Tommy (1975 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In 1975 Tommy was adapted as a film, produced by expatriate Australian entrepreneur Robert Stigwood and directed by maverick British auteur Ken Russell. The movie version starred Daltrey as Tommy, and featured other members of The Who plus an eclectic supporting cast including Hollywood legend Ann-Margret as Tommy's mother, Oliver Reed as the boyfriend, with cameo appearances by Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Arthur Brown and Jack Nicholson.

Tommy was one of the first music films released with a multichannel hi-fi soundtrack (billed as "quintaphonic sound") and in many theaters it was presented with high-powered concert-style sound reinforcement, played at rock concert volumes.

The film received mixed reviews but was a huge commercial success on release and has achieved cult film status due to scenes such as Arthur Brown's portrayal of a priest in Tommy's cult, Ann-Margret's frolic in a pool of beans (a reference to the cover of The Who's 1967 LP Sell Out) and the sharp satire on pop music presented by the "Sally Simpson" scene. Other highlights included Elton John's memorable appearance (sporting metre-high Doctor Marten boots) as the "Pinball Wizard" and Tina Turner's electrifying cameo as the "Acid Queen."

Townshend reworked the storyline extensively for the film, fleshing out much that was obscure in the original version, and moving the time-frame forward to a more believable era, the period following World War II. This also (somewhat) cured the anachronism arising from Sally Simpson's marriage to a rock musician from California after her ejection from Tommy's sermon. Since no such musicians existed until the 1960s, Sally would had a 30+ year wait and would have been in her 50s by then.

The film version also reversed a crucial plot point: in the film, Tommy's father is murdered by his mother's lover, rather than the lover being killed by the returning Capt. Walker, as in the original storyline. The result can be seen as lending an incestuous charge to the mother/son relationship as Tommy's mother sees her former husband within her son.

Townshend also oversaw the production of a new double-LP recording that returned the music to its rock roots, and on which the unrecorded orchestral arrangements he had envisaged for the original Tommy LP were realised by the extensive use of synthesiser. The soundtrack LP also employed many leading sessions musicians including Caleb Quaye and longtime Who associate John "Rabbit" Bundrick. The song "Pinball Wizard" was a major hit when released as a single. Curiously, although the music for this song is performed entirely by Elton John and his band, the film depicts Elton being backed by The Who (dressed in pound-note suits).

Most of the extras were students at Portsmouth Polytechnic and were paid with tickets to a Who concert after filming had finished. Ken Russell included the shots he took of the pier at Southsea, which burned down while the crew were in town.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tommy (1975 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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