October 29, 2020

1975-05-31 – Journal and Courier

1975 05 31 Journal_and_Courier_Sat__May_31__1975_


mm! and coutiet, Sat, May 31, 1915

Comment: The Who's rock ogera

Performers shine in glittering ‘ ommy'


Gannett News Service

Ken Russell's film ver-
sion of The Who’s rock op-
era “Tommy” is terrific,
fantastic, dazzling, over-
whelmingly the best of the
rock operas, and glittering
cinema as well.

For once, Russell’s
brilliant, daring but erratic
talents are matched with
the right property. I can—
not think of another direc-
tor doing a better job with
the material. Rus’sell’s
brashness has often given
his previous films a swift
kick where it was needed
without particularly ad-
vancing the theme, but
here it is germane to the
entire concept. Pete
Townshend of the Who
originally wrote it, with
additional material by col-
leagues John Entwistle and
Keigh Moon: the fourth

member, Roger Daltry,
stars as Tommy.

Tommy (Barry Winch)
is 6 as the film opens in
1951. His father was killed
in the war, and his griev-
ing mother (Ann-Margret)
has finally met a man she
loves again, a seedy social
director at a holiday camp,
(Oliver Reed.) They mar-
But the first husband,
Tommy’s father, is not
dead as believed, merely
badly wounded, and one
night he returns home to
find his wife in bed with
Reed. In the ensuing ex-
citement. Reed kills him
and it is witnessed by the

The dazed Tommy is
shrieked at (or rather sung
at — nothing is spoken) by
his mother and stepfather,
“You didn’t see it. you
didn’t hear it, and you
won't say anything to any-
one,” and he becomes to-

tally traumatized -— grow-
ing up deaf, dumb, and

He suffers the invariable
torments of the handi-
capped, and his guilty
mother endlessly takes him
to doctors and faith hea-
lers, desperately hoping for
a miracle.

1n the film's two most
incredible sequences, Ann-
Margret takes him first to
a shrine devoted to a sanc-
tified Marilyn Monroe,
where the priests, all
wearing Marilyn masks.
administer communion and
offer salvation; the shrine
itself is an enormous blow—
up of the skirt blowing se-
quence from “The Seven
Year Itch.” Marilyn has
become the _Golden Calf of

Journal and Couder

Arts 65 Leisure

commerce, worshipped by
the maimed and crippled,
the Bernadette of the
19605. Eric Clapton is the

In the second sequence,
Tina Turner as the Acid
Queen tries to make a man
of Tommy and it’s been a
long while since the screen
has witnessed a perfor-
mance of such sheer ani-
mal vitality.

Eventually Tommy be-
comes Pinball Champ of
the world, wresting the
title away from Elton
John, in another dazzling
performance, wearing
three-foot boots as befits
the king of glitter rock.

Tommy’s senses return
as success comes, and he
is greeted by the youth,

Clapton and Miss Turner. who W70“? it and RUS-

effective in some scenes.
panacea, as the Messiah. ineffective in others, Jack simply super. sell‘s, who found the way
Tommy enjoys a brief sea- Nicholson is in for a cam- But the chief triumph re- to make or .H a mind
son of veneration, flying eo as a doctor. and John, mains Pete Townshend’s. boggling experience.
everywhere on a kite as ,,
the current replacement
for God, Jesus, and Mari-
lyn, until the mob must in-
evitably find something
newer yet. The apocalyptic
ending is as expected as it
is satisfying.

Young Winch and Daltry
are enormously appealing
as the young and older
Tommy, Reed is excellent
as the not quite totally evil

stepfather, Ann-Margret is

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