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The film version of The Who’s rock opera TOMMY ($31) is an overwrought visual masterpiece from director Ken Russell, but then again, what has Ken Russell done that hasn't been overwrought. With a complete absence of dialogue, TOMMY is also one of the most intriguing and unforgettable experimental films ever made. In his great experiment, Russell tells the story completely through images that have been set to Pete Townshend's music and lyrics. Russell is able to maintain control of the dizzying array of images throughout most of the film, but the energy level drops off somewhat during the final "religious" section of the film. The plot concerns a young boy named Tommy who becomes deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing a traumatic event. He eventually grows to become a pop icon after becoming a pinball prodigy, and then a religious cult figure after regaining his senses.

An impressive cast of actors and musicians were assembled to bring TOMMY to life on the big screen. The Who’s Roger Daltry portrays the grown title character Tommy; Ann-Margret is Tommy's mother; Oliver Reed is his stepfather; Elton-John is the Pinball Wizard; Tina Turner is The Acid Queen and Jack Nicholson is The Doctor. Impressive performances abound in TOMMY, with Ann-Margret being especially notable. Ann-Margret certainly gives one the best performances of her career. The role of Tommy's mother even garnered Ann-Margret an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She is able to run through a full range of emotions, without dialog. What she conveys up on the screen would be considered quite an accomplishment by any actress acting in an ordinary drama. The fact that Ann-Margret conveys such a performance completely through song is utterly brilliant; the more one watches her performance the more one comes to appreciate it. The cast of TOMMY also features Eric Clapton, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas, Robert Powell and Pete Townshend.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made TOMMY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. TOMMY comes with a fairly terrific 1080p presentation, which is quite film like an appropriate looking to a motion picture released in 1975. The image appears sharp and rather nicely defined, with the strongest looking picture coming from close-ups. Fine detail and texturing isn’t at modern levels, but is still quite good. Colors appear fairly well saturated, and appears quite nice for seventies era color film stock. Flesh tones are fairly natural, but the actors’ make-up is still rather obvious. Blacks are deep and the whites are crisp. Contrast is generally smooth. Shadow detail is more than adequate. The elements from which TOMMY has been transferred appear relatively free from blemishes. Grain is apparent in the image and maintains the film-like quality of the presentation.

TOMMY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Being a musical film without spoken dialogue, TOMMY benefits from the extra fidelity afforded by the lossless encode, and the film has never sounded better in the home venue than it does right here. For their age, the recordings are robust, although not as transparent as modern recordings. Still, the music is very clean sounding, and has been given a good spread through the soundstage; with cleanly defined channel separations. Vocals have definite presence and a true sense of character. In addition to the standard 5.1, a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack has been included that replicates the film’s original Quintaphonic sound mix in 5.0. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some Bonus Trailers. TOMMY is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Sony’s MovieIQ feature is available through BD-Live, which provides the viewer access to a continuously updated database of additional information about the film, its cast, crew and soundtrack, as well as other trivia.

TOMMY is a wonderful fusion of rock music and cinema. The Blu-ray offers an impressive and highly film-like presentation of this thirty five year old motion picture. Recommended.


Tommy, the Movie [Blu-ray] (1975)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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