Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Tommy: the Movie—an Appreciation

Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Tommy: the Movie—an Appreciation-attachment0

“His eyes are the eyes that transmit all they know,
The truth burns so bright it can melt winter snow.
A towering shadow, so black and so high,
A white sun burning the earth and the sky.”

—Pete Townshend, “Amazing Journey” from Tommy

Tommy: The Movie. Your senses will never be the same.”

—Original 1975 ad campaign.

On Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m., the newly remastered and restored print of Ken Russell’s Tommy will burst into life on the big screen at The Carolina Asheville in all its Quintophonic sound glory. It marks the first time this restoration has been shown in this part of the world. To date, it’s only been shown—to sold-out houses—in Los Angeles by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and New York by Lincoln Center. The minute I learned of its existence, I was determined that the Asheville Film Society would bring it to town—and here it is.

If you’ve never seen Tommy on the big screen or never seen it with its original Quintophonic soundtrack (and if you didn’t see it in its road show incarnation in 1975 when it came out, you haven’t seen it with that soundtrack), this is a remarkable opportunity—and one that very likely will never come again. This new version was made to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary and, in a broader sense, Ken Russell’s career. This year has been the summer of Ken Russell—with retropspectives in Los Angeles, Montreal, New York and Toronto honoring the 83-year-old filmmaker. Reports have it that the screening of his 1970 film The Music Lovers was punctuated with spontaneous outbursts of applause by audiences just now coming to appreciate or discover his work. For those of us who’ve been championing his films for years, this is very gratifying—mixed with a certain sense of “what took you so long?”

We’ve been ahead of the curve here in Asheville, since we had Russell here in 2005 as the guest of the Asheville Film Festival—at which time we had a 30th anniversary screening of Tommy, though not in this restored version. I take—and Asheville can take—a certain amount of pride in the fact that Russell ranks his Asheville experience as among the most enjoyable of all the retrospectives he’s ever had—possibly the most enjoyable one. Considering the fact that he sang along with the film during that screening and shouted out when old friends like Oliver Reed, Roger Daltrey and Elton John appeared on the screen, I have no reason to doubt him.

I’m no stranger to Tommy—and that may just be the understatement of a couple centuries. I saw the film 16 times upon its original release, always dragging someone new along with me—and I should note that the theater was 65 miles away. One of those was the occasional Xpress site commenter known as Rufus, who said to me afterwards, “I could see a film like that again sometime—like maybe tomorrow.” (And I’m pretty sure we did.) It’s not unusual for me to see a film more than once when it first comes out, but Tommy is still the record holder. I was there again the next year when it was re-issued. I took out a signature loan in order to shell out $425 for a bootleg 16mm print of the film in 1977. I’ve owned every video version ever released, and I used to have a running argument with Ken Russell as to which of us had seen it more. After I broke triple digits, he conceded.

The film caused me to start tracking down any and every Ken Russell movie I could find—a process that in those days meant waiting for some film society, rep house or university to show them. It took five years to see all of his theatrical films—and I’m still working on the ones made for TV. I spent about 50 pages of my book Ken Russell’s Films (1984) writing about Tommy in a scene-by-scene—sometimes shot-by-shot—analysis. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that here.) I wrote fairly extensively about it again in Video Watchdog when Oliver Reed died in 1999. I wrote about it in the Xpress when the stage version was presented here, and again in 2005 when it showed at the film festival. I should perhaps be Tommy-ed out, but I’m not.

For those who weren’t there in 1975 and know little, if anything, about the film, it needs to be understood that this was no mere movie—this was an event in every sense of the term. It was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone (“What’s deaf, dumb, blind and costs three-and-a-half-million dollars?”). The film’s premiere was covered on TV, and radio stations did call-in polls as to which version of “Pinball Wizard” listeners preferred—the Who’s original or the new one from Elton John. (The mood was such that Elton generally won.) And then there was this fabulous, unheard of sound system—Quntophonic—that gave the film four music and effects channels and a center channel for the vocals. It was only used in limited engagements, because it required the installation of special equipment. In those days, you were lucky if the theater had stereo and the idea of any kind of “Surround Sound” was unheard of. The impact is hard to imagine—and no DVD release has ever really managed to recreate it. Apparently, this new version does.

