September 24, 2020

1975-04-01 – The Burlington Free Press

1975 04 01 The_Burlington_Free_Press_Tue__Apr_1__1975_

EFilm Version of ‘Tommy’
ls Dazzling, Overwhelming

Fum-GI-ettSaviee

itself is an enormom blow of
the skin-blowing sequence from

Ken Russell's film version of “The Seven Yw Itch.” Marilyn

The Who's rock opera “Tommy"
i is terrific. fantastic. dazfling.
‘ overwhelmingly the best of the
‘ rock operas. and glittering
. cinema as well. I“Tommy." a

Columbia picture. is rated PG.»

1 For once. Russell‘s brilliant.
; daring but erratic talents are
9 matched with the right property.
I cannot think of another director
doing a better job with the
material. Russell's brashness has
often given his previous films a
swift kick where it was needed
without particularly advancing
the theme. but here it is germane
to the entire concept. Pete
Townshend of the Who
Originally wrote it. with
additional material by colleagues
John Entwistle and Keigh Moon:
the fourth member. Roger
Daltry. stars as Tommy.

Tommy {Barry Winch) is 6 as
the film opens in 1951. His father
was killed in the war. and his
grieving mother Ann-Margret
has finally met a man she loves
again. a seedy social director at a
holiday camp. Oliver Reed. They
marry.

But the first husband.
Tommy‘s father. is not dead as
believed. merely badly wounded.
and one night he returns home to
find his wife in bed with Reed. In
the ensuing excitement. Reed
kills him and it is witnessed by
the child.

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 anything to anyone." and he
becomes totally traumatized —

growing up deaf. dumb and
bhnd.

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
Marilyn Monroe. where the
priests. all wearing Marilyn
masks. administer communion
and offer salvation: the shrine

has become the Golden Call of
commerce. wonhipped by the
maimed and crippled. the
Bernadette of the 1505. Eric
Claptonisthepreacher. -

In the second squence. 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
dazzling performance. wearing
three-foot boots as befits the king
of glitter rock.

Tommy’s senses return as
success comes. and he is greeted
by the youth. ever desperate for
a fresh panacea. as the Messiah.
Tommy enjoys a brief season of
veneration. flying everywhere on

akiteatbecunentreplaeement-
for God. Jess and Marilyn. until

asitissatisfying.

Young Winch and Daltry are
enonnously appealing as the
young and older Tommy. Reed is
excellent as the not quite totally
evil stepfather. Ann-Margret is
effective in some scenes.
ineffective in others.