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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15.58%
Average: 3.9%
Pretty Bad: 2.6%
Total Crap: 5.19%

2 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The
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by Mrs. Norman Maine

"Absolutely fabulous adult comedy"
5 stars

Stephan Elliot, the Australian writer/director, hit one out of the ballpark with this raucous celebration of the Australian gay/transgender community. Three drag queens from Sydney go on the road to the outback and neither they, nor the outback will ever be quite the same.


Fajer and Hellmann, my lawyers, have put me in touch with a Mr. Vito Carducci of Passaic, New Jersey. Mr. Carducci, whom I understand runs some sort of family business, is very excited at the prospect of a new Vicki Lester line of popular priced ready to wear apparel. He needs some time to talk to other members of his family, but Mr. Fajer thinks contracts could be signed and production started as early as next week. The first of the new VickiWear ensembles should be available to buyers for Target, K-Mart and other fine apparel stores by the end of next month. All I need to do is submit a few concept sketches. Bob Mackie and I have already come up with evening wear based on the Masquerade costumes from The Phantom of the Opera and a country denim line inspired by Tobacco Road . Fajer and Hellmann are also negotiating with the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization over rights to those shows. We want to start with The Sound of Music for which I envision stunning black and white lame nuns' habits and dirndls and lederhosen in iridescent satins. Theyd be perfect for back to school.

Norman is set to film his scenes in Troma films new adaptation of The School for Scandal after the long weekend. They have also contacted me about a leading role in a new musical sequel to The Little Foxes in which Regina (whom I would play) becomes a Merry Widow, moves to Chicago and uses her money to purchase a toxic waste dump. I have told them I will have to see some more pages before committing. I'm also a little unsure about Chicago location shooting. The last time I was there, playing the Balladeer in the musical adaptation of The Jungle , I was somewhat deaf for several weeks after shooting my scenes on the Board of Trade floor while the market was in session.

As high fashion has been much on my mind, I decided to view a film with a keen sense of haut couture and so I poked through the video library until I came across The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert , an Australian comedy from 1994 which won one of the most deserved Oscars for costume design, ever. Lizzy Gardiner, who dreamed up and created the incredible and unique outfits for the film along with her partner Tim Chappel, showed up at the ceremony in a dress constructed out of American Express gold cards, nearly upstaging herself.

Priscilla is the story of Anthony Belrose (Hugo Weaving), a drag performer in Sydney nightclubs under the name Mitzi Del Bra. One day, he gets a phone call from an old friend and lands a gig at a large casino/nightclub in Alice Springs. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian geography, this is roughly equivalent to a New York entertainer having to make their way to Denver. He recruits fellow performers Adam Whitely (Guy Pearce), aka Felicia Jollygoodfellow and Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp) a postoperative transsexual who recently lost her lover. Rather than fly, they decide to drive to their destination. Adam produces a bus, which he immediately dubs 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', and, in the tradition of all good road movies, our intrepid heroes are off. Of course, the trip does not go exactly as planned with off road detours involving groups of Aborigines, a small town mechanic (Bill Hunter) with a rather special mail order bride, and a bunch of drunken miners, to name but a few.

Throughout the trip, with their bus loaded with fabric, wigs, and loads of marabou, the guys appear in wilder and wilder drag outfits, much to the consternation of the residents of the outback with whom they come in contact. Highlights include a dress made of sandals; a silver lame sheath with an incredible tail, Crayola colored Gumby pantsuits, and 18th century dresses that convert into the Sydney Opera House. By the time our heroes stand, as queens, on the edge of Kings Canyon, there's nothing to do but giggle with shear delight at each new eye popping ensemble. VickiWear is looking for inspiration to the Broadway stage but I may have to make an exception and come up with a Priscilla line for that special night out.

