On A Rock in a Frock

Amos Lassen

I bet few of us will ever forget the night we “Priscilla” for the first time.  It was the “Brokeback Mountain” of its 1994. “Priscilla” was a movie that signaled our big screen acceptance more than any other  when it hit the screens and things have been changing ever since. With its over the top humor, great performances, wonderful cinematography, wild costumes and incredible costumes, it is a gay movies acceptable to both straight and gay audiences. People loved the film’s bitchiness and catty humor and some of the lines have entered our vocabulary as gay jargon such as,” I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again—no more f***ing ABBA.”

A great plot made sure the movie would be fun for all. Bernadette, a transsexual, (wonderfully portrayed by Terrence Stamp), teams up with two younger friends, both drag queens, to travel across Australia on a bus that has seen better days and is named Priscilla. Their destination is to perform at a remote casino. The road trip they take is full of surprises and situations and those they meet are some of the most unconventional people. While traveling, Bernadette falls for a mechanic who has just been married to his mail order Asian bride (think ping pong).

The acting is awesome. Terrence Stamp as Bernadette gives the performance of his life. He plays Bernadette as a dignified and credible trannie. All three of the drag queens are cut from the fabric of life. It is rare to find a movie that deals with gays and drag queens in a real and sympathetic way. Usually we get not much than the stereotype but “Priscilla” is a wonderful exercise in acceptance. The three straight actors who play the girls do so with style and class and what we get are three dimensional characters.

The costumes won a well deserved Oscar and are, for lack of a better word, fabulous. The photography of the Australian outback is worth the price of a ticket but it is the actors to whom this movie belongs And they take possession of it modestly and give us one of the funniest films we have had in years.

Stephan Elliot directed the film creatively and his script is poignant but it is the kitsch that rules in this film. I am sure that it will become a “kitsch classic”. “Priscilla” is one to add to your personal library –it never gets old and you can watch it again and again and it always seems fresh. After the success of the film, American directors tried to create something similar but were not so successful. If you remember “To Wong Foo”, you know what I am saying. Get the original—it is more than worth it.

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