Director Ken Russell
Year 1975
Starring Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle
Rating PG
Run Time 111min
Age Policy

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with a parent guardian. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.

More Info IMDb

You can play The Who's 1969 album TOMMY as many times as you like, and yet you will never hear any references to a cult of Marilyn Monroe lookalikes, an iron maiden covered with syringes or a broken TV  that spews out baked beans. These eye-popping accessories can only be found in director Ken Russell's outlandsh, outrageous and utterly out-there1975 film adaptation of TOMMY which turned Pete Townshend's somewhat spare and simple rock opera into a flamboyant psychedelic circus of a movie. "Your senses will never be the same," the ads promised, and Ken Russell was nothing if not a man of his word.

Embellishing and elaborating on Townshend's original storyline, the cinematic TOMMY begins in World War II England, as Nora (Ann-Margret, in a knockout of an Oscar-nominated performance) sends her husband off to battle and soon afterward learns that he's missing in action and presumed dead. She raises her son, Tommy, alone until wily man-of-a-thousand-schemes Frank (Oliver Reed) oozes into their lives and sparks a violent confrontation that leaves little Tommy unable to see, hear or speak.

Much of the plot is devoted to Nora and Frank's increasingly desperate attempts to find a miracle cure for their boy's condition; this sets the stage for unforgettable cameo appearances by Eric Clapton (as a cult leader who delivers a blistering version of "Eyesight to the Blind"), Tina Turner (scorching the screen as the hyperactive "Acid Queen") and even Jack Nicholson, of all people, portraying a specialist who is more interested in dallying with Nora than he is in diagnosing Tommy.

Who lead singer Roger Daltrey plays the adult Tommy, who discovers he has a supernatural gift for scoring high on pinball games. This leads to the movie's back-to-back high points: the rafter-rattling "Pinball Wizard," in which Tommy takes on the current Pinball Wizard (Elton John, perched atop enormous platform shoes), and "Champagne," a number written specifically for the film, in which a drunken Nora fantasizes about the glamorous life while rolling around in cascades of baked beans, chocolate sauce and soap suds. Almost 40 years later, it is still the scene many people instantly think of when they hear the name "Ann-Margret," and for good reason.

Those who only know TOMMY from the stage musical that came to Broadway 18 years after the film will be startled by the film's often bizarre visuals and the modifications to the original music (several of the songs and lyrics used in the movie were never re-incorporated into any later versions of TOMMY). Others will wonder if the Acid Queen paid a call on the ratings board the day they screened this film: Astonishingly, despite all sorts of questionable content, TOMMY somehow managed to wrangle a PG rating!

Many devoted fans of The Who were mortified by envelope-pusher Russell's interpretation of TOMMY; what did they expect from the man who had staged orgies featuring sexy nuns in THE DEVILS or an erotically charged nude wrestling scene in WOMEN IN LOVE? But moviegoers, especially younger ones, loved every mad minute of it, making it one of the biggest hits of 1975 -- proof perhaps that nothing succeeds like excess. (James Sanford)


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