The film itself—well that was something yet again. No one had seen anything like it. Remember this is pre-MTV. In fact, for good or ill, Ken Russell and Tommy may be viewed as having largely spawned MTV. (Clapton knows, music videos have ripped off enough from it. Russell himself invoked it in 1985 when he had Elton John strap on his “Pinball Wizard” boots for the “Nikita” video.”) Oh, there’d been rapid cutting before, but nothing like the 150-plus cuts in the space of a few minutes of the “Pinball Wizard” sequence. And there’d been “trippy” imagery before, but this was different in that it was a symbolic part of the story and the fabric of the film (the same can be said of the editing). There’d even been a rock opera before with Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)—though people still argue about whether or not that’s really rock music. But Jewison’s film was positively staid by comparison.

Russell’s film soared. It grabbed you with its low droning note over the simple opening credit and its straight cut—with a blast of music—to that still potent, striking first image that provides the key to so much of the film. It then carried you through on a wave of imagery and sound and color that was revelatory. When I think of the film in a purely personal manner, I’m always reminded of Alec Guinness’s lines from The Horse’s Mouth (1958) where his artist character, Gulley Jimson, is talking about painting and becoming a painter—“One day I saw a painting by Matisse, a reproduction. I saw it because some of the chaps were laughing at it and called me over. It gave me the shock of my life. It skinned my eyes for me and I became a different man—like a conversion. I saw a new world.” I experienced something of that sort in that I saw a new world of film—and its possibilities.

Actually, my initial encounter with the film was a little perplexing. It took three tries to actually get in to see the film because of the crowds. I finally decided that the only answer was to show up about an hour early and stand in line. Even at an hour early, the line was substantial, but that worked. What did not entirely work was the fact that after standing in the lobby for a good 15 minutes with my date swearing to me that, no, she didn’t want anything, no sooner were we seated than she informs she wants popcorn. Being an insecure 20-year-old (dating a 34-year-old, too), I naturally acquiecsed—even though this meant sidling past a packed row of humanity. As a result, the movie started in my absence, meaning I missed the first few shots. That was bad enough in itself, but she compounded it by telling me, “There’s a shot like that of him at the beginning,” when the film reached its end. Well, I couldn’t make any sense out of that and I didn’t get it straightened out till I saw the film a second time and realized her popcorn-munching level of comprehension was wanting.

I didn’t know at the time that the possibility of having a Ken Russell picture without a controversy was simply non-existent, though I wasn’t really surprised when quite a few Who fans hated the film—mostly because it wasn’t the 1969 Who album. They overlooked the fact that Pete Townshend—the composer and author of the concept—had specifically wanted Rusell’s vision. And they ignored the fact that musically the film reflected where Townshend was as a composer at the time it was made more than the original album did. (Compare the film’s soundtrack with the concurrently produced Quadrophenia album and you’ll see—or hear—what I mean.)  Whatever would they have made of it had Townshend gotten his wish to have Tiny Tim perform “Pinball Wizard” instead of Elton John (seems Townshend thought it would sound great played by 100 ukuleles, or so he claimed at the time)?

In one sense, they had a point, though if you approach the film strictly from a vocal standpoint as concerns Oliver Reed singing the lead role of Frank Hobbs. It is fair to say that Reed was no singer, but the point being missed here was that he was singing in character. On that score, he’s perfect—which a lot of people have since come to understand. At the time, even some of the people working on the film didn’t get it. Jack Nicholson famously noted that he didn’t think much himself as a singer, but that Reed was plainly awful. Oh, well, Nicholson was at least right assessing his own singing, but that works, too, in its amusing manner.

That brings us to another point. When the film was first released, audiences approached it almost reverentially—watching it in what I made the mistake of calling “stone silence” after the 2005 screening (Russell quipped that it was probably “stoned silence”). It wasn’t intended to be taken that way. There are some very funny moments in the film and much of the approach is quite playful. Yes, it is a serious film about nothing less than the concept of transcendence and universal salvation, but I’m relieved to see that modern viewers seem to have realized that it really is OK to laugh when the movie’s being funny.

