VIDEO: Tommy (1975)

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For the first time on the Agony Booth, it’s Thoroughly Manly Musicals, where your host Stan Ferguson (of The Following Special Presentation fame) shows he’s man enough to explore the fabulous world of movie musicals!

In this episode, Stan looks at Tommy, the 1975 musical based on the Who’s rock opera about a deaf, dumb blind kid who sures play a mean pinball. Directed by Ken Russell (who apparently hates epileptics), the movie stars Ann-Margret (who shows off some impressive eye acting), a creepy, tone-deaf Oliver Reed, and Roger Daltrey as Tommy, who’s got a fever, and the only cure is more pinball!

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Stan Ferguson

Born in the Yukon to a family of Grizzlies, Stan was raised on a diet of show-tunes and compact cars until he was finally released upon an unsuspecting public who went on not suspecting anything and still do not suspect a thing to this day.

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  • Cristiona

    Oh, hey, cool. I saw this on your Blip channel ages ago, but I’m glad to see it on the Booth!

    • I’m glad to see it here, too. When I got the green light to have them on, I was excited because it gives me reason to make more of them and have Dr. Winston O’Boogie punch up the new scripts, perhaps! There will also still be Following Special Presentations, right now we got one just about ready and another one lined up afterward; but there’s also a new TMM that just needs to be edited.

      • SamdMan

        Where is Albert – I mean, Winston anyway?

  • Eternal Khaos

    Kudos to another of your show on the Booth man.

  • Hey, would it be possible to get more of these as write-ups? Or even transcriptions for the videos? Because the audio/video feed rarely adds anything to the article, and frankly it takes longer to consume and is considerably less convenient to consume in “sit passively and listen to someone mug for the camera” mode.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Video is the way of the future, never let it be said that the Booth wasn’t a forward-thinking utopia of ideals…

  • Olaf_the_Lofty

    I came at this without knowing the album first, which I gather was a bad idea. As a Briton, I feel I ought to point out in self-defence that Ken Russell is widely considered a loony here, and after monstrosities such as this and “The Music Lovers” is now unable to get finance to produce real films at all. The last I heard of him, he was making films in his back premises.

    The symbolism of the paper poppies in the Acid Queen scene may be lost on non-Britons. They are sold around Remembrance Day (the anniversary of the end of the First World War) to raise money for veterans’ charities. They are attached to the clothing by a long metal pin; hence, to a Briton, the scene of Tommy with paper poppies all over him suggests both “remembrance of the war dead” and “pain/mutilation all over”, as per the fake blood.

    Do I gather that informal sets of comments like this have replaced links to the forum for new articles?

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Indeed they have, I’m afraid. It’ll be an adjustment, I know, but it’s for the best…

      • Um… not really. :-/

        This doesn’t feel as nice and formal as the forums, and why can’t we rate the videos like we used to the recaps?

        • Hellraiser

          I agree…but on the other hand, no one cares what you say.

          • Who are YOU, anyway? :-P

          • Hellraiser

            I honestly don’t know sometimes. :p

    • SamdMan

      Russell was once on Celebrity Big Brother.

      I’m speechless.

  • spiff2268

    Good video. My hat’s off to you and everybody at The Booth. Now do “Grease” next.

  • I do enjoy these video recaps as I always get the sense of having watched something without having to have painfully gone through it. Amusingly I think I watched this once a long while back, and have only fleeting memories. I think my mind blocked it out.

  • kennzeichen1d

    Very nice, I´ve seen it on awhile ago, also “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Rent” and some more.
    But when I go to blip now and search for “thoroughly manly musicals” or “stan ferguson” they never give me any results.
    Why is that?

  • kennzeichen1d

    Again I must ask:
    Whenever I go to nowadays and search for
    – “thoroughly manly musicals”
    – “special presentation” or
    – “stan ferguson”
    I never get any results. How come?
    Will all Thoroughly Manly Musical-Videos be on youtube?

    • I don’t know what’s up with blip that you can’t find the episodes by searching their names. But you can find them by searching on Google.

      No, TMM will likely not continue on YouTube. I did it as an experiment in viewership and it hasn’t really produced much.

  • The Crazy Fish

    I’ll admit, I’m not really the target audience for Tommy. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the music is good and the story is good, and I think the idea of a rock opera is awesome, I’m just more into metal than rock. When I do listen to rock I prefer hard rock over classic rock.

    That said, yeah, this movie looks like shit and I can definitely see how any fan of Tommy would be pissed off at how badly this movie raped the source material. It seems like one of those movies that wants to be “artistic” but doesn’t know how, so it settles for “weird” and hopes no one will notice.

