- A Strange Little Time Machine 4/22/2005 12:00:00 AM by gftbiloxi
You can't get much stranger than this 1967 documentary that takes a look at a New York drag show where contestants compete both on and off stage for the crown. Running just over an hour and filmed with hand-held cameras, THE QUEEN is tacky, vulgar, distasteful, embarrassing, and often quite funny as it peeks behind the scenes of the event. But the film is more than accidental camp humor--it really is a historical artifact.
Very few gays or lesbians were "out" before the 1969 Stonewall riots, and the contestants shown here are among the few... and not only were they out, they were out as drag queens, doing the unthinkable by stomping across the stage in evening gowns, heels, and eyeliner. This is not the sort of drag that has entered popular mainstream entertainment via such performers as RuPaul: this is in-your-face, I-am-what-am, I-don't-care DRAG as performed by skinny teenagers with bad skin, fat guys with bald spots, and tough men with hairy chests and tattoos. This is big hair, big make up, and big attitude, and it is all the more unnerving because it isn't just a character that the contestants put on and off. This is the reality that sparked a thousand stereotypes.
Much of the film's entertainment value is accidental. There is nothing funnier, or more painfully embarrassing, than a chunky drag queen in out-of-style clothes. THE QUEEN is really too superficial to be called significant, too tacky-funny to be taken very seriously--and yet, it does make you wonder about the lives of those before the Stonewall Riots, the Gay Liberation Movement, the Anita Bryant hysteria, the advent of AIDS. And therein lies its power: it is a time machine, badly filmed, yes, superficial, yes, but a time machine just the same, capable of giving us a glimpse of what it was like to be gay, a drag queen, and in New York in the mid-1960s. It won't be to every one's taste, but it is worth a look if you can find a copy.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
- Fantastic Snapshot 2/7/2014 12:00:00 AM by massagetantrayoga
I give t a 10 for what it captured. It is raw, rough and imperfect, but delivers a unique view into what was the pre-Stonewall era. Other reviewers here don't get it. See: Boys in the Band. This is as real as it gets, and makes several touching points about serving in the military/the draft, what it means to be homosexual, and early thoughts about gender identity in an era when gender reassignment became a possibility. This is not a drag show. It's a film about people who do drag/female impersonation. And it's a poignant film and should be a required watch for anyone in the scene or homosexual or in drag today - a part of history that few know anything about. Keep in mind: although this was the 'lberated' 60s, the NYPD could have very well showed up and arrested all these people. A great piece of history, without someone's re-interpretation.
- subculture 10/3/2020 12:00:00 AM by SnoopyStyle
It's a behind the scenes documentary of a drag queen pageant in New York City. The contestants are all in the hotel facing many of the same struggles. They are desperate to pull their looks together. It's a great time capsule of a part of gay culture when most of it is still in the closet. It is letting the audience peek inside that closet and find some very nice gay boys. It's a year before the Stonewall riots. Gay rights is barely a talking point. It does need a main character and Richie is probably the best option. It would be nice to get some more in-depth conversations about their families and their present situations. In the end, it's already breaking down so many doors that it feels like I want too much from a simple documentary.
- Courage. 1/28/2021 12:00:00 AM by jimbenben
Don't judge this by today's standards where RuPaul wins Emmys and Pete Buttigieg is in the Cabinet. I am the same age as the guys in this film and was coming out as a gay man during the 1960's. Stonewall hadn't happened and there were ZERO gay role models. We can roll our eyes as these performers strut their not-so-spectacular stuff, and we're aware (as they are not) that AIDS will ravage. But give them their moment. They're bold and funny and, most of all, brave. At the time, they could be arrested for gay behavior, let alone ostracized and fired. It all kinds of glorious... for a night.