The structure of the film is unusual—and not just because it breaks down into song set-pieces that showcase a variety of guest performers—Elton, Nicholson, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Paul Nicholas, Arthur Brown. It’s also not merely because the film is circular in that ends with a mirror of how it begins. (The last seven shots mirror the action of the first seven shots in reverse order.) It’s more than that in that the movie builds in terms of complexity of structure as concerns the editing. reaching a peak at the halfway point with “Pinball Wizard,”—and then gradually works its way through simpler sequences. This isn’t going to be apparent on a single viewing, but it inherently gives the film a shape and a feeling.

So what exactly is Tommy—I mean apart from being a groundbreaking rock opera? Well, it’s a kind of spiritual journey. In Townshend’s hands, it was more Eastern in outlook and had a good deal to do with Meher Baba. Russell transposed it to more Western—or Christian—terms, which made it more accessible to U.S. and European minds, but he retained its basic ideas. He altered some things and had Townshend create some new material to cover lapses in the narrative, and placed it all in WWII and post-war setting. He made it a direct assault on phony religion, false gods and materialism—presenting a view of modern times as an endurance test that must be passed through to attain a real state of enlightenment. It often paints an unpretty—even nightmarish—picture, but it ends up being completely optimistic.

The film’s storyline follows the title character from conception to enlightenment and salvation. It traces his birth, his childhood, the trauma that turns him psycologically deaf, dumb and blind, and his tormets at the hands of others while in this state. It follows his rise to cult stardom as a pinball champion and his even greater rise as “the new messiah”—and what happens from that. It does all this with boundless imagination, with wit and with heart. It scored a hit in 1975 and brought Oscar nominations for Ann-Margret and Pete Townshend (Columbia lobbied for one for Russell, but didn’t get it). And now, its 35th anniversary is being celebrated.

I’ve never grown tired of the film, because there’s always something more to be found in it or some new way of looking at it—and it always seems to be relevant. And I still get a thrill when Townshend sings, “Captain Walker didn’t come home,” which is the first time the human voice appears in the film (about eight minutes in). I was with Ken Russell at the Florida Film Festival in 2007 when someone asked him—during a Q&A after a screening of Crimes of Passion (1984)—about the infamous “baked beans” sequence in Tommy. The young man asking about the impetus for the scene noted that his parents had seen the film back in 1975 and were still talking about it. Well, I knew the story behind the scene involving Russell having made commercials for baked beans, soap mix powder and chocolates (all of which come into play) early in his career. I also knew that the sequence depicted Tommy’s mother’s (Ann-Margret) baptism into complete consumerism. But Russell said none of this and simply replied with a single word that the driving force behind it was “genius.” I think his answer is better than mine. After all, how many sequences are still being talked about 30-plus years later?

When we ran Tommy in 2005, Russell remarked, “I had a wonderful experience last night. I’ve seen Tommy a few times with very many audiences, but last night a very strange thing happened—and this is absolutely true and sincere—there was an atmosphere in the audience—I think a few had seen the film before, some it was for the first time—and it was an atmosphere I’d never ever experienced before. It was a sort of awakening of a sort of absolute agreement and sort of understanding of what was coming off the screen—from the music and the imagery—and I’d never experienced it quite that way.” I’m hoping to recapture that vibe on Sept. 1—and seeing and hearing it as it was meant to be, I think there’s a good chance we will.

I should note that tickets are on sale now at The Carolina and that they have been selling, so purchasing them in advance would be extemely wise. This is not a chance that is likely to come again.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

38 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Tommy: the Movie—an Appreciation

  1. Steven Adam Renkovish

    Are the tickets available to order online, or do we have to purchase them at the box office? Just wondering!

  2. Justin Souther

    Are the tickets available to order online, or do we have to purchase them at the box office? Just wondering!

    You can order them will call style through movietickets.com as well.

  3. Ken Hanke

    It’s ok.

    This is coming from a guy who programs movies like Deadly Prey and Troll 2.