  • Grafty

    I work in the theatre where they filmed Pinball Wizard. I haven’t seen the film – it was shown there recently, and the staff are proud of it, pretty much shamelessly because the theatre’s in it.

    I didn’t know it was as bad as this. Thanks for warning me off it!

  • PF

    Is this a joke? You’re bashing the film for being odd, visually intense, and for effectively conveying its intent. Let’s make a list:

    – Uncle Frank is creepy? Yes. You might as well complain that Uncle Ernie’s creepy. Duh.
    – The planes turning into “crosses” (they’re graves, smarty pants) is war symbolism, not Christian symbolism.
    – “Real special needs people!” As opposed to what? Would it not be more offensive to hire people to act disabled?
    – It makes perfect sense for Uncle Frank to take Tommy to the Acid Queen. Do you live under a rock? He thinks he’s doing him a favor. There’s a societal pressure on men to lose their virginity. Prostitutes can help with that. Oh, and “crack ho” is racially-charged terminology, and its use, especially considering Tina Turner’s character is never shown to use crack cocaine, reflects extremely, EXTREMELY POORLY ON YOU.

    You know what? I’m done. I’m not finishing the video. Go fuck yourself, racist.

    • That was adorable! Be sure to tell your friends!

    • The Crazy Fish

      In the comments for Mendo’s video about Eternal Sunshine I said that “racist” is one of those words you have to ignore on the internet. Comments like this are the reason why.

      In case you can’t figure out why, let me put it this way. If you think hear the phrase “crack ho” and immediately think “oh, he must be talking about black people” that makes you waaaaay more racist than Stan will ever be.

    • Jett

      What? Who or what is racist here? Ken Russell was so PC he wouldn’t even cast Stevie Wonder as The Pinball Wizard,or rather the Champ who calls TOMMY a pinball wizard.

  • Michael A. Novelli

    I like that people feel so passionately. It gives me hope…

    • I dunno, man; I don’t think people like PF are the T-Shirt buying crowd.

  • Brian O’Connell

    I think you have to explain to half the kids here what a pinball machine IS, truth be said.

    • Steve

      I happen to LOVE “Tommy” as a film (I saw it as a child in its original 1975 release and loved every second of it) and a lot of others do as well. Criticizing it for being crazy and over the top is something I don’t understand. A subdued version of the material would have been a completely dull film. I can tell from your comments that you didn’t understand all of what Ken Russell was doing. But I can tell you he did it brilliantly. Were you aware that Ann-Margret won a Golden Globe and later was nominated for an Oscar? Her passionate performance drives the film I think.

      • Yeah, isn’t that weird? An Oscar nom for that?

        Seriously, though, you have my permission to like this movie. I personally think it’s a migraine inducer. And I wouldn’t even pick up the soundtrack for this thing (there’s little to enjoy musically). However, I love Jesus Christ Superstar and people think that’s some crazy shit.

        But I bet those people never saw Tommy.

        • Michael A. Novelli

          I found Tommy to be a mixed bag, yet I loved Sgt. Pepper. Go figure.

          And no, I do not enjoy it ironically, there’s actually some pretty good numbers in it, in my opinion…

      • Good Shot Green

        Yes! Ken Russell was all about excess and sometimes it doesn’t work but it sure as heckfire did here. I love Tommy…up to the end – frankly, I usually turn it off after Sally Simpson ’cause, y’know, enough already!

        • Jett

          But the end is so poserful, if ambiguous.

          • Jett

            I meant powerful, not poserful. Sorry

  • Jett

    I know Pete Townshend had a problem with this movie because Ken Russell killed off Tommy’s father instead of the mother’s lover like he originally wrote it, and because it didn’t probe Tommy ‘S psyche enough and his family cheated the disciples as well as his failure to be a spiritual teacher. They wanted to party on the original album,but I actually liked this a little better than that simplified, slightly sappy Broadway version. Maybe I just dig violent endings. LOL I call Oliver Reed the Rex Harrison of rock and roll because he speaks it like Rex speaks show tunes. I do wish that Eric Clapton and Arthur Brown ‘S scene had not taken place in a ridiculous Marilyn Monroe -worshipping church, but in a real Southern Baptist or voodoo-type church. It would have been a lot more powerful. I heard if they hadn’t gotten Tina Turner ,they would have offered David Bowie to play the Acid Queen. I might have suggested Mabel King ,or Pan Grier. I thought it was one of the better rock musicals but I wish the ending had been clearer. Maybe Russell should have had them chorus sing “We Shall All Be Saved”at the end like he planned to make Tommy ‘S fate a little clearer.

    • Jett

      I meant Pam Grier, not Pan. Sorry