Review of 'Tommy'

tommy.jpg “Tommy” is the film version of The Who's 1969 rock opera album of the same name. A trippy and often very disturbing confusing story of drugs, abuse, fame and religion. The young Tommy (Barry Winch) loses his father, a pilot in the air force, in the second world war. His mother Nora (Ann-Margret) is drawn to the deeply disturbing holiday camp director Frank (Oliver Reed). Some time later Tommy witnesses the couple kill his father who has unexpectedly survived and returned to his home. This experience deeply traumatises the young boy who turns into himself becoming blind, deaf and dumb. Despite Nora and Frank's efforts the older Tommy (Roger Daltrey) remains withdrawn. To their astonishment they discover he has an amazing gift to play pinball exceptionally well which makes the family very wealthy. Then they discover there may be a cure for Tommy's disorder…

Yeah. Did not really like this one though I am a big fan of the original Who album. A part of this is technical in that the sound in the film is no where near as balanced and pitched as the album but more fundamentally, the film is a confused and riotous mess that has the disadvantage of having no likeable characters. It does not help that the story, if there actually is one, does not make any sense nor is there any clear message. Ok, there is a blatant stab at attacking modern religion but other than that it just seems the music is an excuse for one outlandish (and confusing) sequence after another but in this it is actually quite successful with some stellar turns from a disturbing looking Tina Turner as “The Acid Queen”, Keith Moon as “Uncle Ernie”, Elton John as “The Pinball Wizard” singer (in full “Elton John mode”), Eric Clapton as “The Preacher” and, oddly, a singing Jack Nicholson as “The Specialist”. All of them look very young as it was filmed in the 70s and each of them are here at the height of their fame. Their presence does do a great job at improving the film though it is, ultimately, a losing battle: Yuck. Sadly, even with the greatest cast of all time and a massive hit soundtrack without a good story and likeable characters this film was always doomed to fail. Yes, I know it has developed a huge cult following but I suspect this is more for it's awfulness than anything else. It is possible the filmmakers were attempting to be avant-garde but I am afraid they failed dramatically.

A confused film based on a great album…skip the film, listen to the music instead. One positive thing about the film: It is a bit of completely OTT fun from those in the industry who defined what “OTT” is but the negatives are just too overwhelming.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2021-09-06

Directed by: Ken Russell

Studio: Robert Stigwood Organisation Ltd

Year: 1975

Length: 111 minutes

Genre: Musical