Tommy Movie is a 1975 musical film, based on The Who’s 1969 rock opera album musical Tommy. It was directed by Ken Russell and featured a star-studded cast, including the band members themselves (most notably, lead singer Roger Daltrey plays the title role). Ann-Margret received a Golden Globe Award for her performance, and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Pete Townshend was also nominated for an Oscar for his work in scoring and adapting the music for the film. Tommy Movie was the first and only film to be recorded with a Quintaphonic soundtrack. Some outdoor scenes were shot in the Borrowdale valley of the English Lake District, near to the home of Ken Russell as well as Southsea in Hampshire. The latter location is home to South Parade pier. A fire at the pier coincided with filming and the scenes in the movie are documentary footage of the blaze taken by Russell. Some scenes were shot on Portsdown Hill, which overlooks Portsmouth. Two churches were also used, one in Old Portsmouth, the other was St John’s, in Stamshaw.
Tommy Movie was shown at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn’t entered into the main competition.
Tommy Movie Plot
Tommy’s father, RAF Group Captain Walker (Robert Powell), is away fighting in World War II. His airplane is shot down before Tommy is born. His mother, Nora Walker, receives the news while at work in a munitions factory filling bombs with ball bearings. Mrs. Walker then gives birth to a baby boy, Tommy. She believes her husband is dead for nearly six years. She meets Frank Hobbs at a holiday camp and starts a relationship with him.
However, Walker had survived the crash and returns home one night. Tommy follows him to the bedroom where Walker sees Mrs. Walker and Hobbs in each other’s arms. He then sees Hobbs kill Walker by smashing a lamp on his head. (In the original album version, however, Walker confronts his wife and kills the lover.) Tommy is then told that he “didn’t hear it, didn’t see it” and “won’t say nothing to no-one”. As a result, Tommy becomes deaf, dumb, and blind to avoid it.
The film jumps ahead ten years, and Tommy, now a young man, is being taken by his mother and stepfather on various attempts to cure him, including a religious cult (centered on Marilyn Monroe from The Seven Year Itch) and the Acid Queen (Tina Turner), a prostitute dealing in LSD who sends Tommy on a wild trip that ultimately fails to awaken him. Meanwhile, his parents are somewhat negligent of Tommy, and leave him in the hands of his sadistic cousin Kevin (Paul Nicholas), who beats him, and his uncle Ernie (Keith Moon), who molests him.
Tommy’s only stimulus seems to come from a long mirror that he stands and stares into. Led alone into a junkyard at night by a vision of himself, Tommy comes into contact with a device that will change his life forever. A pinball machine among the scattered scrap metal junk yard allows Tommy to rise to national prominence and fame. Tommy’s pinball prowess and defeat of the local champ (Elton John) transforms him into a folk hero.
Nora and Frank take Tommy to a medical specialist (Jack Nicholson), who confirms that Tommy’s problems are psychosomatic. Filled with guilt and anger, Tommy’s mother throws him into the mirror he stares into, shattering it. The violent act wakes Tommy into normality once more. He uses his new awareness to try to bring enlightenment to people. He starts giving speeches and enlightening people by canvassing. Tommy’s stepfather exploits him to make money, and eventually Tommy becomes a worldwide religious icon.
Tommy sets up a holiday camp of his own, one that caters to his cult; but the mob soon rebels against his strict rules and fervor. They burn down the camp, killing Tommy’s mother and stepfather in the process. Tommy is left alone, but with a greater sense of self-awareness as he faces a new dawn.