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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Rock Opera > Fantasy > Counterculture > Multi-Channel Music > Tommy (1975/Sony Blu-ray)

Tommy (1975/Sony Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C-     Film: B



When The Who created their classic Rock Opera Tommy in 1969, it was an inarguable masterpiece that remains one of the all-time album classics and a vital work for any serious music lover.  We covered its Deluxe Edition CD set release at this link:





Besides many concert performances of the work at full length, they rerecorded it with a guest cast in 1972 and that version also was a hit, then it reexamined popular enough that the eccentric director Ken Russell decided he could make it into a feature film.  The result was a 1975 extravaganza that may have not been the best version musically, but its visual realizations were stunning, innovative and the editing was years ahead of the MTV style.  Tommy (1975) was Russell’s biggest hit ever and has Roger Daltrey as the title character in the story of the deaf, dumb & blind title character.


As you may know, Tommy has these problems in part because of the shock of his father (Robert Powell) being murdered by a new lover Frank (Oliver Reed in a truly creepy, effective performance) while his mother (Ann-Margret) is present.  Frank is no good and even tires to get Tommy “cured”, but it turns out to be a series of trials that nearly destroy him.  However, when he becomes a celebrity by beating The Pinball Wizard (Elton John in a role he talked Rod Stewart out of to get), Frank is ready to exploit that situation to his advantage too.


The cast is amazing including Jack Nicholson (singing!) as The Doctor/Specialist, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, Tina Turner as The Acid Queen, Eric Clapton as The Preacher, Paul Nicholas as Cousin Kevin and Victoria Russell as Sally Simpson.  I think the film has aged well and in this new HD transfer, is more than just a time capsule, but an outright great Rock Musical of the Rock Opera that only Russell could have pulled off.  All of The Who show up and it is better than you would expect, even if you have seen it before.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is amazing, with consistent performance that can show the age of the stock in some shots despite the amazing clean-up job done here, but some shots (like The Pinball Wizard sequence) are stunning, jaw-dropping and of demonstration quality for the most expensive HD home theaters around.  Director of Photography Dick Bush (All The Way Up, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, Phase IV, Blood On Satan’s Claw, Sorcerer) delivers some unforgettable images with Russell realized in a way that is as memorable as it is challenging and distinct.  Color, depth and detail are exceptional at its best here.


Two DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes are here for you to choose from.  One is the 5.1 mix and I preferred that, but there is also the 5.0 mix meant to imitate the Quintophonic magnetic sound system that this film introduced in hopes of competing with Sensurround and the then-new analog Dolby System.  Quadraphonic Sound was a new thing the record industry was pushing (4 track-albums on vinyl, 8-track tapes, et al) and though it did not catch on, the implication is that it was the next dimension after the new trend.  The combination of picture and either soundtrack annihilate all previous home video versions of the film and many film prints we gather.


I expected a bunch of extras, but except for movieIQ and BD Live interactive functions, a film this important has only received basic treatment.  Why fix the film up so nicely and not add extras?  That is my only complaint with this version.  Now if only Warner Bros. could give Russell’s Lisztomania (also 1975) a Blu-ray with a new transfer and upgrade as strong.


For a more recent performance of Tommy by The Who, try this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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