  4. Nick Jones

    Back when I was a kid, and before I knew who Ken Russell was (except for Rex Reed’s damning review of “The Devils” in the New York Daily News), my first “Tommy” was the London Symphony Orchestra version. As I did, and do, with any narrative, I turned it into a movie in my head. Once I saw Ken’s rendition, I completely forgot my “movie”. Now I can’t imagine any other way that it could have been filmed.

    Steve O’Rourke.

  5. They overlooked the fact that Pete Townshend—the composer and author of the concept—had specifically wanted Rusell’s vision. And they ignored the fact that musically the film reflected where Townshend was as a composer at the time it was made more than the original album did.

    Or maybe the didn’t overlook any of those things and preferred the original album anyway. Just because Pete Townshend likes something doesn’t make it any good.

    After all, he likes ABBA.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Or maybe the didn’t overlook any of those things and preferred the original album anyway. Just because Pete Townshend likes something doesn’t make it any good.

    The point isn’t whether it makes it good (though in this case it does), but that musically this was Townshend’s call and it represented where he was as a composer at that time. It wasn’t a case of “Ken Russell ruined it,” because Townshend was also culpable. Now, if you’re saying you think the musical style of the original album is superior to this or to Quadrophenia, we will have a divergence of opinion.

    After all, he likes ABBA.

    Yes, but you like country music and I don’t say you have no taste — except in that area.

  7. Tonberry

    Have my ticket and ready to rock. This edition of the screening room is really building the hype, is it possible that with the newly remastered print that my senses will never be the same again…again?

  8. Yes, but you like country music and I don’t say you have no taste—except in that area.
    That’s not the point I was making. I was saying that preferring the original recording has nothing to do with whether you think it’s Townshend’s vision or not. For one thing, Townshend’s vision for most of his songs bares very little resemblance to what The Who ended up doing with them.

    Now, if you’re saying you think the musical style of the original album is superior to this or to Quadrophenia, we will have a divergence of opinion.
    I think the original is superior to this, although not by much – aside from Pinball Wizard, it’s a bit wimpy and lamely produced. My choice versions of TOMMY are from the live 69/70 tour – the LIVE AT LEEDS version being my favourite.
    While I think it works great within the context of the film, I find TOMMY the soundtrack almost totally unlistenable as an album. The synthesizer parts alone ruin whatever value it might have had. Keith Moon was running on autopilot for most of the sessions because of his drugged up state, the incredibly lame version of Eyesight to the Blind (which sounds campy as all get out) completely removes the menace of The Who’s version and I just plain don’t think these songs work very well with horns on them. They sound their best when played by the quartet, with Townshend crunching away on his SG.
    And aside from featuring more synth and horns, the soundtrack doesn’t sound anything like QUADROPHENIA – especially since the core of Quad is The Who, playing at their absolute peak as an ensemble with John Entwistle arranging and playing the punchy, tasteful horn parts and Townshend on piano. It’s all built around fiercely tight and dynamic rock playing from The Who and thunderous and tender vocals from Daltrey.

    None of this makes me any less envious of you Ashevillains getting to experience TOMMY on the big screen with Quintophonic sound!

  9. Ken Hanke

    is it possible that with the newly remastered print that my senses will never be the same again…again?

    The question is whether or not you’d consider that a good thing.

  10. The question is whether or not you’d consider that a good thing.
    If it happens twice, do your senses go back the way they were before you saw it the first time?

  11. Ken Hanke

    That’s not the point I was making.

    Maybe it’s not the point you meant to make, but it’s exactly the point you made the moment you tried to discredit Townshend’s vision by pointing out that he liked ABBA.

    I was saying that preferring the original recording has nothing to do with whether you think it’s Townshend’s vision or not.

    Really what it mostly has to do with, as far as I’m concerned, is the Dave Marsh mentality that the minute a thing starts getting production values — which the original album sadly lacks — it’s somehow inferior and even traitorous to “real rock ‘n’ roll.”

    My choice versions of TOMMY are from the live 69/70 tour – the LIVE AT LEEDS version being my favourite.