The film avoids the trap of making the protagonists freaks (as often happens in movies about gay men, especially the transvestite variety). Rather, we get to know these three as fully realized humans, for whom drag is a natural expression of who they are. It's secondary to the story and the film would have worked without it (although it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun). The three central performances are all terrific, especially Terence Stamp as the world weary Bernadette. He makes wonderful moments out of little details such as the way she moves her hands, or pouts throughout a dance number. Hugo Weaving is the emotional center of the film and it is very much his journey of self discovery; as he learns to accept and love himself, for all his faults, we learn to love him too, making the ABBA finale a moment of major exultation. Guy Pearce, as the most outrageous of the three, is a bit more of a caricature, but its fun to see his range. This creature is nothing like his Ed Exley from LA Confidential .

The major fault in the movie is its occasional tendency to lapse into unnecessary lowbrow humor. Yes, its funny, but we really don't need the turd jokes or the ping-pong balls. The same points could have been made in a wittier manner. It's not that writer/director Stephan Elliot didn't have better jokes in him; some of his bits (such as a long distance jogger being faster than the bus) are inspired. One of the best jokes is a quick shot at the very end of the end credits so don't turn the film off too soon.

Elliot has yet to live up to the potential he demonstrated in this film. His Australian follow-up, Welcome to Woop-Woop , was bizarre and nearly unwatchable, despite a Rodgers and Hammerstein fetish score. His Hollywood debut, Eye of the Beholder with Ashley Judd and Ewan McGregor, was just unwatchable and a complete waste of his stars' talents. Even if he gives us nothing else of value, we will always have Priscilla and her travelers.

