Stephan Elliott's Academy Award winning 1994 film The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert proved to be a bit of a sleeper hit when it was first released and it's remained a popular title on home video in the years since. The film stars Hugo Weaving as a man named Tick who works in Sydney as a drag queen under the name Mitzi in a cabaret show he performs in alongside another drag queen named Adam (Guy Pearce), who guys by Felicia, and a transsexual named Bernadette (Terrance Stamp). While Adam is quite confident in his status as a gay man, Tick turns out to have a bit of a past - not only was he once married, he has a son.
When he gets the call from his ex-wife, he and his two co-stars throw all of their costumes into a giant bus they dub Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and head across Australia through the Outback to the small town where she runs a resort. Of course, the bus breaks down along the way and they wind up stuck in the middle of nowhere until a kindly sixty-ish man named Bob (Bill Hunter) decides to help them with their mechanical troubles. Eventually, after his 'eclectic Asian mail order bride' leaves him, Bob decides to go along for the ride and as they travel across the continent, the group discover love, discrimination, homophobia, didgeridoos and ping-pong ball tricks.The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is a film full of interesting contrasts. Not only do we get visual contrast, the most obvious example being when the bus barrels through the Outback desert with 'Mitzi' sitting atop in her long flowing gown flapping in the wind, but we get social contrast too. Australia is often portrayed as a rough place, particularly the rural areas, and cinema in general hasn't done much to dispel that myth. Elliott's film is different, however. Sure, we see the group run into some homophobes both directly and indirectly, first in the scene where they wake up in the morning to find AIDS related graffiti on their bus and then later in the scene where Felicia provokes some mining town men who then try to kill her. More importantly, however, we meet some 'softer' citizens of the Outback. Bob is the obvious example, as he starts to fall for Bernadette and their relationship quickly becomes incredibly sincere and tender, but there are other examples such as the Aboriginal man who helps the group when their bus breaks down and takes them back to his camp where the trio performs for them. Even the casting in the film provides some contrast. Hugo Weaving is best known for The Lord Of The Rings and The Matrix films, Guy Pearce for Memento and L.A. Confidential and Terrance Stamp for the lousy Star Wars sequels and for The Limey - none of these roles are anything close to the parts they play in this film where they are completely cast against type and perfect in their roles.
As strong as the performances, however, is the script. There are quite a few clever and unpredictable situations worked into the storyline and on top of that there's the dialogue, consistently sharp as a razor and almost always funny. It might be cliché to portray the characters with as much catty sass as they've got here, but that doesn't matter when it works as well as it does in this movie. As the characters head towards their destination there are, of course, lessons to be learned by and from all of them - it wouldn't be a road movie if the trip didn't change the characters somewhat, but it's never heavy handed or preachy. The character development works to pull us into the story and we can't help but like the characters, as bitchy as they are throughout the film. The end result is a raucously entertaining film that's as well acted as it is beautifully shot, full of good humor, great characters and loads of style.The Blu-ray
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert arrives on Blu-ray in a very colorful AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that generally looks very good indeed. The colors of the costumes pop right away and you'll continue to be impressed with them from the opening scene to the closing, but pay attention during the scenes that take place out in the desert and notice how nice the red hues of the sand look when they contrast against the open blue sky. Skin tones look nice and natural, while texture is strong throughout. There are some tiny but noticeable bits of print damage here and there in the form of some specks but these certainly don't ruin the film, and neither does the pleasing level of grain present throughout playback. Black levels are good, contrast is fine, and this offers way more detail and texture than DVD was ever able to - for that reason alone, fans will want to consider this. But wait, there's more!Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a good one, letting you really feel it during the performances where our trio is lip synching to Gloria Gaynor, Abba and all the rest. The music is front and center throughout the movie, with surrounds used to fill in the room very effectively and with your subwoofer keeping time on the lower end of the spectrum pretty much any time a song starts up. Dialogue is clean and clear in the mix (and if you have trouble with the Aussie accents, well, there are subtitles) and the levels are generally very well balanced. There are no problems with any trace of hiss or distortion to complain about and overall this is a more vibrant and natural sounding mix than we've had before that leaves very little to complain about.
Alternate language DTS 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in French, Italian, German, and Spanish while Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks are available in Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish, Thai and Turkish. Removable subtitles are supplied in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Cantonese, Dutch, Mandarin, Polish, Thai, and TurkishExtras:
The good people at MGM have carried over all of the extras from the DVD release, but sadly not bothered with anything new for this Blu-ray, so what you're going to see here will no doubt look quite familiar if you've owned Priscilla on DVD before. With that said, Stephan Elliott's commentary is worth revisiting as it covers all of the bases you'd expect it to, from where the idea for many of the scenes came from to what it was like working with the various actors on the film. He's got some interesting stories about the perils of location shooting and discusses the use of music and color in the film a bit. All in all, it's a good talk with a nice sense of humor behind it.
The Birth Of A Queen featurette puts Elliott in front of the camera to talk about making the movie and this half hour interview segment with the director is basically a rehash of much of the same material that he covered in the commentary track. That's not to say that it's bad, because it's not, but if you listened to the commentary you won't gain much from this, though the visuals are a nice touch. Four deleted scenes are included, none o them more than two minutes long (all of which are amusing and worth watching), as is a six minute featurette called Tidbits From The Set in which Elliott and his producer and a few of the cast members are very quickly interviewed about working on this production.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is a ten minute blooper reel, a theatrical trailer for the film and a teaser trailer. Menus and chapter stops are on the disc and all of the extras are in standard definition except for the trailersFinal Thoughts:
Frequently hilarious and occasionally quite touching, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert gets a pretty respectable Blu-ray debut from MGM, offering of very good audio and video and carrying over all of the extras from the DVD release. It would have been nice to see some new supplements, but that didn't happen. Regardless, the movie holds up incredibly well and this release comes highly recommended for any fan of the film. Highly recommended.