Frank Simon’s 1968 landmark documentary, The Queen, has finally been restored and released on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Classics.
This insightful look into one of the first drag contests focuses on the efforts of a seasoned queen, named Flawless Sabrina, to rally up the contestants and prepare them to be seen in front of a panel of judges – including Andy Warhol and Terry Southern. His motherly instincts and larger-than-life personality shine through in nearly every scene, and it’s clear that the others look up to him and that, ultimately, what he says goes.
Throughout the brief 68 minute runtime, we get to know these men – both in and out of drag – as they share their coming out stories, thoughts on gender dysphoria, marriage, and how they managed to dodge the draft due to their homosexuality. In a heartbreaking scene, one of the men explains that he really wanted to serve his country, even going to such lengths as to write the President in order to explain why he would be an ideal solider. Of course, he was rejected. Scenes such as this drive home the importance of the progress that has been made over the course of time.
The pageant scenes are fabulous, giving us a peek into a time before RuPaul ruled the game, with all of the glamour and bitchiness that one expects at events like these. The intensity comes to a head with an explosive bout of anger from none other than Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the House of LaBeija that would ultimately be featured in another documentary, Paris is Burning. It’s the perfect climax to this short and sweet time capsule.
The Blu-ray features a short film and documentary, a Q&A featuring Flawless Sabrina, an audio commentary, and outtake footage. Mastered in 4K from the 16mm negative, The Queen is a must-have for any serious collector.