“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
Extra-Frills Edition, MGM, $19.98.
If “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” has aged since its 1994 release, it’s nothing makeup can’t cover. And God knows there’s enough mascara in this movie to make a Third World country look First World.
Not only has “Priscilla” stood the test of time and picked up an Oscar for its costumes, but it inspired an American imitation (“To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”) and co-stars Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce have become big international stars; but writer-director Stephan Elliott has yet to live up to the promise he showed with this, his second feature.
In case you’ve never seen it, “Priscilla” combines sentiment with hilarious bitchiness. It’s the story of two drag queens and a transsexual who cross Australia, from Sydney to Alice Springs, in a broken-down bus (the Priscilla of the title, painted pink to cover up a small-town vandal’s graffiti: AIDS FUCKERS GO HOME).
Terence Stamp has one of his best roles as Bernadette, born Ralph, who’s every inch a lady at least since the operation. I’d love to see her in a cage match with Felicity Huffman’s Bree from “Transamerica.” Tick/Mitzi (Weaving) represents the film’s family values with a couple of secrets he’s been keeping from his mates.
It’s Tick who gets the Alice Springs gig and invites the others along. Pearce plays Adam/Felicia, the flamboyant (and pretty) one, whose inability to tone it down causes the trio trouble in more conservative areas. Bill Hunter is excellent as a good ol’ boy who’s more broad-minded than most.
The drag numbers range from Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me” to the big production, Ce Ce Peniston’s “Finally,” to the finale by “fucking ABBA.”
Any sex is in the dirty minds of the closed-minded who object to sharing the planet with anyone not exactly like them. A repeat viewing allows you to appreciate the film’s celebration of the beauty and mystery of rural Australia.
The new “Extra Frills” edition DVD includes about an hour’s worth of extras, plus commentary by filmmaker Elliott. Elliott is the main attraction of a terrific half-hour featurette, “The Birth of a Queen: Directing a Drag Classic,” in which he reveals the two things that pushed Stamp over the line into diva territory and how a K-mart employee discount helped keep the fabulous costumes within the budget.
He tells how the script “wrote itself” in 12 days, after being inspired by a drag queen in a Pride parade and how amazed he is by the film’s enduring popularity.
“Fabulous” is such an overused word, but there’s no better one to describe “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
“The Kinsey Sicks: I Wanna Be a Republican”
I’ll have to watch “The Kinsey Sicks: I Wanna Be a Republican” again. Someone told me after I’d seen it that it’s a satire, that the four women Rachel, Winnie, Trixie and Trampolina aren’t really Republicans, and the event recorded at San Francisco’s Broadway Studios wasn’t really a GOP fundraiser.
Sure. Next you’ll tell me the Kinsey Sicks aren’t really women.
But seriously Screw it. Who wants to be serious? Certainly not the Kinsey Sicks, four immensely talented drag queens who are often better than their material. This “dragapella beauty shop quartet” makes beautiful music together and creates vivid characters whose dresses form two-thirds of a rainbow.
“I Wanna Be a Republican” originated during the 2004 presidential campaign and toured for over a year before director Ken Bielenberg and his partner, producer Alonzo Ruvalcaba, taped two shows in HD video.
Despite the challenges involved in preserving the show for posterity, it may have been a little tired by the time the cameras rolled. Or perhaps the problem is that Bielenberg wanted to capture a perfect show because in the blooper reel, some of the funniest performances are when things go wrong and the girls start ad libbing.
The premise is that the women are hosting a fundraiser where President Bush is scheduled “to deliver his first ever coherent public policy address.” It’s like waiting for Godot because of course he doesn’t show up. While waiting, the women take turns entertaining us with comedy and song, revealing their personalities in the process.
Rachel (Ben Schatz) sets the tone, declaring why she enjoys sex with Republicans: “There’s nothing hotter than someone who will do me at night and publicly condemn me during the day.” She sings “Why Can’t We Fuck?” to a man pulled from the audience (probably a plant but who cares? – he’s hot!).
Trixie (Jeff Manabat) tells of doing her “one-woman U.S.Ho show” in Iraq before singing “I’ve Been Through Parasites (but I’ve Never Had VD)” to the tune of “I’ve Never Been to Me.”
Winnie (Irwin Keller) is a lesbian whose girlfriend left her for someone she calls “Blondaleeza,” changing the name in the interest of national security. Her song, “Clean,” illustrates her homemaking skills as well as her ability to perform on her knees.
Finally there’s Trampolina (Chris Dilley), with big hair and a mouth like Julia Roberts, except for the words that come out of it. After explaining how God made her a Republican she sings “Be a Slut,” a most un-Republican endorsement of promiscuity.
In the solo songs the other girls sing doo-wop backup, sometimes keeping it going through some complicated action. The quartet numbers, including the opening title song, let them demonstrate their beautiful four-part harmony.
There’s little pretense that the show is more than a musical-comedy revue. At one point it not only goes totally off-topic but turns serious as Trixie sings “Jerry’s Song,” a sad, compassionate elegy for Jerry Friedman, an original member of the group.
Jokes about Republicans are as tired as the party itself and some of the comedy involves puns that were old when Jesus was a drag queen.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.