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The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Blu-ray Review)

They always say that films featuring the identical subject matter come in two’s.  This happened in the mid 90’s with To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar and Australia’s The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. A little over fifteen years have passed since Priscilla made her debut in cinemas and she is now ready to be unleashed on the Blu-ray format!  How will it fair against its contemporaries?  The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is not a traditional musical, but does feature performances by men in drag.  These things are only a side note, because The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is a lot more than just drag queens.  Get on the bus and find out what all the fuss is about! 

Film 

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is a story of three friends who travel the vast Outback to get to a gig, but end up having some crazy adventures along the way.  Tick (Weaving), Adam/Felicia (Pearce), Bernadette (Stamp) are these three individuals who are off to the desert in their newly dedicated bus known as Priscilla.  Yeah, if it were only that easy.

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert isn’t a typical genre film, it’s a combined genre film.  There many elements that make the final film into something more than just a comedy.  It’s a drama, character study, comedy, and musical all rolled up into one.  What separates Priscilla from the norm is that it’s more than just visual gags.  Underneath the surface is a pretty hardcore character study in which three human beings have to make choices that could have dire consequences.

Tick has a wife and a son, but is gay.  Adam is young and confused, so he comes off as a bit of a “live wire” and gets himself and the girls into trouble.  Bernadette is a transsexual who is trying to figure herself out after the death of a companion.  Where does she go from here in such a small and intolerant world?  I’d like to think that’s we’ve come a long way since the film was released with regards to themes like this, but for some reason I believe things haven’t changes all that much.  The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert contains bits of social commentary to keep us viewers honest.

I read articles (negative ones) that said Priscilla didn’t know what kind of movie it was trying to be or what kind of message it was trying to send.  Some said that it was “too gay” or that it was a neat musical, etc.  My conclusion is that it’s neither.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the review The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is a genre-bending film in that it has various elements throughout the movie and never settles on just one.  I do believe Terence Stamp should have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor.  He plays Bernadette awesomely and you can totally feel what the character is going through.  Weaving is also excellent as the conflicted husband and father who doesn’t know whether his son will accept him and his lifestyle.  Pearce is just obnoxiously fun.

If watching Priscilla for the first time I’d suggest going in there with an open mind.  The film does have moments of hysterical hijinx and some of the dialogue is pretty funny.

“Umm… , do you have “The Texas Chainsaw Mascara”?

Video

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is presented in 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen.  First things first.  The colors: FABULOUS!  The make-up and Academy Award Winning costume design is pretty freaking amazing.  I mean,  these costumes, in some cases, are fully functional pieces of clothing art/engineering.  Both pop in realistic three dimensionality.  Many scenes take place in the lovely Australian Outback, and some of those dawns and sunsets are a wonder to behold.  Okay, now for the not so good parts.  Priscilla is not very consistent when it come to grain levels, as some softness creeps in way too often.  Black levels crush more than they should, and bits of edge enhancement creep in here and there.  If it weren’t for the color wheel on display this Blu-ray would have gotten a much lower score.  As it stands, a three is more than adequate.

Audio

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1.  Here is another peculiar sounding film.  Yes, it does have low budget roots, but the Blu-ray isn’t burning down the house so to speak.  Dialogue is clear, and the only things that may not come through may or may not be the Australian speak and lingo.  Music is one of the main stars and it could be that it’s just a dated source, but I felt that the sonics were not pumped up too much.  It was pretty ordinary.  Granted, I’m sure this Blu-ray release BURIES the old 2004 DVD special edition in terms of sound, which is why I give the final score a bit above average in the audio department.  Some of the musical performances sound really good.


Special Features

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert contains a small platter of special features.  Contained within this shiny Blu-ray we are treated to a director’s commentary, an excellent featurette, a blooper reel that shows you how real blooper reels should be done, and more.  The making-of featurette with the director is really neat, by the way.  All of the special features are presented in SD.

  • Audio Commentary by Director Stephan Elliott
  • Birth of a Queen Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Tidbits from the Set
  • The Bus from Blooperville Outtakes
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts

If you like drama, comedies, and musicals with a message to tell I have no doubt that you will enjoy what The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert has to offer.  It features stand out performances by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp.  There is plenty of material in this film even for those with the most discerning of tastes.    Have fun!   

 

 

Order The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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