Originally Written 5/26/01
Revised 10/26/02

Confetti throwing. Chandelier on head. Cake sleeping. Bus painting. Drinking contest. Drug taking. Peacock plumes. [I] I Will Survive [/I] played on diggery-do. ABBA number. Gratuitous Shelley Winters joke. Unusual kite flying.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/27/02 10:53:37
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For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/20/19 Anne liked it yet excuse the pun dragged in places 3 stars
8/17/10 the dork knight QuaiNothing too exciting. Terrance Stamp is great as transsexual Obi-Wan. 4 stars
4/21/10 brian Some nice moments and fascinating characters ruined by the worst taste EVER. 2 stars
10/19/09 auzzie chickie loved it and will be loving it forever! cannot fault it! 5 stars
3/01/07 Louise Colourful and witty! I never get tired of watching it! 5 stars
7/14/06 David Cohen Very entertaining, a funny and moving look at a distinct subculture 5 stars
5/24/06 Sarah Hah! Hah! Hah! Very Funny! 2 stars
5/20/06 chienne Is Bill Hunter one of our best actors or what? 5 stars
6/20/05 Jeanne Agent Smith, Ed Exley and The Collector in more makeup than I'll ever wear! Oh, SNAP! 5 stars
2/17/05 Daveman Pretty empty stuff although it does have charm and some of the gags are corkers. 3 stars
4/18/04 Al-Antony Moody Funny, witty, daring, great dancing and great costumes. I thought the ending sucked! 4 stars
10/24/03 laurabetty So so so so so Funny 5 stars
10/04/03 Sarah This is so good and i feel sorry for all you people out there who have a problem with homos 5 stars
9/04/03 eddie a movie for queers and faggots - may you all be victims of a hate crime in the near future. 1 stars
8/28/03 kahla bloody greatest aussie movie ever produced! i love guy peirce 5 stars
5/28/03 your worse goddamn nightmare Wow! Whodathunkit! A'ain't no queer, but this flick was great! Enjoy! 5 stars
4/22/03 mr. Pink Wonderful performances and some great dialogue and music make up for weak scenario. 4 stars
4/13/03 Bob McConnaughey very sweet & funny, sorry i waited so long to see it! 5 stars
3/10/03 Stacie I love this movie, i have watched it so many times i know every single word of it, 5 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones Putrid - ABBA should sue 1 stars
10/27/02 Matt Neopalitano The worst film of all time. 1 stars
8/23/02 Jess Rediculous 4 stars
4/24/02 Danielle Ophelia Only Fred Phelps could dislike this--intelligent, charming, vulgar, and riotously funny. 5 stars
3/14/02 becc brilliant! guy was amazing 5 stars
3/01/02 Andrew Carden Unfunny, Totally Forgettable "Adult Farce". 1 stars
3/01/02 Chad Petersen LOVED IT!!! 5 stars
2/18/02 jennifer timms th4e funniest movie, youll remember the witty lines for ages 5 stars
1/19/02 Kizza a desert holiday lets pack the drg away i'll take the lunch and tea you take the extacy 5 stars
12/10/01 Tina Pranger great movie - a scream, a riot! 5 stars
11/23/01 franco terrific 5 stars
11/03/01 Damien Thia movie is unreal, heaps of laughs 5 stars
10/15/01 briony cool, great movie!!! 5 stars
9/30/01 the cool guys we thought this movie rocked!! it was a bit weird at first but, well yeah!!! 4 stars
9/07/01 Emily it rocked i loved it so much 5 stars
9/05/01 miggit funny 4 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean Wow! That was General Zod?!? Anyway, I loved the ping-pong ball scene the most. 4 stars
8/23/01 Stonedog Fabulously fruity frolics...and not just for 'family'. 5 stars
8/20/01 Rebecca Connolly The Best Movie 5 stars
8/09/01 porcha giggles what a pisser! ive seen it so many times. 5 stars
7/10/01 Elvisfan anyone for ping pong? 5 stars
5/18/01 skye it is sick 5 stars
4/23/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Very funny and poignant at the same time...I enjoyed myself completely. 5 stars
3/07/01 Benjamin I loved it!!!!!!!!!It was awsome !!!!!!!! I liked the bit were the mans wife dose the act w 5 stars
2/05/01 Mitchell Rodges I thought it was a very funny and enjoyable movie and easily watch it again 4 stars
2/04/01 Shirley Bennett watched it 20 times 5 stars
1/13/01 Paula One of the best I've seen in a long time.. - its FUN! 5 stars
1/09/01 dryti tyityikgh 4 stars
12/11/00 Maude Not Bad. 3 stars
11/24/00 John Crawford Wonderful film. I'm in love with Guy Perarce, and Terence Stamp is so damn good. 5 stars
11/03/00 Nina Harris This is the funniest movie ever, the stupid but clever slag saying, It's Awsome!! 5 stars
10/23/00 Jodi Lancaster my favourite movie ever.........I love it 5 stars
10/21/00 Ally This is the sickest movie on the planet if you havent seen it trust me you are missing out. 5 stars
8/31/00 sally the best bit was mum was at golf, so the dirty old fuck was stuck there for four hours! 5 stars
5/30/00 perverted pixie "Where are you guys from?"- "Uranus". Utterly wonderful! 5 stars
4/10/00 Jane i absolutely loved it. it is so creative and fun and it's all australian 5 stars
2/16/00 Kyle Broflovski My favorite gulity pleasure...with my favorite drag-queen friend, of course...:-) 5 stars
12/06/99 Samantha Scott One of my most favorite movies in the whole world. Wonderfully understated romance, too! 5 stars
11/11/99 robert streit funny as hell. not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but very funny. 4 stars
10/07/99 strike Thin stories and thin characters. But, its still very entertaining I have to admitt. 4 stars
10/01/99 Lisa Gooding Purely entertaining!! 5 stars
9/14/99 Ealasaid I love this movie. Hugo Weaving rocks beyond belief (compare Priscilla to The Matrix). 5 stars
9/11/99 Hogs FUNNY 5 stars
2/20/99 Cool Thing Completely unexpected. Funny, fast, laugh with the gays, not at them (a la Birdcage). 4 stars
2/19/99 Bruce Hedge GREAT Australian movie- totally different from anything you've seen before! 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1994 (R)


  02-Feb-1994 (M)

Directed by
  Stephan Elliott

Written by
  Stephan Elliott

  Hugo Weaving
  Guy Pearce
  Terence Stamp
  Bill Hunter
  Alan Dargin
  Rebel Russell

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