Monday, June 13, 2011

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT


Stephan Elliott, 1994
Starring: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce

Though this isn't horror or exploitation, it's developed a pretty big cult following over the years. Plus, it's quirky, funny, and is worth seeing for all fans of underground or cult cinema. The best way to describe The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is to say that it's essentially a big gay Australian road trip movie about three drag performers overcoming personal and social obstacles while they don sequins and make up and belt out some tunes.

The plot is relatively simple. Bernadette (Stamp), a recently widowed transwoman, agrees to accompany Mitzi (Weaving) on a cross country trip where he has been invited to perform his drag act in the Lasseter Hotel and Casino. They are accompanied by the brash, young Felicia (Pearce), who will also perform with them. Felicia uses his mother's credit card to purchase Priscilla, a huge silver tour bus that will carry them through the Outback for a few weeks. The bus breaks down and they pick up an open minded mechanic who has agreed to tour with them.

This is worth seeing for the humor, well written script, and three great performances from some incredible actors who are all well known for widely different films. It's actually worth it alone to see Terence Stamp's amazing performance. Though I'm a fan of his '60s films, I assume most Americans and film nerds know him as General Zod from Superman. This performance is a complete 180 from that. It's actually not even a 180 -- it's in another dimension all together. The same can be said of Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce performing in drag. Far cries from Weaving's Elrond (Lord of the Rings) or Agent Smith (The Matrix).

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert definitely comes recommended as a fun, fast paced and quirky little film that helped keep independent Australian cinema on the map. Buy it here. Should you decide you love it, it was turned into a Broadway play. That was only a matter of time. It was also unabashedly copied/remade a year later in the U.S. as To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. In a much more offensive and humorless spin, Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo take their drag act on tour in cross country America and break down in a small town where they hope to change people's hearts and minds. See the original instead.

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