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slaytonf

Opulence on opulence: Tommy directed by Ken Russell

86 posts in this topic

MissW said: did you not see my post explaining about the whole "canned beans" thing?

Haven't you seen DOUBLE INDEMNITY? It's spelled "Cand Beans". ;-)

I saw Tommy at the theater with fellow teen friends, the perfect age for a rock movie. It was much anticipated since I was a big Who fan, with a crush on Keith Moon-and even own his solo LP. And yes, my best friend had a quad stereo we listened to for hours. We all were excited to see this hoping it would finally explain the "story" of Tommy, which wasn't really coherent from the songs.

I hated this movie. I didn't understand it, thought the performances were corny, etc. and forgot about it for years. I had to be talked into ever watching any Ken Russell films, but very much liked THE DEVILS, **** and several of his other films.

After awhile (or-matured?) I started seeing Russell films differently: nightmarish and emotional. Like another misunderstood fave director Kubrick, Ken Russell seemed to want to capture the ideas inside your head and illustrate & evoke them with moving pictures.

I watched TOMMY again when it first aired on TCM about a decade ago. All the scenes were the same, but I had obviously changed. Now, I LOVED it! Instead of worrying about a "story", found it creative, inventive, funny, satiric, and just a joy seeing the Who as young men. I found several scenes actually exciting - especially Tina Turner as the Acid Queen-WOW. I still find Eric Clapton dull & mumbly, but enjoyed the church scene, and always loved the Sally Simpson song/story. Ann Margaret is a treasure in a cardboard role.
I now think Russell was the PERFECT director for this oddball film. It really doesn't need a deep, cohesive story, it's just a fun "art" movie.

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13 hours ago, slaytonf said:

But--but that's the most brilliant scene in the movie!  No joke!

 

Ok. let's get this straight.  Prior to the TV eruption, Tommy's mommy is watching him crowned pinball king.  Racked with guilt, she tries not to watch, getting only commercials for:  baked beans, chocolate, and laundry detergent.  As her psychic trauma builds, we see Tommy in a washer.  Then his mommy busts the TV, seeking relief from her agony--and gets it, temporarily, with the soap suds (cleansing--see?).  But her inner contamination busts out, first with beans, then with chocolate goo.  She revels in her degradation.  All very sexy.

And that is something Liv Ullman definitely couldn't do.

I'm loving the beans discussion and I love this post especially.

I am so behind on my films of the 70s, that I'm going to admit that the only one of the five best actress nominees in 1975 that I have seen in full is ANN-MARGRET  in TOMMY. (That's right, I have never seen CUCKOOS NEST or ADELE H!)

I think it's wonderful that ANN MARGRET got a best actress nomination, it's one of those "glamour girl makes good" stories that I love about the Academy Awards. And she is absolutely excellent in the part, the only reservation I really have is that (AS I RECALL) the character almost disappears in the third act of the movie. She needed to have more of a presence throughout the whole thing. It's also kind of sad that the nomination didn't do much for A-M's career, I Imdbd her and her roles after that were sporadic.

QUESTION: was Ann-Margret the first person to receive an Oscar nomination for a role where she had no spoken dialogue, only singing? I can't think of another case before hers.

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On 6/28/2018 at 9:18 PM, misswonderly3 said:

Who doesn't love The Who?  And if you love The Who, then of course you love "Tommy".  

Coincidentally, I just listened to this great album in its entirety a few weeks ago  (for the first time in a while.) And I thought about it what I always think: truly great music, some of the best rock ever made. Every track is fantastic; you can tell that Townshend, who'd written some outstanding music already, had really found his muse by the time he got to "Tommy". Every time I hear "Pinball Wizard" I realize it's one of the most exciting rock songs ever written. And that's just the "hit" from the album; there are so many unusual, interesting, inventive, and - at the risk of sounding horribly pretentious - "transcendent"  (apologies to Shelley Duvall) pieces on "Tommy".

Anyone here seen "Almost Famous"?  Remember that scene near the beginning, when the kid's going through the rock albums his older sister has left for him, along with a note that says something like, "this music will change your life". One of the first record covers we see is the iconic, strange blue and black grid which is "Tommy".

