September 23, 2020

1975-04-13 – Hartford Courant

1975 04 13 Hartford_Courant_Sun__Apr_13__1975_

CEIHI/ Russell’s" ‘Tommy’ Rqu/ New gTommy

By MALCOLM L. JOHNSON
lien Russell’ s film version
of the' Who's apotheosined
rock opera “Tommy” is a
dazzling, exciting some-
times garish sometimes
grandiloqwnt
Deciding w to take
it or not depends on howou
feel the original album.
Who believes are likely to
beputoftahu byRussell’s
assault on ‘the greatest nook
opera. ’And those who find
the original 'Tommy’ endan-
ything ap reaching hard
rock aura y blasphemous

probably shouldn’t even'fie

fhn nearap‘thrhter where

1 is a g
mpmmtim - a

new amp 1ca
whichistomckwhatWSenmr

round is to earthquakes -
canum‘ake the dec1bit21 tlevel
pre y ear-shaking 3 ms
and Russell’ s avalanche of
images only seems to to
heighten the sound effect.

But if on can take the
aural hea and accept Rus-
sell's outrageous cinemati-
cally flamboyant style,
”Tommy“ lea from the
screen as a bi y enjoyable
pop masterwork. abounding
in creative excesses and ex-
pensive thrills.

. There is sometimes an un-
fortunate tendency on the di-
rector’s part to make things
more perfectly clear than
they need to be. And now and
again, the ma ' of sight
and sound gets a lit e ridicu-
lous (“Following gyosu.l
climb the mountain,
Tommy and, sure
he s scrambling up the
rocks.

Overall though, this opera
on film — all music, no dia-
10 e —- is a stunning trans-
la 'on of rock to the screen.

Like the original record.
“Tommy" takes its hero
from conception to his exal-
tation as a pinball wizard to
his final realization that so.
peIsiardom is not the Way.

Born on the day of victory
ending World War II,
Tommy becomes deaf, dumb
and blind when his father. an
RAF hero is :yrnbolically
killed by an ‘un who has
moved in with mum (In the

movie, the killing is made to
seem quite literal, which is
puzzlingly illogical).

Then, the inovie flashes
forward into the ‘60s with
the autistic Tommy (played
with blank ey ed, slack-

mouthed silence by the
Who’s er Daltry) being
draggeda byhis sleasy,
steiather ( a fat,
oafroadly cartooned

by Oliver Reed) 3nd his neu-
rotic. cheapened mother
(irenetically caricatured by
Ann-Ma rgr.et)
The cures sought by this
empti materialistic couple
e “-1 1m 1. 8::
sque p1 gr mage e
temple where the faithful
commune on pills and booze
and w plaster sex
symbol in the image of Mari-
lyn Monroe and a sizzling
acid tri in a plastic maiden
where spikes are hypo-
demiic. The boy is also left
with his sadistic cousin.
Kevin and his dirty old man
Uncle Ernie, before an ef-
fete. lecherous Harley Street
physician pronounces him in-
curable After becomin the
world’ s ginball champ,
ever, omrny plunges
through the minor of him-
self and is raised to the god-
ship of a new religion based
on inball.
inaliy, the followers turn
on him in a sequence of
trashing, murder and fire,
Tommy undergoes purifica-
tion by water and ascends to
the mountaintop to become
one with a higher force.
Despite its heavy-handed
assaults on materialism, su-
perstar worshi and televi-
sion (in the fim's grossest
scene. Ann-Margret wallows
in a mess of soap, beans and
chocolate that has gushed
from the broken tube), the
‘message’ of the picture isn‘t
really worth ndering
even with its il ustrated allu-
sions to “The Wasteland."
But as an aural-visual ex-
perience and an exhibition of
some of rock’s top stars
doing the Who. “Tommy” is
great fun — a big freakes
“Fantasia' with real people.
The high points are Tom-
my’ s victory over pinball

_.

chain ion Elton John, when
the uge-booted goggled
John provides someo
best rock on film in ‘Pinhall
guard and 315911911. Queen
yper-char Turn-
er. And, otgcourse Daltry
exuberant “I’ m “Free ”
“See Me, Feel Me.” and
“Listening To You.“

Eric Clapton also turns up
as the Priest at the Monroe
shrine, but his screen pres-
ense is not terribly exciting.
Who drummer Keith Moon,
on the other hand, could have
been utilized more than he is
as dirty Uncle Ernie. He-
comes across like the late
Robert Newton at his comic
best. And Jack Nicholson
doesnicely inacameoasthe
Harley Street specialist.

