Wednesday 11 December 2019
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theguardian - 19 days ago

Tommy review – Ken Russell s mad rock opera pinballs back into cinemas

Russell’s adaptation of the Who’s concept album about a blind pinball wizard is a fascinating time capsule featuring Oliver Reed, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner and Eric ClaptonKen Russell’s bizarre and ineffably seedy and fetishistic rock opera Tommy, based on the Who’s 1969 concept album, is now on rerelease. It is 44 years since it arrived in cinemas, and we were all shocked at that extraordinarily horrible scene with the paedophile babysitter Uncle Ernie, played by Keith Moon. This is a character even Roald Dahl would have flinched from imagining: cracking an egg into his glass of 70s warm beer and then proceeding to “fiddle about” with the blind, deaf, dumb and Christ-like young Tommy, played by Roger Daltrey. (Dennis Potter’s BBC TV play Brimstone and Treacle was banned for something comparable.) Tommy has lost his senses due to a trauma relating to sex and violence as a child, and finally retreats into the seraphic mystery of being a passionately worshipped public figure.The Uncle Ernie scene was the one I found most upsetting when I saw this originally as a teenager, though watching it again now I realise I had failed to clock a very dodgy touch: Uncle Ernie is reading Gay News, with its “Obscenity Trial Triumph” headline. I can’t believe that anyone making this film believed that gay and paedophile were interchangeable, but it was a clumsy irony. Continue reading...


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