Following the recent death of the revolutionary and iconoclastic film director Ken Russell, film fans will once again have the opportunity of viewing one of his career defining movies with the release of Tommy in 2012. If you've ever wanted to hear Jack Nicholson sing (or try to) or marvel at the sight of Ann-Margret drunkenly cavorting in a cascade of baked beans, Tommy is the movie you've been waiting for. As it turns out, the Who's brilliant rock opera is sublimely matched to director Ken Russell's penchant for cinematic excess, and this 1975 production finds Russell at the peak of his filmmaking audacity. It's a fever-dream of musical bombast, custom-fit to the thematic ambition of Pete Townshend's epic rock drama, revolving around the titular ""deaf, dumb, and blind kid"" (played by Who vocalist Roger Daltrey) who survives the childhood trauma that stole his senses to become a Pinball Wizard messiah in Townshend's grandiose attack on the hypocrisy of organised religion. The story is remarkably coherent considering the hypnotic dream-state induced by Russell's visuals. Tommy's odyssey is rendered through wall-to-wall music, each song representing a pivotal chapter in Tommy's chronology, from the bloodstream shock of ""The Acid Queen"" (performed to the hilt by Tina Turner) to Nicholson's turn as a well-intentioned physician, Elton John's towering rendition of ""Pinball Wizard"" and Daltrey's epiphanous rendition of ""I'm Free"". Other performers include Eric Clapton and (most outrageously) the Who's drummer Keith Moon, and through it all Russell is almost religiously faithful to Townshend's artistic vision. Although it divided critics when first released, Tommy now looks likes a minor classic of gonzo cinema, worthy of the musical genius that fuelled its creation. Amazon.co.uk Review: Even by the standards of a genre not characterised by restraint, the 1974 rock opera Tommy is endearingly barmy, a bizarre combination of Pete Townshend's disturbed inspiration and director Ken Russell's wildly eccentric vision. Even if you gamely try and read allegorical meaning into it, the story is frankly odd: a child becomes psychosomatically deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing the murder of his father by his stepdad and goes on to become rich and famous as the world pinball champion (since when was pinball a world-class competitor sport?), before setting himself up as a latter-day messiah. It's about the travails of the post-war generation, the disaffection of youth, the trauma of childhood abuse, the sham nature of new-age cults, and many other things besides. At least, that's what Townshend and Russell would have you believe. But what's really important is the many wonderful, utterly bonkers set-pieces--effectively a string of pop videos--that occur along the way, performed by great guest stars: Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, Eric Clapton as the Preacher, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, Elton John's mighty rendition of ""Pinball Wizard"", even Jack Nicholson doing a turn as a suave specialist. Roger Daltrey is iconic in his signature role, and Oliver Reed makes up for a complete inability to sing with a bravura performance as his sleazy stepdad, but best of all is Ann-Margret as Tommy's mother Nora: her charismatic presence holds the loose narrative together and she richly deserved her Academy Award nomination; the sight of her in a nylon cat suit being drenched in baked beans and chocolate from an exploding TV set is worth the price of the DVD alone.
Release Date: 23 January 2012
Certificate: 15 - Suitable for Persons Aged 15 or Over