The real star of “Tommy"
is none of its rock and movie
luminaries, however, but
Russell, cameramen Dick
Bush and Ronnie Taylor, act
director John Clark, editor
Stuart Baird, and set and
costume designers Paul Dui-
ficey and Shirley Pussell.

It is this combination of
kitchily creative people who
have filled Tommy with its
color, its images, its move-
ment and momentum and its
wildly exa erated take-offs
on materia ism and pop cul-
ture.

The film encompasses
both he beauty of its opening
and cios mtg images of a man
silhouet against a rising
white disc in an oran e sky
and the vulgarity 0 Ann-
Margret’s white bedroom. It
has the fantastic silver plas-
tic machine which opens and
closes around Tommy as he
is pum full of lysergic
acid an the ugly playground
of huge silver inballs where
Tommy's fioc runs amok,

as the camera tlashpans'

over smashing pinball ma-
chines and tracks through
fire. All in all, “Tommy” is a
brilliantly overdone pop ex-
travaganza.

"Tommy” is 'now playing
an exclusive Connecticut elk
agement at the Cinemart in
amden. It will open soon at
East Hartford’s Showcase
Cinema.

By HENRY McNULTiY

Toy buy or not to buy ~that
is the question.

Let’ s suppose you have: the
original version of the rock
opera “Tommy” by The
Who, released in 1969. Or
ma be you have the lushiy-
orc estrated ”Tommy” with
the London Symphony ' 0r-
chestra, put out in 1972. 01'
both 1

Should you now lunk
down several more bu star
the newest “'l‘.ommy

movie soundtrack?

After all, three versions of

one work seems a bit much
— even in a large record col-
lection.

As everyone with the
slightest interest in rock
must know by now, the new
“Tommy” film has perform-
ances not only by members
of The Who, but h other
rock stars like Eric pton,
Elton John and Tina Turner,
and movie stars like Ann-
Margret, Oliver Reed and
Jack N icholson.

Probably, the plot is famil-
iar too. It concerns Tommy,
an innocent lad struck deaf.
dumb and blind at an early
age — psychosomatically,
you understand. He later be-
comes famous as a pinball
gayer and founds a religion

sed on the g.ame When he
becomes an autocrat, his
converts run amok, and, he is
deserted again. Or some
thing like that.

The plot seemed quite im-

ortant when “Tommy”

irst appeared in 1969 be-
cause it was the first time a
two—disc rock album had any
sort of connecting theme.
After six years, however. it
is mostly the brilliance of
Pete Townshend’s songs that
stands out.

With the emergence of a
“Tommy" movie, it seems
as if the plot is once again
important, and Townshend
has written several new
numbers to fill various gaps
in the story.

Mostly. the new songs are
expansions or variations of
existing"Tommy“ numbers.
‘ ‘,Extra Extra” is an expan-
sion of ‘Miracle Cure' for
example, and was probably

' thee

Daltrey, rner: ‘Acul Queen’

written to give Townshend‘ s
14oyear-old brother Simon a
larger singing role.

‘ Do You Think lt‘ s All
Right?’ ' is sung three times,

which robabl makes sense
in the ilm (I ven’t seen it
yet) but is rather tedious on
the record.

The album’s bi est draw-
back is that whi e the rock
stars sound fine. the movie

stars sound like - well like
mozieAstéirs trying ingtil) sing
me n pretty 1‘ y

Ann-Marg ret ydpgg fairly
well but most of the time
she seems ill at ease with
Townshend 5 material; it
clearly wasn’t written for
her.

Her best song is “Today lt
Rained Champagne, ” one of
the newly- -penned ones.

