One of the bands I loved growing up was The Who. Thanks to my father’s influence, the band became a mainstay for me and, to this day, I find them one of the most influential Rock bands in my life. This was a band that had a great talent for not only music but also for storytelling. So, when I was introduced to the film that was inspired by their fourth studio album (also entitled Tommy), I was amazed at what I would find.
Today’s Key Movie:
Presented as a Rock Opera, this film Tells the story of Tommy, a kid who is stricken blind deaf and dumb through tragic circumstances. Played by Who member Roger Daltrey, this story follows Tommy and his family through an amazing journey that involves Love, Loss, abuse, gypsy queens and, of course, Pinball. As the young Tommy grows up, he soon finds an affinity to the Silver Ball and, although Blind, Deaf and Dumb, he soon finds himself the focus of the world.
Why this movie?
As I mentioned earlier, I was a fan of The Who. Roger Daltrey was one of my favorite singers with John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend all forming, what I consider, one of the best rock bands of all time.
The Who are able to capture so much raw emotion and depth in their music and, when they took on the concept album called Tommy in 1969, it would soon become apparent that they had created something amazing. I distinctly remember listening to the vinyl record of the soundtrack to this film over and over, learning each and every lyric and note by heart. It would soon become one of my favorite albums and films and still is to this day.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
This is one that is truly one of the greatest musical films of its time. With an all-star cast including the members of The Who, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson and many others, this is a film that has held up significantly over the years.
Of all the actors in the film, Ann-Margret is by far the most impactful in this writer’s opinion. Through the story we see a woman who is a devoted wife and dutiful mother go through physical and emotional ups and downs as she tries to cope with the death of her husband, the realization that her sons affiliations is partially her own fault and even the desperation to find a solution to his plight even though it manages to make them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. She is able to emote such an amazing range of feelings through her facial features and actions. She is simply incredible and deserving of her Golden Globe for her performance in this film, but let’s be honest, she deserved an Oscar as well.
Directed by Ken Russell, The film dives into a multitude of subjects and visual extremes. It covers the allure of cults, charlatans, drug abuse and profound medical experiments in such a way that seems both absurd and all too real all at once. It also explores the dangers of bullying, pedophilia, child abuse,neglect, greed, despair and more through the downward spiraling journey of Tommy and his family. It isn’t until the young man happens across a pinball machine in a junkyard that he finds his calling, however, that calling also has its own set of pitfalls as, like everything in the young man’s life, this too spirals out of control.
Most people, when discussing this film talk about one of the most Iconic Moments in the film which involves Elton John. It is a scene that has become synonymous with Tommy and it is the Pinball Wizard segment. It is loud, boisterous and sets the third act in motion like nobody’s business but to me it’s the final moments of the film that really lock in just how amazing this film is. You see, by the finale, Tommy has become a bit of a cult leader himself and has amassed a large group of followers who want to follow in his footsteps of self discovery. In the end, they learn that everyone has a personal journey that no one can lead you on but yourself, nevertheless, it is quite the violent reaction but done in such an incredible way.
One of my very favorite segments in the film follows the story of Sally Simpson, a fan of Tommy after his rejuvenation into a sort of Savior. It is a genius bit of music that shows how deep the fandom of this new messiah has come and how one fan is forever marked by her brief encounter with her hero.
To be honest, I am hard pressed to find a bad moment in the entire film. Everyone in it is at their peak and manage to give their very best performances for what is a tremendous, disturbing and hopeful film. I am not a fan of musicals as a general rule but this one stands out as so much more than just a musical. It is a Rock Opera and it is beyond amazing.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that is pretty readily available these days and you can grab a copy here for around $15. You can also get it for a little less digitally if you don’t want a physical edition. Either way, it is a gem and worth your time. Trust me, you will find yourself singing along and diving in deeper into the Who’s catalog.
The Trailer, of course:
Late To The Game 12/6/2018
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