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t care much for live recordings, though the live Tommy performances are at least livelier than the album.

    I just plain don’t think these songs work very well with horns on them. They sound their best when played by the quartet, with Townshend crunching away on his SG.

    I could not possibly disagree with you more. If what you’re saying is true, then Tommy is not really a rock opera at all, since it can only be effectively played by four guys taking all the parts. This is kind of Dave Marsh thinking to me.

    And aside from featuring more synth and horns, the soundtrack doesn’t sound anything like QUADROPHENIA

    Stylistically, it very much does. Sorry to disagree, but here I may indeed disagree with you more here than I did above.

    None of this makes me any less envious of you Ashevillains getting to experience TOMMY on the big screen with Quintophonic sound!

    I should hope not, since we’re actually talking about the movie — the whole experience — not about listening to the soundtrack album, which, by the way, is a very different proposition than the soundtrack on the film. The only thing that’s close to the same between the two is Elton’s “Pinball Wizard,” and even that’s different in the film, since the Who are mixed in with Elton’s band there.

  12. Ken Hanke

    If it happens twice, do your senses go back the way they were before you saw it the first time?

    An interesting question and a complex one, since the original 1975 UK trailer (for once I think the US trailer on something was actually an improvement) ends with “Your senses will never be the same…again.”

  13. (for once I think the US trailer on something was actually an improvement)
    I’ll have to hunt it up online. I have the special edition DVD with t’other Ken’s commentary, but I don’t think the trailer features on the disc.

    The only thing that’s close to the same between the two is Elton’s “Pinball Wizard,” and even that’s different in the film, since the Who are mixed in with Elton’s band there.
    I’ve always liked the story about John being meant to record the track with The Who, but got so bloody tired waiting for them to show up he said ‘Screw It’ and cut a version with his own band. I wonder how many people remember his version more than the original? It’s probably the track from the film I think most stands up divorced from context (along with the great Kenny-Jones-on-drums version of I’m Free).

    This is kind of Dave Marsh thinking to me.
    You really know how to hurt a guy, ya know.

    I think it should be noted that his film contains equal opportunity fan-service, featuring as it does Roger Daltrey semi-nude and Ann-Margaret writhing around in baked beans. Russell is always very fair-minded in that way.

    I’m curious Ken, how long this has been ensconced as your favourite film – and what preceded it?

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’ll have to hunt it up online. I have the special edition DVD with t’other Ken’s commentary, but I don’t think the trailer features on the disc.

    No DVD that I’m aware of has the US trailer on it.

    I’ve always liked the story about John being meant to record the track with The Who, but got so bloody tired waiting for them to show up he said ‘Screw It’ and cut a version with his own band. I wonder how many people remember his version more than the original? It’s probably the track from the film I think most stands up divorced from context (along with the great Kenny-Jones-on-drums version of I’m Free).

    I wouldn’t argue that it may well be the one that holds up best out of context, though I’d make cases for “You Didn’t Hear It,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sensation” and “Listening to You.” I’m mostly comparing these to the 1969 album.

    You really know how to hurt a guy, ya know.

    Good.

    I think it should be noted that his film contains equal opportunity fan-service, featuring as it does Roger Daltrey semi-nude and Ann-Margaret writhing around in baked beans. Russell is always very fair-minded in that way.

    He also stripped A-M down and put her in a mountain pool with naked Robert Powell, which had to be monstrously cold for a non-Brit. Ken quite obviously enjoys undressing his actors and actresses.

    I’m curious Ken, how long this has been ensconced as your favourite film – and what preceded it?

    Since 1975. It was preceded by The Ruling Class, which was preceded by Love Me Tonight, which was probably preceded by Duck Soup. I really don’t differentiate those top three very much. They’ve been awfully constant, though some films have on occasion been added since then, I’m not sure any have quite had the staying power.

    I owe a special debt to Tommy, though, since giving it as my favorite film seems to have been a factor in me not being selected for jury duty in 2000. (I can’t imagine how the question related to the process.)

  15. (I can’t imagine how the question related to the process.)
    Obviously, since your senses were not the same as the rest of the jurors, you’d be wild card.

