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Classic of the Week: Tommy (1975)


Tommy is a 1975 British independent rock musical drama fantasy film directed by Ken Russell, based on the 1969 rock opera album of the same name by The Who. It is about a boy that seems to be disabled that becomes a pinball champion and a religious leader. The film stars Roger Daltrey in the lead role, Ann-Margaret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John and Jack Nicholson.

This film is extremely bizarre, is hard to follow at times, but the acting is even better. All the main stars do equally great in their roles. This film is like a major acid trip for the majority of it. It also jumps from scene to scene quite a lot. The religious scenes are a bit sacrilegious, since in the church scene, they are worshipping Marilyn Monroe and other times characters are scene worshipping Tommy with their own version of a cross.

Many scenes don’t make much sense, are too strange, or are just plain trippy. Some scenes are a bit frightening for younger viewers, like the Acid Queen part with Tina Turner. There isn’t much foul language in this film, but there is some drinking, smoking, nudity and rather unsettling scenes, so this definitely isn’t for kids, although it has a PG rating, from before the PG-13 or R ratings.

The film has very little talking, over half of the dialogue is sung and the music is fantastic, everyone that does sing, does great. Although the theme song, “Pinball Wizard,” which is sung by Elton John, who plays the character, is only performed once in a rather short scene. It would have fit at the very end of the film too with the credits rolling. Elton’s version of the song is fantastic with the powerful background orchestration. The character of the Pinball Wizard was tailor made for Elton, not just for the song, but the wild costume as well. Every song in this movie is perfect for every scene it’s in.

For the most part, this film is hard to follow doesn’t make a lot of sense at times and makes you feel like you’re tripping on acid. To me, the soundtrack is the best thing about it. The bizarreness of this film, makes it one that I could not watch over and over. It is exciting at some points, but the complete opposite at others. It has the trippy-ness like that of 1968’s Head starring The Monkees, but is much more adult.

This film is so strange, that that takes away from the story at times, which is hard to follow at times as well. Nothing against the acting or music, it’s the odd story and overall odd film that make it only a somewhat enjoyable watch. For such a highly acclaimed film, I was expecting more, much more. This one left me thinking, “What the heck did I just watch?” I’ve seen better rock operas than this that didn’t leave me scratching my head or take me down a loony toon river. Not what I expected either from the fantastic soundtrack, it is a rather disappointment. 13+ 3/5

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