Tommy (1975) – Ken Russell

As I dig into the recommendations from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Grease, I got rather excited about what I would see, and if there would be anything I hadn’t screened before.

In fact there was. The Who’s Tommy.

Playing like an experimental film that is undeniably a combination of the music, and Ken Russell’s style Tommy is a bit of a psychedelic ride. A rock opera, the film follows the life of Tommy (Roger Daltrey) who after seeing an incident involving his father, Captain Walker (Robert Powell), his mother, Nora (Ann-Margaret), and her new husband, the devious Frank (Oliver Reed – who sings terribly) becomes deaf, dumb and blind, aware of himself only as a reflection in a mirror.

As Frank and his cohorts take advantage of Tommy, the young man discovers an incredible ability. Like the song says, he’s a pinball wizard. He topples the current Pinball Master (Elton John) and becomes a celebrity before transcending that to an object of worship at the centre of a religious cult.

And of course, that will play out just as you would expect it would, especially with Nora and Frank getting rich off of his abilities.

the who tommy

The supporting cast is a virtual who’s who of the time, Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson, Keith Moon, Pete Townsend, and Tina Turner, and the non-stop music and lyrics were all crafted by The Who, while Russell crafted the script.

It’s a psychedelic ride that puts Roger Daltrey front and centre through all the film, and we see how the events that shape Tommy’s life lead him to pain, success, downfall and release.

I’d never heard the original album, nor seen the stage version, and honestly, except for a few songs, I’ve never been a big fan of The Who. That being said, this is very much an experiential film, and no doubt influenced, or was seen under the influence (or both), of countless fans of both the band, and film.

It was an interesting ride, and the cast was perfect for the time, there are a number of stand out sequences, but the one that ends up being my favourite, besides Pinball Wizard, is Tina Turner in the Acid Queen sequence.

Some of the tunes are catchy, some of the images remain with you, and Daltrey’s young, almost angelic face is perfectly cast in the titular role.

Check it out!

Can’t wait to see what film is next up!



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