So, having acknowledged, probably excessively, how much I love this album, I will say, what makes "Tommy" great is the music. The story is silly, and doesn't really make much sense. But that's ok. You could say the same for most operas, whether they're classical or rock. The whole thing about Tommy having a cult following ( I mean the character Tommy), and having some kind of spiritual epiphany when he "becomes aware", is all a bunch of rubbish. But that's ok. It's not for the story that I listen to "Tommy", it's not the story that goes through my head sometimes in the form of an earworm. It's the amazing (journey) songs. 

So, "that said", I don't really get that much out of the Ken Russell film. I'd much rather listen to the record.

(Just an addendum: A much better "rock opera", in terms of story (but not music), of Pete Townshend's is "Quadrophenia", which was also made into a movie. The music on this, too, is first-rate, I love all the songs on "Quadrophenia". But the story actually kind of makes sense, certainly it's a much better narrative than that of "Tommy". )

Still, whether we're talking about "Tommy", "Quadrophenia", "Who's Next", or even "The Who Sell Out" (amongst others), what counts is the great music The Who made. When it comes to songs, music trumps lyrics every time.

So...I love The Who, but I can't endure Tommy.  I'll tell you why and I will date myself as a spring chicken for some and a lady of a certain age for others. My mom took me to see  Tommy in the theater when I was four.  I remember everything about that day in perfect crystalized clarity. She and I recently discussed my being a child of the 70s and how many inappropriate movies I saw for my age.  Tommy scared the crap out of me, and, to be honest, my four-year old brain rightly or wrongly was scared straight off of narcotics from that day forward. Honest to goodness, I've never so much as dabbled in taking an extra prescription medication or the whacky weedus (as my beloved Mel Brooks called it). All. Because. of. Tommy. 

I can't speak to the merits of the movie because  don't remember it in a reasonable, knowledgable way. I just remember being frightened by what it showed my little eyes. Furthermore, I won't watch it again as there is a psychic anxiety about watching it that has to do with many other things from the 70s I'd rather not relive. I did love growing up in the 70s before all the safety mechanisms and lockdowns on how we raise children robbed kids of certain journeys of self-discovery and independence that now has to be programmed into their daily rituals instead of fallen into naturally as we all used to, but seeing Tommy was not a necessary part of that. 

On the other hand, The Who remans part of my daily listening experience. I'm teaching myself guitar, and I aspire to some of the solos even as I'm just learning rhythm at present.

Thanks for the topic. Lots to unload here around the movie and the music -- and the decade. ?

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Eh, I enjoy a lot of The Who's music, but I didn't particularly care for TOMMY.  Way too bizarre even for my usually open-minded taste.

Ken Russell is one of those filmmakers whose style just didn't appeal to me.

1975 was such a weak year for women's roles, had it been a much stronger year, I doubt Ann-Margaret would have scored a nomination, but to give credit where credit is due, she was just about the only watchable element to the movie, aside from the soundtrack.

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I can only remember it being on once before, three or four years ago.  Can you say when it was last on?  Or is that a question for another thread?

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21 hours ago, EricJ said:

Although I side with the comic abuse that Monty Python would gleefully heap upon Ken Russell--

One sketch, for example, ends with the characters breaking out into cute '20's musical, and the onscreen title reads:  "Sandy Wilson's production of 'The Devils'".  
(An obvious poke at Ken Russell's production of "The Boy Friend", in case you hadn't gotten it yet. :D )

Do you know how sometimes you've seen several films by a director and then you come across something by them and it changes the way you see their whole output?

I am that way with KEN RUSSELL and THE DEVILS. 

I had very mixed feelings about his work before that, and then I saw that movie and freakin LOVEd IT. I truly think it is a work of legitimate genius.

some of his later stuff tho...

 

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25 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Do you know how sometimes you've seen several films by a director and then you come across something by them and it changes the way you see their whole output?

I am that way with KEN RUSSELL and THE DEVILS. 

I had very mixed feelings about his work before that, and then I saw that movie and freakin LOVEd IT. I truly think it is a work of legitimate genius.

some of his later stuff tho...

One of my most wished-for Blu-ray releases is a remastered Criterion of The Devils, with all the bells and whistles (bonus features).

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18 hours ago, EricJ said:

Wrong beans, though--

The Who were parodying the oft-seen Heinz "What's For Tea?" ads (which I would have never known in the US except for being a richly overexposed target of parodies for British comics like Benny Hill and The Goodies), but Ken's old advertising devils were for Rex baked beans.  So it's open to interpretation.

