Europa Cinema > 22:00


Ken Russell
Introduced by

Emiliano Morreale


Saturday 25/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Come on the amazing journey. And learn all you should know.



Anyone familiar with the work of Ken Russell must have registered mild surprise when it was announced that, upon the completion of Mahler, Russell would make a film version of The Who’s Tommy, starring Roger Daltrey, Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, Elton John, and Eric Clapton. […] According to Russell, the film is structured as “an evolutionary journey” in which the deaf, dumb, and blind protagonist undergoes “a kind of pilgrim’s progress” through the horrors of the modern age. […] Russell worked for a period of six months with Pete Townshend, composer of most of the songs from the rock opera and musical director of the film. Together they made slight, but often necessary, alterations to the original lyrics and created six new songs to assist in the transformation of the work to film form. The 66-page shooting script reveals Russell’s remarkable success as the adaptor-creator who walks a tightrope between his own personal vision and the vital concerns of the work from which the film is made. […] Tommy, perhaps more than any other of his film adaptations, also allowed Russell to be totally free in creating visuals from his own personal vision to match the songs and music from the original source, and this is the greatest strength of the film – especially in the first hour. The personal romanticism of the mountain-top scenes and the almost surreal images of the half-naked girls in gas masks provide a striking illustration in the opening sequence of the blend of literal and metaphorical images that assault the viewer throughout this unique ‘musical’, which consists entirely of production numbers. […] Tommy has been praised in almost all critical quarters, perhaps because most popular reviewers felt that Russell’s method of overstatement was especially appropriate to the subject matter. This may be true, but as in so many of his other films, subtle visual patterns abound throughout the film and contribute to its rich, dense texture. Images of water, shattered glass, the sun, pinballs, airplanes, crosses, earrings, and mirrors, for instance, provide the kind of visual unity which is as much a part of Russell’s method as is overstatement. More than anything else, however, Russell himself sees Tommy as “the one thing I’ve done that satisfies me aesthetically”, and he even goes so far as to suggest that the film “is a culmination of much in my work”.

Joseph A. Gomez, Ken Russell. Adaptor as Creator, Friedrick Muller Limited, London 1976

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the rock novel of the same name (1969) by Pete Townshend. Scen.: Ken Russell. F.: Dick Bush, Ronnie Taylor, Robin Lehman. M.: Stuart Baird. Scgf.: John Clark, Paul Dufficey. Mus.: The Who. Int.: Roger Daltrey (Tommy adulto), Barry Winch (Tommy bambino), Ann-Margret (Nora Walker Hobbs), Oliver Reed (Frank Hobbs), Robert Powell (capitano Walker), Elton John (The Pinball Wizard), Eric Clapton (il predicatore), Tina Turner (Acid Queen), Jack Nicholson (lo psichiatra), Keith Moon (zio Ernie), Paul Nicholas, (cugino Kevin). Prod.: Ken Russell, Robert Stigwood per Robert Stigwood Organisation. DCP. D.: 111’. Col.