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Slip on your best sequined dress, slop on some make-up and slap on your favourite heels and you’re well on the way to joining the lavender bus named ‘Priscilla’ on its journey to Alice Springs for a drag show. Who would’ve thought something so camp could have turned out so successful? But was this success due to the oddball nature of Australian cinema audiences back in 1993 or is there some merit among all the glitz and glamour?

Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, The: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Movie
As mentioned, a bus named Priscilla is making its way to Alice Springs, in the red centre of Australia, for the most elaborate drag show ever seen. On board, a lonely transsexual named Bernice ( a brilliant Terence Stamp), the energetic Felicia (Guy Pearce, a long way from the days of Memento), and an emotional Mitzi (Hugo Weaving, also poles apart from his role as Agent Smith). Together they ensure the action kicks off with a bang and never lets up.

The content is decidedly Australian, though hopefully international audiences don’t think we’re all like this. Nevertheless this is a lively bunch and most of the humour seems so well placed among the outback landscapes and decorative interiors. Felicia gets locked out of the bus overnight early on, the boys show some serious courage fronting up to a “bloke” dominated pub wearing their colourful gear and they mix it with the aboriginal community, resulting in an impromptu dance routine to I Will Survive.

There is a bit of a sentimental message among all the gags and outrageous situations. The film deals, not surprisingly, with the acceptance of the three men and their sexual preference as well as their quite different appearance. But it never really stoops to over-emotional preaching, leaving the relevant undertones carry the message of the story. The only real jarring moment in the story occurs when the trio are threatened with physical violence by a cowardly gang, lead by Bill Hunter’s Aussie bloke, Bob.

I still can’t quite put my finger on just why this film was so overwhelmingly successful during its theatrical run in Australia, nor why it apparently has some sort of international appeal. But the film itself has an innocence that is unmatched by most of the works coming out of Hollywood these days, something which Australian filmmakers tend to get right more often than not. It is a very enjoyable flick, full of enough laughs to keep you smiling and enough scenery to keep you interested for the duration. The penultimate dance sequence has to be seen to be believed, if only for the outrageous costume choices and extravagant choreography.

Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, The: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

With the world becoming more and more accepting of this kind of lifestyle it is a fitting time to see The Adventures Of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert make its way on to our favourite format in the form of a special edition, superceding the Pan & Scan version of many years ago.

Video
This is an old print, and it shows. The 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is riddled with visual problems, most of which you’ll get used to after a while but won’t exactly forget. The main issue is a dirty print, full of some ugly black and white marks popping up every now and then, even though only a handful are particularly distracting. There are also frequent bouts of aliasing and shimmer throughout the film, with the tricky landscapes and costumes doing the transfer no favours at all.

The colour is vibrant but lacks the extra effect that comes with a sharp presentation. The visuals here are particularly soft, making one wonder just how brilliant the film would look if it were a little younger and filmed on some higher grade stock.

Admittedly the different surroundings and ambitious set and costume designs don’t help the transfer at all, but being the tenth anniversary edition one can’t help but think we may have been treated to something of higher quality. The story will no doubt distract you from most of the issues with the print so the effect will not be so pronounced.

Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, The: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Audio
If any film deserved a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to pump out the audio it’s this one. The film hangs its hat on some great tracks from the likes of the Village People (naturally), Alicia Bridges and Gloria Gaynor. There is little difference between the DTS mix and Dolby Digital track save for a boost in volume and a bit more clarity on the DTS side when it comes to rendering the music, so those without the appropriate equipment need not worry all that much.

The speakers are used quite effectively, with the dialogue placed in the centre for the most part but moving left and right when naturally necessary. Ambient effects and the cute soundtrack make up the bulk of the work for the rears, while the subwoofer add more punch to the musical numbers, particularly in the DTS track.

Oh yeah, there’s a Dolby 2.0 track as well, but those less-equipped probably aren’t reading this section anyway.

Extras
Ten years have allowed the folks at Roadshow to assemble a nifty little package of extras for this anniversary edition, which for the most part are quite entertaining. The first piece is with Director Stephan Elliott. He is a very eloquent fellow and imparts some really interesting information on the production, particularly early on when he reveals the artists who knocked back royalties for their songs due to the subject matter of the film. Not too many breaks here so fans of the film will love this commentary track.

Next up is a collection of deleted scenes, strangely given a number rather than a descriptive name. Each of the three segments is preceded by a text-based description as to where it fits into the film.

A behind the scenes featurette entitled Behind The Bus: Priscilla With Her Pants Down is a quirky little piece behind the scenes of the production. We begin with some hilarious outtakes of the boys hamming it up, more behind the scenes footage then more outtakes again. It’s not your stock-standard making-of so, again, there’s some real value here.

Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, The: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Moving on is a collection of theatrical trailers, consisting of the US and Australian theatrical trailers as well as the US teaser. It is interesting to see the difference between the cuts for each country but that’s about it.

Surprisingly further down the extras menu is a 1994 documentary entitled Ladies Please. After a short disclaimer pertaining to the visual quality (or lack thereof) of the piece we are treated to a lengthy look at three real-life dragsters and their troubles and triumphs. It’s bizarre in places, entertaining in others, so this 47-minute piece is well worth a look.

Rounding out the package we have some lengthy cast & crew biographies for all the main players and then some. A lot more meat than your usual fluff so kudos to the typist.

Overall
Even though the film is as camp as a row of tents you can’t deny it is very effective. While it may not have the international mileage to really stand out Australian audiences will love this disc. The video transfer is slightly disappointing but that is more than balanced out by an impressive audio mix and some entertaining extras. Well worth a look.


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