THE HARTFORD COUNT: Sunday. April 13, 1975

’Has Highs and Laws

Jack Nicholson has one
_sonlg,i “Go tothe Mirror. "He
-sing

~ 5, half-sgaaks the
lyrics (a la Rex rrison)

and gets away with it.

Oliver Reed is not so
lucky. As “Uncle Frank, ” he

ustulgq quite a few num-
bers, they all sound ter-

rible. He wrecks “Christ-
mas,” a normally beautiful
song that had resounding
bell-like guitar tones on the
ori 'nal record.

ortunately, the rock
stars in the new version are
as good as the movie stars
are bad.

Tina Turner, sans Ike, is a
slashin searing Acid
Queen. ric Clapton s guitar
work, while not ear-bending,
is always worthwhile. His
playin on ”Sally Simpsbn”
(here ne with a yBo Diddley
beat) is skillful and “Eye-

sight to the Blind" seems to
have been written for him.

The album’s highli t is
Elton John’s “Pinbal Wiz-
ard. " The Who’ 3 original
version is certainly one of
the top 10 rock classics, and
it would be im me for
anyone — even lton John -—
to surpass it.

But he comes close. Sub-
stituting his piano for Pete
Townshend’ s original
rhythm guitar part Elton
stomps throug h “Pinball
Wizard" with a gdash and en-
thusiasm he hasn’t displayed
since his earliest days.

The Who. always at the
core of “Tommy” no matter
how many fancy performers
are added, sound refreshing-
ly new — probably thanks to
Townshend’s increasing use
of the synthesizer.

Following a trend he start-
ed as long ago as 1972 (with
“Who‘s Next" ) Townshend
has rewritten substantial
segments of the score for
synthesizer with generally
good results.

Bassist John Entwistle. as
usual, is far in the back-

ound. Keith Moon is solid.

th as a drummer and as
the perverted Uncle Ernie.

And nobody could take the
title role but R er Daltrey.
In fact nobody ut Daltrey
has ever tried to sing Tom-

13F.

my ’s role — but he still
sounds magnificent. ‘

“See Me, Feel Me” is sup- .
posed to be his highlight. butm
I prefer “Sensation” andw»
“I’m Free.” Daltrey’s voice?"
sounds best when it’ s pushed" '
almost to the breaking point:-
— and in these two songs
he’ s in top form.

At its best the ‘Tommy
soundtrack is livelier, more
exciting and better per-
formed than the original; 3--
“ arks,” “I’m Free,“'

‘ elcome" and “Sensation" ~'
have never sounded better. 7-
“Plnball Wizard” doesn'tui.
outrank the original, but it is" ’
thoroughly enjoyable. ‘ ”

At its worst — generally *'
when the movie stars try to
sing — it’s hardly worth a lis- " ‘
ten, and the original version
remains unsurpassed;
“Cousin Kevin, ” the 91163
John Entwistle co halltl'mn‘f‘:
was sung in two-pa ,,
ny on the original; both 31:4
1972 “Tommy” and the new:
soundtrack dro the names... ‘-'

nz— and ha the song‘s:

And after repeated ustenfi
ingsso some entire! tri
lrics Chan es bot er ME:

by has r. Simpsons:
Rol s-Roy ce, blue in 1969,”
suddenly yturned black? Ahfi ‘
why does the “deejay wear
ing a blazer with a bad gel“:
?ecome sim ly "one gt gilt;
aithful"in ' e movie. ’3

These are utterly unifies .1;

rtant questions: therefore a;
Y0 dlike the answers at the“ :
earliest possible moment. 1 -1"‘

If you have none of the-
“Tommy’ albums — and
want to get one — the movie ,2
soundtrack would probably 9‘,
be the best choice. if for no ,4
other reason than its new '
songs.

And if you do own one of
the other 'Tommy' ’LPs, it s
a tossu. if you' re wild about
Eric lapton Tina Turner‘ "'
and Elton John ou ’ll proba-"‘
bly like what ey do with}...
The Who s material. And --
The Who - Daltrey in par- “‘
iicular— sound better than
ever.

TOMMY ORIGINAL...
MOVIE SOUNDTRACK -_
by the Who with guest art- ,
ists: Polydor Records.

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