Though some might call this information and theory of interpretation varieties abounding, half-baked...I for one always enjoy a discussion about any kind of beans, Eric. It also is relevant to discuss this about "Tommy" since I and some friends have tickets to one of Daltrey's upcoming concerts, in which he is performing around the nation a version of "Tommy" with varied symphonic orchestras. My point was that the precursor for the theme of baked beans in The Who pantheon of symbols was to be seen in the photos for the "The Who Sell Out" album cover with the Heinz Baked Bean can and ensuing photos. Of course we all know that REX, is the King of Beans or why would they be called REX anyway, but The Who bean predilection began with Heinz and ended with the REX brand, thanks to Russell. There are some though who have questioned participants in the film about which brand was used for the Ann-Margret scene since some contend that Heinz had a nicer pinkish-orange colour tone and lent a sort of flesh-like glow to the bolster pillow, as Ann-Margret mounted it. Now I remember being in London at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason and seeing some nice Heinz cans there, but I am more partial to processed peas in cans, but I doubt Ann would have looked as good in a green milieu. It's been said that artist Jeff Koons has contemplated doing a three-dimensional sculpture of the Tommy Bean Scene in a polychrome, stainless steel and enameled aluminum process for a conceptual art show but I have not seen it materialize yet. It is debatable whether he will incorporate The Who's original bean fetish product of Heinz or the later REX type when choosing the exact shade of beans done in the enameling, but I look forward to it.

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Do you know how sometimes you've seen several films by a director and then you come across something by them and it changes the way you see their whole output?

I am that way with KEN RUSSELL and THE DEVILS. 

I had very mixed feelings about his work before that, and then I saw that movie and freakin LOVEd IT. I truly think it is a work of legitimate genius.

some of his later stuff tho...

OTOH, I watched Russell's first major movie, the Michael Caine Harry-Palmer spy thriller Billion Dollar Brain (1967), and for a while, it seemed like a nice, tidy, disciplined movie--Up to about the two-thirds mark, I was thinking, "Is this really a Ken Russell film, or was he just phoning it in for the work?"

Until 

(SPOILER) 

we see the villain explain that he's doing his evil plot all for God, America and the Flag, and then, with easy target in hand....yyyyep, it promptly becomes a Ken Russell film.  ?  It's Australian for "subtle", mate.

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5 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

One of my most wished-for Blu-ray releases is a remastered Criterion of The Devils, with all the bells and whistles (bonus features).

(Apologize for being off topic)

THE DEVILS pulls off a duo of feats:

Russell and Co. took one of THE MOST boring books I have EVER tried (repeatedly ) to read and turned it into One of the most memorable, and least boring, movie watching experiences I've ever had

and:

it is at once one of the most strongly moralistic films I've ever seen and one of the most immoral I've ever seen (and I have seen some messed up stuff)- but in the end, it's a film about faith and sticking to your principles.

and you get to see topless Nuns (still in habits) riding a fallen statue of Jesus.

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8 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

 It's been said that artist Jeff Koons has contemplated doing a three-dimensional sculpture of the Tommy Bean Scene in a polychrome, stainless steel and enameled aluminum process for a conceptual art show but I have not seen it materialize yet. It is debatable whether he will incorporate The Who's original bean fetish product of Heinz or the later REX type when choosing the exact shade of beans done in the enameling, but I look forward to it.

That would be too much opulence.

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The Who, along with Led Zeppelin, are my favorite rock groups.

QUADROPHENIA is my favorite album of all time.  I love TOMMY but I would rate QUADROPHENIA, WHO'S NEXT and LIVE AT LEEDS above it.  

TOMMY the movie is OK and I've seen it several times; it's fun to see all the musicians in it.  Ann-Margret is good but not Oscar-worthy.  Her nomination shows that that was a blah year for leading actresses and the Academy was stretching it somewhat by choosing her, in my opinion.  She was, most certainly, very Oscar-worthy for CARNAL KNOWLEDGE.

"Substitute - me for him, my Coke for Gin."  "Substitute - you bore my mum, at least I'll get my washing done."  I still love that song along with so many others.