    Ken quite obviously enjoys undressing his actors and actresses.
    “Reveals Miss Helen Mirren Full-Frontal in a Scene Longer Than the Normal Glimpse.”

  16. Ken Hanke

    Obviously, since your senses were not the same as the rest of the jurors, you’d be wild card.

    Well, when your senses aren’t the same you forget things like that.

  17. Steve Kroll

    Awesome analysis of an awesome movie. It’s a shame that more people don’t understand this movie as well as you do. If more did, it would have the reputation as a film classic that it deserves to have!

  18. Ken Hanke

    Awesome analysis of an awesome movie. It’s a shame that more people don’t understand this movie as well as you do. If more did, it would have the reputation as a film classic that it deserves to have!

    Thank you. I’d have to say, though, that a 35th anniversary restoration and screening by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, another by Lincoln Center, etc. suggest that maybe it’s getting its due. And, hey, I felt very uptown and trendy when I learned that the hard drive would be shipped out to The Carolina just as soon as it was finished ingesting at the Castro in San Francisco. When you’re booking the same movie as one of the most notable art/rep house theaters in the country, you feel like something’s going right.

  19. Steve Kroll

    I’ve already seen the digital restoration…twice. SO looking forward to the blu-ray!

  20. Rufus

    One of those was the occasional Xpress site commenter known as Rufus, who said to me afterwards, “I could see a film like that again sometime—like maybe tomorrow.” (And I’m pretty sure we did.)

    My feeling now is pretty much the same. Looks like I picked the wrong week to visit Ashville.

  21. Ken Hanke

    My feeling now is pretty much the same. Looks like I picked the wrong week to visit Ashville.

    It’s only 700 miles. I’ll buy you a ticket if you’ll come.

  22. Ken Hanke

    I just got in (and I’m getting way too old for this after midnight stuff — even it does cause talk and suspicion, according to Mr. Clapton) from the quality check on the print of Tommy that’s showing on Wednesday and…I don’t think it looked this good in 1975. The colors seem more vibrant and there’s detail I’ve never seen — and if it was there to see, I’ve seen it by now. (I offered to apprise Justin of all the continuity errors, but didn’t. Well, one, but that was all.) And the sound. The vocals are amazingly improved from the DVD — very sharp and clear — and there are things in that soundtrack I either never heard before or heard so long ago that years of degraded sound has driven them from my mind.

    And, no, I do not have the least problem with watching it again on Wednesday.

  23. Tonberry

    I am even more excited for Wednesday after reading your comment on the quality check. I feel like I am about to see “Tommy” for the first time. I managed to talk a friend into coming along (He was sold on the fact he had never seen a rock opera), so I hope tickets are still available.

    Also, I was wondering if you could recommend a prerequisite film for “Tommy” this Wednesday? An appetizer before the main course?

  24. Ken Hanke

    I am even more excited for Wednesday after reading your comment on the quality check. I feel like I am about to see “Tommy” for the first time.

    In many ways, that’s probably a pretty fair assessment. If memory serves, you have at least seen it on a theater screen, but it was the projected DVD. That’s not bad, but it’s definitely not this.

    I managed to talk a friend into coming along (He was sold on the fact he had never seen a rock opera), so I hope tickets are still available.

    Last I knew there were still tickets, but I’d really suggest going out the theater and picking them up beforehand, since I have no way of knowing what will happen in the next few days. I have a radio interview — 105.9 The Mountain WTMT — around 4 p.m. on Monday. Who knows what that will or won’t do?

    Also, I was wondering if you could recommend a prerequisite film for “Tommy” this Wednesday? An appetizer before the main course?

    I’d suggest Mahler (1974), which forms part of a stylistic trilogy with Tommy and Lisztomania (1975), but finding it may not be that easy.

  25. A reminder – all you lucky bastards in Asheville, get yourself to this showing! I’m going to experience the film vicariously through you.

    I hate you all.

  26. And by the way, if any MOULIN ROUGE fans are reading this and haven’t seen TOMMY, take advantage of this screening to find out where Baz Luhrman got his ideas from.

