentatious drag queens may not be my favorite subject matter but I can see why it made such an impact; it’s a care-free, feel-good movie and one of the first to take its focus somewhat seriously. It mildly entertained me, but I just didn’t think it was that good of a film.
PRISCILLA’s main strength—actually the entire movie really—is its characters. Terrance Stamp may make for the most disturbing-looking shemale ever, but his dry, regal delivery fit the character of Bernadette/Ralph well. It was tough not thinking L.A. CONFIDENTIAL or THE MATRIX any time Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving were on screen, but after a few minutes they effectively disappeared in their performances.
While the characters are fairly strong, I wasn’t too sure about the film’s point. It deals with obvious themes of prejudice and acceptance, but then the trio goes to a small, rural town dressed in outlandish drag queen outfits. What do they expect; people not to stare at them or make comments? (Do you wear a giant lizard costume for any reason other than to stand out?) It also doesn’t help that the characters themselves engage in fairly stereotypical “fabulous” behavior, including clichéd group renditions of “I Will Survive.”
Even if you do buy it as a character piece with a message, nothing really happens until the final act of the movie. There isn’t a plot other than Priscilla needs to get from Point A to Point B, with fairly little of consequence in between. Dancing with aborigines…great. Prejudice in one small town…got it. Prejudice in another small town…okay. The Winona Ryder ping pong ball trick… well, that was awesome, but still kind of random.
Commentary by director Stephen Elliott: Elliot claims at the beginning that it’s been almost 10 years since filming, so this commentary must be a few years old. The man talks pretty much non stop, so if you’re a fan of the movie you’ll want to listen.
The Birth of a Queen (29:18): An informative half hour of Elliott discussing all aspects of the movie. Coupled with the commentary, you’ll know all you want to possibly know PRISCILLA. The movie features a lot of music, but I never really considered it a “musical” in the 1950’s sense, but apparently the director does.
Deleted Scenes: Four short clips (about five minutes total) and not so great quality.
Tidbits from the Set: Thirteen short (~30 second) behind the scenes clips, including an interview with Terrance Stamp in character as Bernadette talking about why Terrance Stamp is so attractive. Yes, I’m scarred for life also.
The Bus from Bloopersville (9:35): This is more like raw footage from the set than a “ha ha, we messed up!” gag reel.
A Photo Gallery and Trailers.
Extra Tidbit: Stay tuned for a very odd coda at the end of the credits.