Described by its director Stephan Elliott as a “musical comedy and road movie with a difference,” The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert introduced Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce to international audiences. Since its release in 1994, the film has gone on to gain cult classic status.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the DesertDrag performer Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) invites recently bereaved transsexual Bernadette (Terence Stamp) to join him and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce) on a journey to the outback town of Alice Springs, where they’ve been invited to put on a show at a casino run by Tick’s ex-wife.  The three guys purchase an old bus they christen ‘Priscilla’ which will double as their dressing room and living quarters.

Off they go to the outback, with Priscilla painted a bright lavender. Tensions between the trio reach the boiling point, as the bus continually breaks down, and they learn that those in the outback aren’t as open minded as they’re use to. They must deal with all kinds of intolerance and homophobia.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert seems to revel in a sort of campish comedy. Three drag queens bitching their way through the Australian outback is inherently funny, and Stephan Elliott only enhances that by embellishing existing stereotypes.  Their gaudy costumes are juxtaposed with the rich reds of the sun burnt plains on a number of occasions, giving rise to glorious, saturated shots. Shots of Priscilla speeding along in the dirt to the sounds of classical music as Adam/Felicia sits atop a stiletto-throne with yards and yards of silver fabric trailing behind him, is in stark contrast to the very subdued look of the outback. The surroundings serve as a symbol of the cultural rift that exists between the men and the residents of Alice Springs.

Finding themselves lost after taking a shortcut, and are stranded in the middle of the desert when Priscilla breaks down. They are rescued by a band of aborigines, who don’t seem to mind that the three are transvestites. Aborigines are a marginalized people. So it stands to reason that they wouldn’t be put off by this odd looking group. They guys also meet Bob (Bill Hunter), an affable guy married to a mail-order Asian woman who apparently used to be, and still wants to be, a prostitute.

While each of the three leads is good, the standout here is the usually serious Terrence Stamp, well known for his work in Billy Budd and Superman (I and II). Here, he brings a quiet dignity to the role of Bernadette. That’s harder than it might seem, given the outrageous outfits he has to wear throughout the film.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a road movie, but it’s far from traditional. Funny and emotional, this is the kind of film that can make you laugh and cry. If nothing else, you can sing along to the many catchy tunes on the soundtrack.

The Blu-ray is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While the image isn’t reference quality, it’s far better than any previous DVD release. It has fairly deep blacks, and strong colors. The image is a bit soft at times, but the detail is quite good. You can see every wrinkle and pore on the actors faces.  As an added bonus, the desert shots look great.

Loaded with classic disco tracks, the new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix makes them all sound fantastic. The surround channels are utilized sparingly, but it still sounds immersive when the disco kicks in. Dialogue is front and center, and while a little more oomph would have been nice, everything is understandable.

MGM has included all of the content from the “Extra Frills” edition of the DVD.

  • Audio Commentary by Director Stephan Elliott: Apparently recorded sometime around 2005, I was surprised at how sad hr sounded. He spends most of the time reminiscing about the movie as a whole, rather than discussing any specifics.
  • Birth of a Queen (29:18): Elliot discusses every aspect of the film imaginable. This piece is far more informative than the commentary.
  • Deleted Scenes (4:58): Five scenes that rightly belonged on the cutting room floor.
  • Tidbits from the Set: Thirteen short behind-the-scenes clips. One is Terence Stamp in character as Bernadette, discussing why Terence Stamp is so attractive. Yes, it’s as scary as it sounds!
  • The Bus from Bloopersville (9:35) Mistakes and flubs.