Tommy (1975)

Tommy is an incredible, intense, creative and surreal experience. Anybody who considers themselves a creative type really owes it to themselves to sit down and watch this passionate, ambitious rock opera. Within the film’s 108 minutes, no matter how many times you watch this movie, you’re taken on an incredible journey that fills the mind with so much color.

I first came across this film as a child walking around in my local videostore. I remember seeing the cover that features a man wearing sunglasses, earplugs and a cork in his mouth, wondering what in the hell I was looking at. I then turned the box around to read that this was a film involving a main character who goes deaf, dumb and blind after seeing his father murdered. I then looked towards the photo of Tina Turner holding a large syringe and as a child, I was truly terrified. Still to this day the image of Tina Turner holding that syringe is so iconic to me.

It was a few years later I was at my grandmother’s house flipping through Showtime where I happened to see the ending of this film with Tommy (Roger Daltrey) walking around the ruins of his holiday camp singing and I was mesmerized, finally ready to sit down and watch it in its entirety. Almost instantly the filmbecame an obsession of mine. One scene in particular I watched over and over was Paul Nicholas as Cousin Kevin. I remember owning a video camera and having a friend reenact that scene. I had him sit in a chair pretending to be Tommy as I danced around before shoving a pillow over their face.

To this day it’s still the same cool and rebellious surreal musical performance I fell in love with all those years ago.

Tommy is also the reason I’m perhaps a little more harsh on spectacle driven blockbusters than most. This incredibly creative and surreal film costed five million dollars which in 1975 was probably equivalent to just under twenty five million dollars. You truly see every penny of this film’s budget on screen. All these years later I find it more creative and fulfilling than most popcorn films that cost over 100 million dollars, the ones that seem as if they took the most generic B movie script and added as much CGI as humanly possible as a means of covering up the mediocrity.

Tommy also contains the lost art of being an entertaining film that also has serious subject matter. You can tell this film comes from a time period when the box office wasn’t controlled by the masses who say all at once, “When I go to the movies I don’t want to think.”

It’s incredible to watch a film that’s more entertaining than the average movie that also happens to deal with subject material like a child seeing his father killed by his mother’s lover, people around this child asking on Christmas Morning if a deaf, dumb and blind kid automatically goes to hell since they don’t know who Jesus is, pedophilia and questionable profit among religion and gurus.

With rock operas or any form of musical, it’s important for the soundtrack to deliver and this by far is arguably the greatest soundtrack of all time. You get an all-star cast covering amazing songs by The Who. The cameos in this film continue to amaze and cause the eyes to widen with every new scene.

There’s Eric Clapton playing a reverend in a church that worships Marilyn Monroe.

Then it’s Tina Turner going full force as The Acid Queen.

Paul Nicholas as Cousin Kevin, which according to IMDB was the first thing shot for Tommy.

Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie. One part I love about this scene is when Oliver Reed burns his newspaper and a large burned piece flies up and hits Keith Moon in the face.

Elton John as The Pinball Wizard. This song is the only time a cover of a Who song cracked the top 10.

Jack Nicholson as Tommy’s doctor, who appears in this film the same year he did One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Throughout the entirety of this film we get the great Ann Margaret and Oliver Reed playing Tommy’s parents. Oliver Reed is an actor that I absolutely love because of this movie. Notable for playing the Dickens villain Bill Sikes in Oliver!, Reed does what he does best in Tommy and that is portraying a intimidating slimeball who appears to be sweating booze all the time. This is the film I was introduced to Reed’s intriguing Man’s Man presence and I’ve been fascinated with the actor ever since.

Ann Margaret dedicates herself fully to this film and never appears to be phoning it in. She puts so much of herself into this film that at one point she cut herself on a shard of glass, went to the hospital and returned the next day ready to go.

Tommy is a film that offers one unforgettable experience that’s in my opinion underrated and underappreciated. It’s a surreal roller-coaster that gives you a mentally stimulating experience that is near impossible to pull off.

 

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