Released 1975


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Movie Summary

Ken Russell
Tommy is a musical from 1975 directed by Ken Russell and based on The Who's 1969 album of the same name. As a young child, Tommy Walker (Barry Winch and later Roger Daltrey) witnesses his mother's boyfriend killing Tommy's lost father (Robert Powell). His mother, Nora Walker (Ann-Margret) worries that the authorities will find out, and she tells Tommy that he didn't see or hear anything and that he cannot tell anyone what happened. This traumatic experience causes Tommy to retreat into his own mind; to the outside world he appears to be deaf, dumb, and blind. Although his mother attempts to cure Tommy by sending him to a religious cult run by The Preacher (Eric Clapton) and The Acid Queen (Tina Turner), a LSD selling prostitute, she mostly ignores his existence. She often leaves him in the care of his abusive Cousin Kevin (Paul Nicholas) and Uncle Ernie (Keith Moon). Retreating from his family life, Tommy finds himself in a junkyard and beings playing a pinball machine. Showing incredible skill, he begins a rise to fame by defeating the local pinball champion (Elton John). When a specialist (Jack Nicholson) tells Nora that Tommy's problems are only psychosomatic, she panics and violently throws Tommy into a mirror, awakening Tommy from his slumber. Tommy begins to share his self-awareness with the world, lecturing and preaching to anyone who will listen. Has Tommy really learned anything throughout his difficult childhood, or is his self-awareness misleading? Tommy is one of the first rock operas to make it's way to the big screen and, unlike The Who's album, the soundtrack to the film version of Tommy is sung by the various actors themselves. The Who's other rock opera, 1973's Quadrophenia, was also adapted into a film in 1979.moreless


Metacritic Score

  • 90


    Russell has created what is surely the loudest, most assaultive movie musical ever made and stretched the genre into a new realm - the phantasmagorical nightmare. [24 Mar 1975, p.24]

  • 75

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    Russell doesn't give a damn about the material he started with, greatest art work of the century or not, and he just goes ahead and gives us one glorious excess after another. He i...

  • 50

    Time Out

    The Who's ludicrous rock opera was in fact tailor-made for the baroque, overblown images and simplistic symbolism of Russell's style, which only means that this is both the movie i...

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Arts, Comedy, Music