New York, NY – First released in 1968, Frank Simon’s The Queen is a historic documentary about a drag pageant/beauty contest which took place in New York City in 1967. The film has rarely been screened since but has now been fully restored by Kino Lorber and is currently streaming at Kino Now, Kino Lorber’s streaming platform. The film is also streaming at Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and Fandango Now. The Queen will be available on DVD on June 2.
Produced two years before the Stonewall Riots, when homosexuality and dressing in drag were still illegal in New York State, The Queen recalls a courageous group of gay men who weren’t afraid to be themselves at a time when they could have been thrown in jail for doing so. Shot mainly with handheld cameras and featuring minimal narration, the film packs a lot of information into its 66-minutes running time.
As the film opens, viewers are introduced to a young man who introduces himself as Jack. He produces drag pageants all over the country, not only serving as a producer but as choreographer and host. Jack appears onstage as Sabrina, a character he describes as a “Bar Mitzvah mother”. Almost from the beginning Jack/Sabrina is forced to deal with the anti-gay prejudices that were the social norm of the era: he has to find a hotel that will take all of his drag contestants. Once inside their hotel rooms, the contestants talk about some of the issues they face in their day-to-day lives, such as whether or not their families accept them, the possibility of gender reassignment surgery, and the draft–the Viet Nam War was underway at the time. Two contestants recall being rejected by the draft for being gay — one admits that she wrote to the president, saying that she wished to serve so that she could help to protect the country. “They couldn’t help me in the army as of yet, but maybe one day they’ll see things right and I could get in,” she says. Today The Queen is a fascinating look back at another era. The performers seen in the film were willing to take risks — the police could very well have raided the event and carted them all off to jail, and they knew it, yet they stood their ground. They were courageous people who laid the groundwork for the popular and respected drag culture which exists today. These queens should not be forgotten. (Echo Magazine – David-Elijah Nahmod at https://echomag.com/fully-restored-1968-documentary-the-queen-meets-the-digital-age/)
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