The Who’s Tommy has to be one of the greatest rock movies. That doesn’t mean it’s exactly a good movie by regular movie standards, but it’s too gonzo not to love. Tommy the album was classic enough on its own, chock-full of great songs and half-baked ideas. It didn’t hold together as a narrative, because that’s very hard to achieve through pop songs, but it made sense on an emotional level. The child Tommy experiences a trauma which makes him deaf, dumb and blind but doesn’t stop him becoming a pinball champion. He’s used and abused by various family members until he has some kind of a breakthrough and achieves enlightenment. Loosely based on Pete Townshend’s own traumatic childhood and search for enlightenment, it’s basically a story about trying to become a whole person despite everything that’s shitty in the world, from WWII to molesty uncles to religious cults. It was obviously just begging to be made into a movie. Surely director Ken Russell was more than delighted to take the job, as it gave him a chance to get away from worrying about petty things like narrative continuity and spend more time filming Ann Margaret wallowing in beans. Russell brought his usual flamboyant style, and cranked it up to eleven. Though the concept was Townshend’s baby, Roger Daltrey was cast as Tommy, for reasons that are obvious. Daltrey was comely and could even act a little bit. There were also appearances by Elton John, Eric Clapton, Oliver Reed, Keith Moon and Tina Turner, among others. I can’t recommend this to anyone who is not a Who and/or psychedelic drug fan, but if you are, then you’re in for a treat. Don’t call it a movie, call it a feature length music video. You’ll enjoy it more that way.