Writer-Director Stephan Elliott had a certain fondness for musicals. Because no one was making great
musicals at the time, he saw the need and decided to create one centered around his image
of the modern musical, the drag queens and their lip-syncing acts. A fateful feather
blowing down the street during his visit to Australia's gay Mardi Gras gave him the
inspiration to make a film which would combine the contrasting elements of drag queens and
So in 1994, a small Austrailian picture about two drag queens, a transexual, and a bus was
born and the film instantly connected with audiences in its homeland and the US. Though Terrence
Stamp was already a headliner previously playing tough guy roles, Priscilla made bigger
stars of Hugo Weaving who later had roles in "Lord of the Rings" and "The Matrix" and Guy
Pearce who starred in "Momento." The movie's success also spawned the similar but inferior
drag comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar." The outrageous, color-rich costumes deservedly earned the film an Oscar for best costume design in the same year.
Drag performer Tick (Hugo Weaving) receives a call from his estranged wife who needs him
to perform his act at her casino in Northern Australia. He enlists an older,transexual
friend, Bernadette nicknamed Bernice (Terence Stamp) who is semi-grieving over his dead much younger male
To Bernice's dismay, Tick's young, drag partner, Adam (Guy Pearce) is along for
the ride and he takes particular pleasure in taunting Bernadette often calling her by her birth
name, Ralph. To cross the Outback, Adam fabricates a hilarious straight converting
story to his mother that persuades her to finance a beat-up bus he christens "Priscilla,
Queen of the Desert" that will take them from Syndey to Alice Springs. As they travel the
harsh desert of the Outback, their bus breaks down bringing them in contact with
Aborigines and odd locals who don't always welcome the fully costumed drag trio with open
arms or simply don't know what to make of them. On their emotional journey, Tick ponders
what role he will have in the life of the son he hasn't seen since birth, Bernadette considers the
possibility of a new relationship, and Adam confronts homophobia.
Elliot wisely decided not to make a mockery of the three main characters though it
wouldn't have been difficult with the heavy makeup, elaborate costumes, and high heels.
What we see instead are real people who have the same foibles and insecurities we all have
as well as the strength to persevere and triumph in a world that doesn't fully understand
them nor is willing to always accept them. Those are themes by which many minority groups including the gay community can relate. Ultimately, they find their own place and their own
Though there may be some underlying serious overtones, Priscilla is foremost a hilarious
comedy with its quick and witty dialogue, plentiful sightgags, and clashes with the local
Stamp playing Bernice is great in his deadpan
delivery of one-liners. At one point, he calls Pearce's Adam a "cock in a frock on a rock." Pearce plays the immature and flamboyant Adam to the hilt and manages to steal the scenes in which he appears. The mere
sight of Weaving, Stamp, and Pearce in drag is enough to elicit a good chuckle and the
costume designers managed to improve on each costume with something more outrageous than
the one before. Pearce wears many of the most imaginative costumes sitting on top of the moving Priscilla.
In the Outback, they resemble space creatures dancing and lip-syncing to
the disco anthem "I Will Survive." It would also be impossible to watch this movie and
forget their encounter with an Asian mail-order bride who has a special talent with ping
pong balls. The marriage of Austrailia's wildlife, outlandish costumes, and hilarity
culminate in the wild drag showstopper performance of dance hit, "Finally."
Priscilla is presented in Widescreen. The transfer is excellent. Colors couldn't be more
important in a film such as this. The kaleidoscope of colors from the costumes pop
against the neutrals of the desert, the towns, and people they encounter on their trip.
The image is sharp and clear.
5.1 DTS and Dolby Surround are offered along with French and English 2.0 audio tracks.
The latest "Extra Frills" edition of Priscilla has an audio commentary by Elliot, a "Birth
of a Queen" Featurette, Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes, Tidbits from the Set, The Bus
from Bloopervile Outtakes, Frocks, Frills and Fotos Still Gallery, and theatrical
In his commentary, Elliot gives the origins of the movie and his choice for the actors
reiterating some of the comments he makes in the "Birth of a Queen Feauturette" below.
The "Birth of a Queen Featurette" present Elliot's narrating his development as a director
from his love of musicals, the idea for Priscilla, the financing of the movie, the choices
of the actors and how they transformed into drag queens, the costumes and music, and the
impact the movie's had. He also reveals how the award-winning costumes were made using
materials purchased for a discount at K-Mart. Elliot further elaborates on the ABBA
'turd' that Felicity carries in the movie.
The four deleted scenes are non-essential to the movie but are worth a viewing for a few
more laughs. In one funny scene, Bernice explains how her lover, Trumpet, gets his
nickname. Another deleted scene shows how Adam can always bring unwanted attention to the
group. A power outage can be painful when shaving your armpits in "outage before dinner."
The last scene is an extended scene of Bernadette comforting Adam.
The "Tidbits from the Set" screen has the images of Tick and Adam in drag. Upon clicking a
highlighted jewelry piece, short snippets taken when the film was made with the director
and cast comes on.
The "Bus from Blooperville" simply showcases outtakes, line flubbing, and behind the scene
shots from the film. Also non-essential but nice to have and watch.
Here's the recipe for a good movie. First, start with a few drag queens. Then throw in a
lot of laughter, add some great singing (not their own) and plenty of disco music, a dash
of Abba, out-of-this world costumes, and 6 inch platform shoes packaged in a DVD full of extras and you've got a
evening's worth of entertainment. I haven't seen this movie in years and I've enjoyed it
as much as I did the first time I saw it.