When my webmaster asked if I would like to rehash my dvd review for Priscilla: Queen of the Desert for the new blu-ray edition, I jumped at the chance. After all, I did love the movie. But in this blu-ray era, this was strangely the first time I had to do this. I wrote that review almost four years ago to the day. As many would argue, my writing has changed considerably in that time. But without further adieu, let us take a look back at the review.
From the DVD:
One of my favorite movies of all time is Rocky Horror Picture Show. My favorite character of that movie is Dr. Frank-N-Furter who is just a sweet transvestite transexual from Transylvania. So when I got Priscilla Queen of the Desert to review which had two cross dressers and a trannie and a grand helping of humor to boot, I was hoping it would become one of my favorite movies as well.
The story behind Priscilla is that Tick Belrose (drag name: Mitzi) (played by Hugo Weaving) got a contract to perform a show way out in the Australian desert. He convinces an old trannie named Bernadette (male name: Ralph) (played by Terence Stamp) and a rather flamboyant newcomer named Adam (drag name: Felicia) (played by Guy Pearce) to come along to be part of the act. From there, they take a fabulous journey across the desert with many hilarious stops along the way.
This is an outrageous comedy that largely works due to the extremely strong and different three leads. The interesting thing about the three leads is that they are totally straight in real life but yet have the drag queen persona so dead on. But that is the constant stereotype, that this is a gay film. Sure there are a trannie & two drag queens with enough dresses and makeup to get Kelly Ripa to blush but in by no means is it a gay movie. It’s a story about a journey across the desert with three guys regardless of occupation who overcome obstacles and reach their destination to perform their little heart away.
The drag just adds that layer of fun and turns it into the cult classic it is. The movie is heartfelt and when you aren’t laughing you might just shed a tear. Oh stop it you old queen; you’re going to ruin your mascara. It’s a delight and a fun torture to watch them work thru various performances to disco hits and cabaret tunes. It’s like a musical but also a drama and a comedy which is why this works so well.
New Comments from the Blu-Ray:
This movie has not lost its charm. It works because it does not downplay the homosexual aspect, but rather embraces it and moves forward with it. There are some bigotry moments but the movie does not spend time dawdling with them. The lush background of the Australian desert also helps the movie a lot. It is gorgeous and breathtaking. There is almost something surreal to see these three actors trollop around in this environment.
It might sound odd, but this is an adventure movie. Three people who make a life changing trip across the desert and learn something about themselves and their traveling companions. Insert three straight guys and put them on a terrible trip across the desert, insert some fart jokes, male nudity, and a picture montage of embarrassing moments, and you have Hangover 3. Except, Priscilla is actually funny.
The video is in 2.35:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. The picture is cleaned up a lot but it does not do so without keeping the original look of the movie. There is some artifacts and pixilation but it is a fine presentation and worthy of the blu-ray transfer. The desert looks great and the colors of the costumes (and bus) are amazing to see. Flesh tones look authentic and there really is a lot of detail in the faces and other objects. It is hard to believe that this movie is fifteen years old now.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 DTS-HD track for English (also included is 5.1 DTS track for French). Dialog is crisp and clear which is a godsend considering all of the Australian accents a foot. Surround speakers are used a bit for location and environment sounds and are maintained nicely. There are many showtunes and musical numbers throughout and keep a delicate balance of volume and clarity. Subtitles are also included for English SDH, French and Spanish.
Old Comments from the DVD but appropriate for the Blu-Ray:
- Commentary with Stephan Elliott (director): A pretty decent commentary to start out the package. The director goes into great depth to explain the film and every scene. There is some dead space but for the most part it is an excellent look at the film and its history.
- Birth of a Queen 29:18 : A wonderful 30 minutes of the history and information about the cult classic that is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Goes deep into the casting and costume design of the movie. Many interesting tidbits here (some rehashed on the commentary as well).
- Deleted Scenes: Four deleted scenes; good stuff here. All of these scenes would have worked on some level if they were reinserted. (and might have explained a couple of odds and ends too).
- Tidbits from the Set : A cute little piece where you click on a part of jewerly and get 30 seconds to a minute of an interview or quip from one of the members on the set. (blu-ray is different in that you select the tidbit with no jewerly or any fan-fare to it)
- Bus from Blooperville 9:35: A good helping of bloopers for everybody to enjoy. It’s interesting to see some of the Australian actors and how they react differently to some scenes.
- Original Theatrical Trailer & Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer : Nice to see these included especially the teaser where it compares them to some kinda alien from another planet. Bizarre.
Notes: Gone from the previous DVD version is the Automatic Trailer: Girls will be Girls and the Frocks, Frills and Fotos featurette which included sixty seven pictures from the production set. To be honest, the blu-ray does not have the same pizzazz as the “Extra Frills” DVD. It auto starts on the movie and the menus are very bland. Honestly, if you already have the dvd, the argument can be made that you watch the blu-ray for the movie and the dvd for the extras.
Parting Comments from the DVD review
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is one of those films where you forget yourself. You become lost in the movie and just try to enjoy it for the 100 minutes that you have to watch it. Even the closing credits are a joy to watch. Almost as much fun as watching a certain frock on a rock. The costumes are horrendously gorgeous and the musical numbers are an absolute riot. Each lead character has strength but yet pulls the movie in an entirely separate and different direction.
Some New Final Comments
The blu-ray does do a good job of preserving the picture and improving the audio. The extras have lost a bit of fluff from the dvd version as this seems to be a somewhat lazy job on Fox’s part to bring this to the new format. However, this is a cult classic and should be enjoyed by all audiences who aren’t afraid to think a little bit outside the box. So let’s take a desert holiday and pack the drag away. You take the lunch and tea and I’ll take the ecstasy. Bugger off you silly queer, I’m getting out of here! Highly recommended.