  27. Ken Hanke

    A reminder – all you lucky bastards in Asheville, get yourself to this showing!

    What he said.

    I hate you all.

    It’s not like you weren’t invited!

  28. It’s not like you weren’t invited!
    I’ll be watching my DVD out of solidarity, but it won’t be anywhere near a comparable experience. I suspect my senses will be in a similar state when I finish as they were when I began, as opposed to the whacked-out boggle-minded weirdos who will be wandering out of the Carolina tomorrow night.

  29. Ken Hanke

    as opposed to the whacked-out boggle-minded weirdos who will be wandering out of the Carolina tomorrow night.

    Well, some of us will have wandered in that way, too.

  30. Matt

    Hi Ken. I’m a huge Tommy fan and have many releases on DVD & VHS. I have your book but havent had a chance to read it yet. I love the beans scene and was curious if Ken ever talked to you about it or if you ever came across any photos etc from it.

  31. Ken Hanke

    I have your book but havent had a chance to read it yet

    Please remember I wrote it between the ages of 26 and 29 when you do read it.

    I love the beans scene and was curious if Ken ever talked to you about it or if you ever came across any photos etc from it.

    I’ve been present on two occasions when T’other Ken has talked about the scene, though we’ve never discussed it between ourselves. I’d be happy to answer any question I can about it. The best pictures I’ve ever seen from the making of the scene — of the film in general — are in a book called The Story of Tommy that Pete Townshend put out at the time of the film through his Eel Pie company. I imagine there are still some copies floating around.

  32. Matt

    Besides A-M cutting her hand during filming do you remember anything else Ken has said about the scene?

    I’m curious if Ann Margret had a hard time filming it as well as if it’s true that everything she did was her idea,was there anything that didn’t make the final scene,did she really help mess up the room before filming and what was the mood on set during the filming and what did they do between filming it.

    I’m curious if there were any rushes of the film as well. I think I heard somewhere that there wasn’t but I thought they do them for all films.

  33. Ken Hanke

    Besides A-M cutting her hand during filming do you remember anything else Ken has said about the scene?

    Apart from hearing Ken tell that story, the only thing I’ve ever heard him say was in regards to the set (“That set was a dead loss”) and his one word answer to how he came up with the idea, which was “Genius.”

    The genesis of the scene, of course, lies in him “getting back” at the products he’d made commercials for very early in his career. It probably helped that the all had a liquid component that allowed the TV to “vomit” them into the room and to act as her symbolic basptism into the world of consumerism.

    I’m curious if Ann Margret had a hard time filming it as well as if it’s true that everything she did was her idea,was there anything that didn’t make the final scene,did she really help mess up the room before filming and what was the mood on set during the filming and what did they do between filming it.

    I don’t understand the question about her messing up the set before filming. I’ve never heard that she did and it doesn’t actually make sense. There are almost certainly things that didn’t make the finished film. There’s definitely some retake done on the phallic pillow scene, because there’s more chocolate on it when she rolls off the bed than there is in the next shot when she’s on the floor with it. Based on the photos of Ken and A-M horsing around between shots, I’d say the mood on the set was essentially playful.

    Rushes or dailies exist on all movies while they’re being made, but whether or not they’re viewed by the cast and director in that form can vary. (Whether they’re saved is a lot more variable.) If memory serves, Ken and Stuart Baird did rough assemblages of the scenes during shooting, and it’s likely those were what was actually screened. Were they saved? It’s possible, but unlikely. This is a couple years away from home video in any form and ages away from extra features on DVDs or even laserdiscs, so there’d be little reason for it. Someone may have saved a workprint, but I’m not sure who would have. Barry Sandler has a VHS of a workprint of Crimes of Passion, which I’ve seen (I may even have it somewhere), but that’s the only such remnant from a Russell film I’ve seen.

  34. Matt

    Thanks for the info. How was the bootleg copy you first purchased in the 70’s? Was it a workprint or just the released film?

  35. Ken Hanke

    Thanks for the info. How was the bootleg copy you first purchased in the 70’s? Was it a workprint or just the released film?

    Of Tommy? It was just the released film.

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