The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 15, 2011 by Dennis Amith
A vibrant and fun comedy from Australia! “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” takes on LGBT themes sympathetically with humor. If you enjoyed this colorful film on DVD, it’s definitely worth the upgrade on Blu-ray!
Images courtesy of © 1994 Australian Film Finance Corporation United, Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved
TITLE: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1994
DURATION: 103 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
RATED: R (Sex Related Situations and Language)
COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-MayerTwentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2011
Directed by Stephan Elliott
Written by Stephan Elliott
Produced: Al Clark, Michael Hamlyn
Executive Producer: Rebel Penfold-Russell
Associate Producer: Sue Seeary
Music by Guy Gross
Cinematography by Brian J. Breheny
Edited by Sue Blainey
Production Design: Owen Paterson
Art Direction: Colin Gibson
Costume Design by Tim Chappel, Lizzy Gardiner
Hugo Weaving as Tick/Mitz
Guy Pearce as Adam/Felicia
Terence Stamp as Bernadette
Rebel Penfold-Russell as Logowoman
John Casey as Bartender
June Marie Bennett as Shirley
Murray Davies as Miner
Frank Cornelius as Piano Player
Bob Boyce as Petrol Station Attendant
Leighton Picken as Young Adam
Maria Kmet as Ma
Joseph Kmet as Pa
Alan Dargin as Aboriginal Man
With a contract to perform a drag show way out in the Australian desert, Bernadette (Stamp), Tick (Weaving) and Adam (Pearce) each have a personal reason for wanting to leave the safety of Sydney. Christening their battered tour bus “Priscilla,” these wickedly funny drama queens head for the outback…where their spectacular adventures are more than matched by their spectacular outfits.
In 1993, Australian filmmaker Stephan Elliott released his first film “Frauds” starring musician/singer Phil Collins, Hugo Weaving and Josephine Byrnes. Elliott would return a year later with a book titled “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” which was followed by a movie and stage adaptation.
Shot with a budget of $2 million, the film did bring attention to Australian cinema and its sympathetic portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. But at the same time criticized for its racial and sexual stereotyping.
The film was well-received by film critics, winning an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for “Best Picture – Comedy or Musical”.
But while this film is known for its comedy and its music, similar to Elliott’s first film, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” has its share of darker themes and even a little violence.
The film begins with a drag queen named Anthony “Tick” Belrose (played by Hugo Weaving) who goes by the name Mitzi Del Bra who performs in Sydney, Australia. Although a homosexual man, he once had a wife named Marion (played by Sarah Chadwick) who is now a manager at the Lasseter’s Hotel Casino resort in a town in Central Australia and wants Tick to bring his drag act to the resort.
Tick agrees and he persuades fellow performers Bernadette Basinger (played by Terence Stamp), a transsexual woman, and Adam Whitely (played by Guy Pearce), a flamboyant drag queen known as Felicia. Together, the three tour on a tour bus which Adam has named “Priscilla” and prepare for their four-week run through the Australian Outback headed to the Lasseter’s Hotel and Casino.
And through their trip, they manage to perform in front of aborigine people but also witness prejudice towards them as many homophobic people despise them being there and want them out of their town and are willing to beat Tick and friends if they don’t leave.
When the Priscilla breaks down in the middle of the desert, fortunately there is a mechanic named Bob (played by Bil Hunter) who is willing to join them on their journey but before they are to arrive at the hotel and casino, Tick reveals to his friends that the woman who gave them the job, Marion, is his wife and they have not yet divorced. And he also reveals the true reason why they will be performing at the resort.
As the group continue to meet interesting people on their way to the hotel, they continue to meet people who are not accepting towards them and their lifestyle and the question is, will the group be able to arrive at their destination to perform or will prejudice and violence prevent them from doing so?
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1). The film is full of colors and that is what you get with his release, vibrant colors and you can see the detail in the makeup on the guys. The costume design looks great in HD and may it be the color pallet, silk or sequins, the film does have a good amount of detail.
With that being said, the film also has its share of white specks as well, not too distracting but it’s there. There is a good amount of grain and for the most part, black levels are nice and deep. But this film looks absolutely wonderful on Blu-ray! Just the scene where the three are overlooking the Australian outback from high above the mountains, that was an amazing shot!
But I’m confident to say that for the MGM/20th Century Fox catalog releases for June 2011, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” fares much better than other releases in picture quality and it’s a very colorful film!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 5.1 DTS. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven. So, if you were fans of ’70s songs such as ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” and Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing” or Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, you’ll dig the crisp and clear lossless soundtrack.
The music does utilize the surround channels but most of the surround channels can be heard in various scenes such as thunder, rain, crowd and surrounding ambiance and a helicopter scene as well. But for a film like this, I was pretty glad to see the surround channels utilized for this film. Was expecting primarily a front-channel soundtrack but there was a good use of the surround channels for “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Stephan Elliott – An insightful commentary by Stephan Elliott on the making of the film, working with the talent. the music, the costumes and information on various scenes.
- Birth of a Queen Featurette – (29:20) Director Stephan Elliott talks about the film, the costumes, the cast and the music.
- Deleted Scenes – A total of four deleted scenes.
- Tidbits from the Set – (6:08) The director, producers, costume designers and cast answer various questions in regards to “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.
- The Bus from Blooperville Outtakes – (9:35) The outtakes for the film (presented in SD).
- Trailer – Original theatrical trailer for “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (2:37) and the teaser trailer (1:52) in HD.
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is a funny but also deep film about individuals who want to live their life, performing, being happy but also realizing that while there are some people who are open to their lifestyle in Australia, there are many who don’t support them and wish a lot of hurt to them.
Upon watching this film, I suppose I was expecting something more hilarious and comedy and music-driven because the film features a lot of music scenes, vibrant costumes and characters that make you laugh, especially how some of them interact with other people. And because this is an Australian film, I suppose I figured that this film based on drag queens, I was focusing more on the comedy and never expected to see the darker turns that this film would take.
In many ways, I can see how the film is quite sympathetic to the LGBT people because similar to America, you have people who don’t mind the lifestyle and those who don’t tolerate it. Also, possibly the most touching part of the film is seeing Tick’s reaction when he meets his son and wants to find out if he knows what his father is.
So, in some ways, I can see the honest portrayal of both sides of the coin that Stephan Elliott wanted to feature in the film.
As for the Blu-ray release, if you enjoyed this film on DVD previously, it’s definitely a film that looks awesome on Blu-ray! Wonderful colors and detail and the special features that were featured on the DVD are included on the Blu-ray as well. But definitely a much-welcomed upgrade for those who are fans of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.
While the film is fun, hilarious and also has its more deeper and darker moments, Director Stephan Elliott has said before that wherever the film was shown, different countries saw the film differently. In Australia, they look at it as a successful Australian film, Americans look at it as a sympathetic LGBT film while in other countries, there are those who can laugh and enjoy it and some who enjoy other scenes that other people from different countries pick up on.
For me, I look at “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” as an Australian film that showcases its beautiful landscapes and cinematography but primarily a film that takes on LGBT themes and that is prejudice that exists and also parents who once thought they were straight but were gay and confronting their own children about their own lifestyle.
These are not easy situations to write about but yet director Stephan Elliott managed to make things flow quite well throughout the film but also making things enjoyable and fun throughout, despite having to touch upon certain topics.
Overall, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” may not be for everyone but for those with open minds and want to watch a vibrant comedy, definitely give this film a try!
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