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On 6/30/2018 at 12:04 PM, CaveGirl said:

Though some might call this information and theory of interpretation varieties abounding, half-baked...I for one always enjoy a discussion about any kind of beans, Eric. It also is relevant to discuss this about "Tommy" since I and some friends have tickets to one of Daltrey's upcoming concerts, in which he is performing around the nation a version of "Tommy" with varied symphonic orchestras. My point was that the precursor for the theme of baked beans in The Who pantheon of symbols was to be seen in the photos for the "The Who Sell Out" album cover with the Heinz Baked Bean can and ensuing photos. Of course we all know that REX, is the King of Beans or why would they be called REX anyway, but The Who bean predilection began with Heinz and ended with the REX brand, thanks to Russell. There are some though who have questioned participants in the film about which brand was used for the Ann-Margret scene since some contend that Heinz had a nicer pinkish-orange colour tone and lent a sort of flesh-like glow to the bolster pillow, as Ann-Margret mounted it. Now I remember being in London at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason and seeing some nice Heinz cans there, but I am more partial to processed peas in cans, but I doubt Ann would have looked as good in a green milieu. It's been said that artist Jeff Koons has contemplated doing a three-dimensional sculpture of the Tommy Bean Scene in a polychrome, stainless steel and enameled aluminum process for a conceptual art show but I have not seen it materialize yet. It is debatable whether he will incorporate The Who's original bean fetish product of Heinz or the later REX type when choosing the exact shade of beans done in the enameling, but I look forward to it.

CaveGirl, priding yourself as I presume you do on your exceptional literary skills, I'm surprised you did not practice the dull but necessary discipline of paragraphing in the above post.

No matter how interesting the content, my eyes and my brain have difficulty taking in one huge block of text. I realize there are times when it's fun to do this on purpose, perhaps that was what you were aiming for. But for me, one long run-on big uninterrupted block of text is just a can of worms.  Er, beans.

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On 6/30/2018 at 7:11 AM, TikiSoo said:

 

...I saw Tommy at the theater with fellow teen friends, the perfect age for a rock movie. It was much anticipated since I was a big Who fan, with a crush on Keith Moon-and even own his solo LP.  ...

 

I, too, had a bit of a crush (just a mild passing one) on Keith Moon. Not at the time near the end of his life, when his crazy hard living and alcoholism etc. had ruined his looks (hard to believe he was only 32), but when he was younger and before his wild ways played havoc with his looks. He had a boyish, almost angelic appearance, very "cute", I thought when I was young. Angelic looks that belied his manic behaviour. But poor old Keith was never a "bad" person, just kind of mixed-up and full of manic energy (yes, I know, "manic" twice in as many sentences. But it's a good word to describe him). The same energy that made him such a fantastic drummer. Here's a pic of him,before both Keith and his eyebrows went crazy, one that inspired my teenage crush:

Image result for keith moon early who days

 

ps: Thanks for your comments on the film "Tommy". Now, thanks to you, I actually would like to see it again.

 

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On 6/29/2018 at 1:10 PM, CaveGirl said:

... Always loved the homage to Eddie Cochran in the Who's "Overture" ....

?? I'm intrigued by this statement. I'm pretty familiar with both "Tommy" (including the Overture) and the music of Eddie Cochran. And in fact, just out of curiousity, figuring it's quite likely I might have missed something, I just listened to the Tommy Overture.  Cant' hear any "homage" to Eddie Cochran.  Please 'splain.

(Of course, maybe you meant the "overture" as heard in the movie version, which I haven't heard for years.)

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On 6/30/2018 at 12:20 AM, slaytonf said:

 

I find it at least entertaining to watch as I listen to the music.  And Ken Russell does have a way with the camera.  And I like seeing Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, and Elton John take on The Who.  Maybe it didn't do much for you then, but maybe you aren't giving the movie a fair chance now.  Thing is, you've probably missed the chance to see it, as it's not on Watch TCM, and I doubt it'll be on again.  

Oh, darn.

Guess that was rude, sorry. And judging by what a lot of people are saying here, it is really worth my giving it another shot.

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On 6/30/2018 at 9:03 AM, MotherofZeus said:

So...I love The Who, but I can't endure Tommy.  I'll tell you why and I will date myself as a spring chicken for some and a lady of a certain age for others. My mom took me to see  Tommy in the theater when I was four.  I remember everything about that day in perfect crystalized clarity. She and I recently discussed my being a child of the 70s and how many inappropriate movies I saw for my age.  Tommy scared the crap out of me, and, to be honest, my four-year old brain rightly or wrongly was scared straight off of narcotics from that day forward. Honest to goodness, I've never so much as dabbled in taking an extra prescription medication or the whacky weedus (as my beloved Mel Brooks called it). All. Because. of. Tommy. 

