Unsung History: Our Review of ‘The Queen’ on Blu-Ray

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies by - June 08, 2020
Unsung History: Our Review of ‘The Queen’ on Blu-Ray

You must pay respect to royalty…

More than anything, The Queen is a fascinating little forbearer to something like Paris Is Burning as we see how involved and important the drag culture is in the LGBTQ community and allows a look inside a world most people just don’t understand.

More than 40 years before RuPaul’s Drag Race, this ground-breaking documentary about the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag. The film takes us backstage to kiki with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. Organized by LGBTQ icon and activist Flawless Sabrina, the competition boasted a star-studded panel of judges including Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern. But perhaps most memorable is an epic diatribe calling out the pageant’s bias delivered by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija, heavily featured in Paris Is Burning (1990). A vibrant piece of queer history, The Queen can now be seen in full resplendence thanks to a new restoration from the original camera negative.

There’s a frankness and honesty to The Queen that is shockingly refreshing given the time that it was made in but it also shines a real gaze on a world that just hadn’t had any attention paid to it until now.  It’s a piece of queer history that not only hasn’t been wildly seen, but it’s an education into a very serious world that is fascinating to watch.

Director Frank Simon gets some unvarnished commentary during the entire process and it unabashedly allows us as viewers to appreciate the art that these subjects practice all the way to throwing some pretty epic shade after it all.  It’s not just the birth of the camp that we see in things like Rupaul’s Drag Race; rather this is where it was conceived and in every sense of the word it’s incredibly aware of its own theatricality.

Fresh off of a 4K remastering from the 16mm camera negatives this BD of The Queen is simply packed with historically vibrant and necessary extras.

There’s a feature length audio commentary by artist and producer Zackary Drucker and journalist and author Diana Tourjee diving deep into the historical significance of the film.  Outtake footage, the theatrical trailer, and interview with producer Si Litvinoff by Shade Rupe, Outtakes from the after-party of the event, 3 short documentaries; Flawless Sabrina: Icon/Muse, Irma Vep: The Last Breath & Queen of Heart all provide some more unique windows into drag culture, there’s also a booklet and essay as well as post screening Q&A footage from a screening of The Queen with Flawless Sabrina and Zachary Drucker.

All in all, The Queen is truly a fascinating piece of cinema history.  This isn’t really a world that audiences had ever had a glimpse of and it served as inspiration for so many culturally significant moments in the Queer community that as a white straight man, I know that I can’t really understand it, but I’m glad I got to witness it.

This is one is a fascinating must own.

  • Release Date: 6/2/2020
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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