Starring: Ann-Margaret; Roger Daltrey; Oliver Reed
Director: Ken Russell
Rated: M 15+
Distributor: AV Channel
As The Who blaze a trail across the country on their first tour here since 1968, you might like to have a squiz at their out-of-control rock opera Tommy. Written by lead guitarist Pete Townsend and starring front man Roger Daltrey as the eponymous deaf dumb and blind kid, drummer Keith Moon as kinky sex freak Uncle Ernie and Eric Clapton (aka ‘God’) as the Preacher, Tommy was a head spin for a whole generation and certainly made a big impression on this writer back in those formative years. How could the world ever be the same after witnessing Ann-Margaret as Tommy’s demented mother writhing around in a mixture of liquefied consumer products projectile vomited from a television set? Soap suds, chocolate and most memorably baked beans come spewing forth into Mummy’s plush white bedroom in what has to be one of the seminal seventies cinema sequences, and one that no doubt helped Ann-Margaret win her Golden Globe Award.
Another scene that rocked our world back then was Tina Turna, all a quiver as the Acid Queen, injecting Tommy through several huge hypodermic needles embedded in a chrome sarcophagus. Both these visions still have the power to electrify, as does the sight of Elton John in his hilariously oversized boots as the legendary Pinball Wizard. The rest of the show falls somewhat short of these highlights despite strong performances by Oliver Reed as holiday camp head honcho Frank Hobbs, and Jack Nicholson as Dr. A Quackson. While the story is just weird enough to maintain your interest, much of the music tends to grate on the old ear drums.
1975 also saw the launch of another twisted musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show and two years previously, Jesus Christ Superstar. Like both these hits, Tommy explores the idea of a cult growing up around one man but unlike JC, or indeed Dr. Frankenfurter, our curly haired hero with his miraculously buff torso survives to see another day. Flashback to this era for a high voltage dose of rock ‘n roll and check out the old rockers in their prime. And while you’re at it, ponder the kooky world that helped make us what we are today.