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Fans of the Who beware. Ken Russell applies his rococo outpourings to Pete Townshend's rock opera and botches not only the visuals but the fine score. With its beginnings as a 1969 album by the Who, one of rock music's most beloved and respected bands, TOMMY went on to become a stage
smash in England. Then Russell, with his taste for the flamboyant and meaningless, added Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed, cast lead singer Roger Daltrey in the title role, and wasted a number of talents in useless cameos. The story, told entirely in song, centers on Tommy, a "deaf, dumb, and blind
kid" who shuns the rest of the world after the death of his father. His mother, Ann-Margret, and stepfather, Reed, bring him to a doctor, Jack Nicholson, for treatment, but nothing seems to help--that is, until Tommy discovers pinball. "Playing by sense of smell," he beats even the Pinball Wizard
(Elton John) and eventually breaks free and starts life anew. Drummer Keith Moon is a highlight as perverted Holiday Camp counsellor Uncle Ernie, Eric Clapton transfers his real-life role as rock guitar god to the screen, and Tina Turner is explosive as the Acid Queen but comes and goes with
little explanation. Regrettably, Townshend's extraordinary songs are mauled by Ann-Margret, Reed, and Nicholson. Daltrey, however, proves himself an engaging screen presence and would continue to find work as an actor.