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1975's "Tommy" is one of the seminal rock operas of the 1970's (up there with "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Pink Floyd's The Wall"). "The Devils" director Ken Russell tackles The Who's classic double-album (engineered by member Pete Townsend) with panache and transforms the movie into what essentially is a 111-minute rock video (a good 6 years before MTV came out!). The basic plotline is as follows: Tommy is a deaf, dumb and blind boy who became that way after witnessing the death of his pilot father by his mother's lover (played by the late, great Oliver Reed). Mom's played by the lovely Ann-Margret, by the way. As an adult, Tommy (played by The Who's frontman Roger Daltrey) evolves into a new person by beating the Pinball Wizard (played by Elton John--who sings the song "Pinball Wizard). Tommy eventually becomes a messianic figure with a cult following. Okay, that's the best I can figure out as far as a plot goes (hey, it's a time before I became concious of the world around me...). Seriously, the movie does excel in the music department (there's no dialogue), with a virtual who's who of performers featured in "Tommy". We get a dose of Eric Clapton, Elton John, The Who (Pete Townsend, John Entwistle and the late Keith Moon), Tina Turner, and many others. Heck, even Jack Nicholson shows up in a cameo as a doctor! The set design and cinematography are all pluses as well.
Even though "Tommy" is almost 25 years old, you wouldn't know it from the print, which is fantastic! Aside from some grain here and there, the DVD is sharp and clear. Columbia/Tristar did a superb job.
In it's original theatrical release, "Tommy" was presented in a new "quintaphonic" soundtrack system (basically a system where there are 5 speakers used: 2 on the left, 2 on the right and 1 in the center for dialogue). The DVD also has this feature and it sounds exquisite. Mercifully, the DVD also contains an essay that explains (in detail) the mechanics of the sound system used.
Curiously, the only extras available here are talent bios (cast and director) and those production notes. Why was no theatrical trailer or commentary included? The latter could've provided us with some insight on the activities up on the screen (or maybe what everyone was smoking at the time). Oh well, maybe in another lifetime!
All in all, "Tommy" is an entertaining journey through the mind of The Who and Ken Russell. Let me just state that Oliver Reed is da man!! (note to self: start an Oliver Reed fanclub). Just watching Ann-Margret sashaying around in a pool of baked beans (?!) is worth the price of admission. Also, it paved the way for the next great rock movie, Alan Parker's and Roger Waters' "Pink Floyd's The Wall," but that is another review...