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First and foremost, the film is a document of his brilliant performances; he not only got the look and mannerisms of his subjects down cold, he also spoke and sung all the voices himself!
The plot, such as it is, is a tale about his attempts to become a successful performer, and about his schizophrenic friend and how he and she support and heal each other. It's not bad, but the performances are the heart and soul of the film.
Outrageous! was long out of print; happily for the world, it's available again. Get it while you can.
R. Stephen Weber Burbank, CA
McLaren's character of Liza has been released after years in a mental ward. She's still defiant and wants to experience life. She moves in with Russell in Toronto and has ups and downs and ends up pregnant. Russell is drawn to performing in a local club and loses his job, giving him the excuse to pursue his drag act full time, eventually moving to New York. After Liza loses her baby, she follows Russell to New York and realizes that the "bone crushers" she often hallucinates have stayed behind in Toronto.
The main focus though is Russell as he prepares for and then performs his act. He channels Tallulah Bankhead at the drop of a hat and with a series of wigs and quick changes he impersonates Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Bette Midler, Ethel Merman, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Barbra Streisand, and Judy Garland. The Midler is not great but the others are pretty much spot on.
Best of all is is a full-dress Peggy Lee singing "It Ain't Easy." This is Russell's best act and the song is terrific (Paul Hoffert wrote it). It also bring us to the marvelous and surreal ending when Russell, still in full Peggy Lee drag tells Liza that she's not crazy, just special, and that she must simply be herself, embrace her madness and make it work for her. He tells her we are all mad and then teaches her to do a deep Bankhead laugh saying maaaaaad, maaaaad.
Also in the cast is the very funny Richert Easley as Perry, a would-be drag queen who has a passion for Karen Black. As he's begging Liza for the loan of a dress he grabs one out of the closet and she tells him "that's my best dress." He looks at her and opines, "This is your best?" Also in the cast are Helen Shaver as a lesbian friend.
A word must be said for the wonderful music by Paul Hoffert, who in addition to "It Ain't Easy," also wrote "Step Out" sung by Cecille Frennette.
The late Craig Russell pulls out all the stops as he displays his talent for female impersonation. Hollis McLaren is the ideal nut case. And Helen Shaver, in one of her earlier roles, is ideal as the friend who is accepting of people for who they are, embellishing their positive traits.
My one criticism of the film is the costuming. Not Russell's drag apparel, which matched each of his impersonations perfectly. But other wardrobe choices in the film were distractingly awful, especially during the Christmas party scene. Russell's jumpsuit was about 3 sizes too small, and Shaver's dress was something out of Ringling Brothers' clown reject closet.
Still, students and lovers of independent film will admire this one for its style, its daring, and its overall effort.
I first saw "Outrageous" 22 years ago, (this will sound strange) I was so moved by it's greatness and at the time didn't have a VCR that I recorded it with a hand held tape recorder-audio-and that was how I 'watched' the movie for years til I got it on video. That is how incredibly touching, and GREAT this movie was and is! In it's unique way it almost reaches out and literally touches your heart if you let it. (And maybe even teach you a thing or two about life, love, people, and most important, FRIENDS!!)