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Hen's Tooth Video // R // September 21, 2004
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Daniel W. Kelly | posted September 6, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
Outrageous is a campy independent comedy/drama made way back in 1977, and focusing on a drag queen and his roommate—a woman who has just escaped from a mental hospital! Can it live up to more recent drag flicks, or does it show its age?

The Story:
The late, multi-talented drag performer Craig Russell (who can magnificently impersonate the likes of Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, and Liza Minnelli, and does all his own singing!) plays Robin, a hairdresser by day who is struggling to make it big by night. Back into his life walks Liza (Hollis McLaren), who is actually in hiding—because she just escaped from a mental ward. It should be noted that this movie is based on the autobiographical writing of Margaret Gibson, a woman who lived with star Craig Russell while recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown. This helps make this film a good curiosity piece, considering the wacky premise is based on real situations.

As Robin plans to make it big in New York as a drag performer, Liza plans to have a baby, despite her mental state. Her relationships with men serve one purpose—pregnancy (feminism in its heyday). Her emotional attachment is to Robin. Robin and Liza are a classic case of fag and hag (or, in this case, drag and hag). Think the Madonna/Rupert Everett relationship in The Next Best Thing if it were over the top. Each character has issues of his and her own. Liza of course, is being hunted by family, friends and doctors. Robin has to deal with a gay culture that adores drag queens on stage, but wants to have nothing to do with them when it comes time to look for love with another man. Although this movie works as a time capsule piece, it shows that not much has changed in the gay community in the past three decades, because this theme isn't uncommon in modern films.

Despite its very gloomy premise, what makes this film a gem in gay film history is that it does not have a bleak ending. It's not that everyone lives happily ever after, but the ending is oddly positive in its own twisted way.

The acting by all is very real, and, as I said before, Craig Russell shines in any woman's shoes. However, for some reason, when he did Bette, he sounded like Judy Garland…so when he impersonated Judy moments later, the only thing that changed was his costume! This movie is definitely a drag queen lover's film. It is loaded with long segments of different drag queen acts in clubs and bars. The humor is somewhat dated, although I was enjoying the constant references to Karen Black…not realizing she was such a gay favorite back then because I think of her as more of a horror fan fave. Mentioning her in the film seemed logical since Holly McLaren as Liza gave the sort of odd performance Karen Black usually gives even when she's not supposed to be playing a recently escaped mental patient. McLaren's performance managed to completely balance that of Craig Russell, and you are just as enthralled by her story as by his.

This is old school gay camp, and most likely to work as a nostalgia piece for older viewers. But it is also an excellent gay and drag history lesson. Unlike other "glam rock" takes on drag that were prevalent in the era in which this movie was made, this one bravely takes an honest look at the lives and trials of drag performers.


This movie was not made with the highest production value in 1977, and the film quality shows it. The film was remastered in high-definition from the original master, but there's only so much you can do from an indy film. The print is brutally worn, and horribly grainy. Of course, that texture adds to the atmosphere of the film and the time in which it was made. The feature is in its original, full screen, 1:33:1 aspect ratio (it was originally shot onto 16mm film and blown up to 35mm for its theatrical release).

Once again, the budget of the original source shows here. This mono audio track sounds like it's coming out of a battery operated radio. You have to turn the volume way up.

A few extras. Here they are: Bios & Filmographies—this is text about the male and female lead, the director, the producer, and the soundtrack composer. The graphics are nicely done and colorful, as are all the menu pages on this disc.

Theatrical Trailer—I find it hard to believe this is the actual trailer. It shows nothing, and I mean nothing from the film, nor does it tell you what the subject matter is. The word "outrageous" just flashes across the screen, and then some odd stuff about being quiet in a movie theater follows. I didn't really understand why this clip was even included.

Commentary with producer William Marshall and composer Paul Hoffert—this is an odd choice of people to record a commentary, particularly the soundtrack composer, but it's based on availability, and both men do a good job of describing how they became involved in this film. There's also an interesting tidbit about Kim Catrall! The audio track is very loud & clear on the commentary.

Final Thoughts:
Outrageous is a campy drag film which, while it features dated references that might not interest modern viewers, can takes us back in time to see what it was like to be a drag queen in the 1970s. It's an honest look at drag, gay bars, fag and fag hag dynamics, and the early emergence of independent women. It has the dark, brooding atmosphere you would expect from the time, with a sad drag queen and a mentally disturbed young woman as the leads, yet it is oddly positive. The DVD suffers from poor sound and video as a result of the source material, but this works to capture the indy feel of the film.

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