I can't speak to the merits of the movie because  don't remember it in a reasonable, knowledgable way. I just remember being frightened by what it showed my little eyes. Furthermore, I won't watch it again as there is a psychic anxiety about watching it that has to do with many other things from the 70s I'd rather not relive. I did love growing up in the 70s before all the safety mechanisms and lockdowns on how we raise children robbed kids of certain journeys of self-discovery and independence that now has to be programmed into their daily rituals instead of fallen into naturally as we all used to, but seeing Tommy was not a necessary part of that. 

On the other hand, The Who remans part of my daily listening experience. I'm teaching myself guitar, and I aspire to some of the solos even as I'm just learning rhythm at present.

Thanks for the topic. Lots to unload here around the movie and the music -- and the decade. ?

Well, MotherofZeus, I enjoyed your childhood tale of woe. It does sound as though it would have been a traumatizing, or at the very least, disturbing experience, to have been taken to see a movie like "Tommy" when you were only four years old. Definitely not intended for four-year-olds, and I hope you'll forgive me if I say I can't imagine what your mother could have been thinking to take you.

Still, we must separate the movie from the music, especially the music as it was originally recorded and intended to be heard, which was of course on the album "Tommy", released years before the movie. The way the songs are performed on the album, the music is different from how it's heard in the film. Since you seem to like The Who's music other than "Tommy", you might want to give the songs from "Tommy" another chance; just forget about the movie and try listening to the album. On ne sait jamais.

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1 hour ago, misswonderly3 said:

Oh, darn.

Guess that was rude, sorry. And judging by what a lot of people are saying here, it is really worth my giving it another shot.

I didn't take it as rude.  I just thought with the passage of time, you might find something worthwhile in it.

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I'm bummed that TOMMY didn't show up on TCM ON DEMAND, so I went searching for some Ken Russell films because I was inspired by this thread. I came across an online copy of CRIMES OF PASSION (1984)

it was NUTS, but it followed a lot of the same ground as TOMMY, a commentary on suburban life, marriage, adultery, rebelling against conformity. 

I'm starting to think that maybe Russell had something of a drug problem, since many of his later films are a little rough around the edges. Still technically brilliant, sharp edits and a smart composition of images – but they tend to get away from him. This was a schizophrenic movie, one part very sexy thriller and one part Mundane domestic mess.

Russell does have a way with actresses though, Kathleen Turner gives an absolutely brilliant, STUNNING, revelatory performance. If the film had been better and less controversial, I think she not only would've got an Oscar nomination for it, she might have even won.

 She did actually win the national board of review's best actress award for it (and also ROMANCING THE STONE)

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Oh, CRIMES OF PASSION also featured Anthony Perkins in a role that those of you who found Tina Turner's performance as the ACID QUEEN in TOMMY too understated will LOVE!

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42 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Oh, CRIMES OF PASSION also featured Anthony Perkins in a role that those of you who found Tina Turner's performance as the ACID QUEEN in TOMMY too understated will LOVE!

Your posts made me curious about how many Ken Russell films that I've seen:

  • Billion Dollar Brain (1967) 7/10
  • Women in Love (1969) 6/10
  • The Devils (1971) 9/10
  • Tommy (1975) 7/10
  • Valentino (1977) 5/10
  • Altered States (1980) 7/10
  • Gothic (1986) 6/10
  • The Lair of the White Worm (1988) 7/10

And that's it. I've heard a lot about several others but have never gotten around to them.

 

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VALENTINO suuuuuuuuuuuuucks!!!!!!

they showed it on TCM when Leslie Caron was star of the month a few years back, and I still remember a lot of people hit the message boards the next day to be like "what the hell was that thing about?!?"

LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is unique. I've been looking for it online lately, but can't find it.

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Ps- I think CRIMES OF PASSION is right up Your alley, Lawrence. It may be available on a certain popular video streaming website (full version, nudity, graphic sex, filthy language and everything)

it's really worth seeing for Kathleen Turner's performance, which again was fantastic.

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