September 23, 2020

1975-03-28 – Democrat and Chronicle

1975 03 28 Democrat_and_Chronicle_Fri__Mar_28__1975_ 2

’TOMMY’ TERRIFIC

From 1C

The dazed Tommy is shrieked at (or
rather sung at—nothing is spoken) by his
mother and stepfather, “You didn’t see
it, you didn’t hear it, and you won’t say
any thing to anyone,” and he becomes
totally traumatized—growing up deaf,
dumb, and blind. ‘

He suffers the invariable torments of
the handicapped, and his guilty mother
endlessly takes him to doctors and faith

healers, desperately hoping for a
miracle.

In the film’s two most incredible
sequences, Ann-Margret takes him first
to a shrine devoted to a sanctified Mari-
lyn Monroe, where the priests, all wear-
ing Marilyn masks, administer commu-
nion and offer salvation; the shrine itself
is an enormous blowup of the skirt
blowing sequence from “The Seven Year
Itch.” Marilyn has become the Golden
Calf of commerce, worshipped by the
maimed and crippled, the Bernadette of
the 19605. Eric Clapton is the
preacher.

In the second sequence, Tina Turner
as the Acid Queen tries to make a man of
Tommy, and it’s been a long while since

the screen has witnessed a performance
of such sheer animal vitality.

Eventually Tommy becomes Pinball
Champ of the world, wresting the title
away from Elton John, in another daz-
zling performance, wearing three-foot
boots as befits the king of glitter rock.

Tommy’s senses return as success
comes, and he is geeted by the youth,
ever desperate for a fresh panacea, as
the Messiah. Tommy enjoys a brief
season of veneration, flyin'g everywhere
on a kite as the current replacement for
God, Jesus, and Marilyn, until the mob
must inevitably find something newer
yet. The apocalyptic ending is as
expected as it is satisfying.

Young Winch and Daltry are enor-
mously appealing as the young and older
Tommy, Reed is excellent as the not
quite totally evil stepfather, Ann-Mar-
gret is effective in some scenes. ineffec-
tive in others, J ack Nicholson is in for a
cameo as a doctor, and John, Clapton
and Miss Turner, simply super.

But the chief triumph remains Pete
Townshend’s, who wrote it, and Bus-
sell’s, who found way to make of it a
mind boggling experience.