"Tommy", the rock opera

IFC has been showing Tommy for the last couple of weeks. I never watched the movie in its day, but I loved the album back then. I finally caught it just this week, yet even now, I didn’t watch but bits and pieces of it.

I loved this movie, and I hated it.

I love anything featuring music from The Who, and after all these years I can still be mesmerized by images of Roger Daltrey running and cartwheeling about in nothing but a pair of very tight blue jeans. A 1975 Roger Daltrey, mind you. Grrrroowl.

But God, what a messy stew of claptrap most of the rest of the movie was. I mean, Ann Margret rolling around in baked beans? Jack Nicholson doing his trademark leer for five minutes? I don’t regret not having seen it in 1975, because back then I couldn’t change channels when the going got too stupid.

It reminded me of nothing more than a prolonged, cheesey rock video, and I guess that’s what it was. Only a few years later, MTV got its start, and IIRC, their earliest videos did have some of that Tommy style or lack thereof.

Oh, well, if IFC’s still playing it, I may still tune it to try to catch Tina Turner, who I missed. I don’t think she can give a bad performance – or can she?

Tina Turner as the Acid Queen? She was GREAT in that role, if you ask me…

As for the baked beans and Ann Margret, all I can say is “Yum!” :slight_smile:

Could someone PLEASE explain the ending of either the movie or the cd?
I mean, Tommy starts a cult they decide they don’t buy it(we’re not gonna take it) and that’s it??? Also, in the movie, Tommy stares into the sun like his dad did at the beginning. It all is supposed to seem very “Meaningful” and “symbolic” but what does it actually mean? What actually happens?
Inquiring minds wanna know?

Chris W

PS I’ll see yer “yum” and raise you a “Yowsah” on the Ann-Margret with baked beans!

I think that when Tommy is rejected by his followers, he is returned to his deaf, dumb and blind state; hence the reprise of the “Listening to you…” theme that first appeared before his cure.

Pete Townshend has admitted that during the film’s production he spent most of the time getting drunk and pretty much let director Ken Russell do whatever he wanted. This included some alterations to the storyline – in the album version, and the much later Townshend-supervised Broadway adaptation, it is Captain Walker who kills Mrs. Walker’s lover rather than the other way around. It also included some completely irrelevant scenes, such as the biker fight sequence, which Townshend says is one thing he’d have told Russell to save for his next film if he’d been more on the ball. The casting was also largely Russell’s choice.

It’s suspected by many Who fans that it wasn’t just the alcohol affecting Townshend’s judgement, but that on some level he wanted the movie to be bad. Tommy had in some ways been too successful as an album/live performance, and had overshadowed both The Who as a group and Townshend’s subsequent work. In any event, the film Tommy is very much Ken Russell’s brainchild and I think it helps to think of it as his interpretation of The Who’s rock opera.

That said, I think the movie has both very good parts and painfully bad ones. It’s a good throw-popcorn-at-the-screen party movie if you have the right crowd. When I watch it on my own, I often skip the beginning (before Daltrey’s first apearance as grown-up Tommy), the end, and the more Ann-Margret intensive scenes in the middle.

She was so good in that role that I hated her for years after because she terrified me so badly the first time I saw it. I was pre-teen upon first viewing and didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but I understood perfectly Tina Turner = scary.

I would agree with this, I think, and add that one of the most irritating things about it was the arrangement of the score, which was way too synth-heavy.

And yes, Tina Turner was scary! (As was that needle suit thingie. shudder)

Agreed, and the blame for that rests solely on Townshend’s shoulders. Goodness knows what he was thinking. Some of the numbers are still good, albeit inferior to the original album, but others are pretty lousy…which is a real shame for a musical, especially a musical based on an album!

Townshend was asked why the “Tommy sings to the sun” scene seemed to differ from the original concept of that song. He smirked and said it was because that wasn’t the way he wrote it. That’s par for the course when a writer gives up artistic control.

And the baked beans? Well, it was a good excuse to get Ann-Margret wet and writhing around. :rolleyes: Besides, check the label in the supermarket. It’s “beans and ham.:stuck_out_tongue:

I did see this back in '75 when I was ten!

My older brother was a huge Elton John fan and we had to see that movie with Elton John in it.
I was terrified, yet strangely attracted to, Tina Turner.

Oh and the Ann Margret rolling in baked beans, chocolate, and champange (or was it soap bubbles?) stayed with me for a long time. Especially when she gets on the long tube pillow and…
Oh man.
Any I watched it the other day and now there was an even more pain. I thought it was kind of funny that the machines were delightfully retro. The score was measuered on the machines in the thousands. Then at the end the followers smash up all these beautiful machines! Those BASTARDS!

Just wanted to say: Tommy the record was my first favorite album (that I remember. My parents claim I loved The Lovin’ Spoonful first, but I don’t believe it. I think they probably took too much acid). I listened to it a lot between the ages of 5 and 6. The movie came out when I was 7 and of course I had to go see it. While I liked some of it, hated some of it and had no understanding of most of it, to this day, when I listen to the original album (in its reincarnated SACD form, which I must say, TOTALLY RULES!), in my head I still see scenes from the movie, especially for the song Sally Simpson.

I wonder, is this the only Oscar-nominated performance ever to involve rolling around in a bunch of baked beans? Somehow I suspect that it is. Anyway, the only justification I can see for the scene is as a bit of a nod to the cover of The Who Sell Out, with Roger Daltrey in the bathtub full of beans.

I had the unlikely pleasure of watching my sister and her theater company perform a REGGAE VERSION of “Tommy”. Unfortunately I didn’t know it was a REGGAE VERSION until it started, and my family wouldn’t let me leave! I guess it was okay, and I really liked how the drummer went nuts and knocked over half his drum kit at the end (maybe it was a Keith Moon impersonation?)

Which leaves what, about 4 minutes of the movie?

The movie is so bad it’s brilliant. Russell made every bad choice he could, and had absolutely no sense of humor, with every line in the album potrayed in mind-numbing literalness.

It’s as if Ed Wood did a musical – though with a big budget and a decent visual sense. But on any rational scale, it’s terrible.

MST3K could have had a field day with it, except that the blaring soundtrack would have drowned out any comments.