Lambert & Stamp

Movie Information

The Story: Documentary on the men who helped shape The Who, and of the band itself. The Lowdown: A marvelously detailed — if ultimately messy and overstuffed — look into the history of The Who and the men who helped make it possible. Candid, perceptive and of interest even to viewers who aren't fans.
Genre: Music Documentary
Director: James D. Cooper
Starring: Christopher Stamp, Kit Lambert (archival only), Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Heather Daltrey, Terence Stamp, Richard Barnes
Rated: R



James D. Cooper’s Lambert & Stamp — a documentary about the managers of The Who and the group’s rise to fame and artistic credibility — spins a story almost too strange to be true. In 1962 Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp — two mismatched kindred spirits working at Shepperton Studios — were wanting to make their mark as filmmakers of the New Wave school. The idea they hatched to do this was at the very least circuitous, highly impractical and maybe just a little bit insane. The pair would find a rock group, shepherd them to fame, film the whole process and end up with this amazing art film documentary. Of course, that didn’t happen. But in the process of helping nurture and shape a group then calling themselves the High Numbers into what we now know as The Who, they did far more — even if it was largely accidental. It is this, as much as anything, that the film chronicles.




Lambert & Stamp is a sometimes messy — even somewhat chaotic — movie. This is a film that is so full of information and so intent on discussing every bit of that information that it manages not to cover Kit Lambert’s death, despite the fact that the movie is ostensibly about him. (It does no better in establishing Stamp’s death before the film was completed.) I don’t point this out as a criticism so much as an observation that the film is possibly too expansive not to be messy. With a story as rich as this, that almost rates nothing more than a shrug.




Of course, your interest in all of this is going to depend to a great degree on whether or not you’re a fan of The Who. I am, so factor that in. However, there’s more here than that. With or without The Who, the story of Lambert and Stamp is interesting in itself. Kit Lambert was the son of composer-conductor Constant Lambert. He came from money and privilege and was well educated. He was also gay. Chris Stamp (brother of Terence Stamp) was lower-class, the son of a tugboat captain and not gay. (And according to Roger Daltrey, Stamp tended to talk in an unintelligible Cockney accent — in sharp contrast to Lambert’s BBC-announcer English.) What the two had in common — apart from a desire to be filmmakers — was hard to imagine, but something about the pairing — both personally and professionally — clicked.




The film — which benefits greatly from the heavy use of footage from the Lambert-Stamp rock documentary that never was — is refreshingly candid and intimate, though some of it won’t be all that revelatory to anyone who has read Pete Townshend’s autobiography, Who I Am. (Considering the length of time Lambert & Stamp took to make, it’s not unlikely that the interviews in the film informed Townshend’s book — nor is it unlikely that writing the book spilled over into what Townshend says in the film.) Some things that are being treated as new by critics aren’t — this is hardly the first time Townshend has denigrated the song “Magic Bus,” and it’s certainly not the first time Daltrey’s youthful tendency to settle things with his fists has been addressed.




But a lot of the film is fresh, and none of it dodges the tough questions. You never get the sense of a PR mindset kicking in (contrast this with any film on the Beatles where you’re forced to read between the lines for truth). No one is made out to be better than he was — and no one is arguing the importance of what Lambert and Stamp brought to The Who, or what The Who brought to them. Similarly, there’s no attempt to gloss over where it all went wrong between the group and the managers. There are omissions. That’s inevitable. Overall, though, Lambert & Stamp is a fascinating documentary of two men, one of the great rock bands and a moment in time. Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. 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."

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12 thoughts on “Lambert & Stamp

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I’ll add another to the “People don’t read reviews” column…though in defense of these same people, Lambert & Stamp had some mighty fine competition.

      • Ken Hanke

        The only thing that could be said to be in direct competition with it is Love & Mercy. And, I’ll concede that two films built on 60s music probably oughtn’t have opened the same week, but I don’t see the audience for this being — generally speaking — the audience for, say, Insidious: Chapter 3.

          • Ken Hanke

            Well, its impact on a second week with split showings should have been negligible. Maybe I shoulda run a photo of the Who on the main page.

  1. Dionysis

    Between the two rock-docs playing (and reviewed), this is much more interesting than the Brian Wilson film to me. I was never a big Beach Boys fan, but did like The Who (at least through ‘Who’s Next’). I need to catch this film.

    • Ken Hanke

      The Brian Wilson film is not a documentary. And I’m not a Beach Boys fan, yet I loved the film.

  2. Dionysis

    I almost forgot ‘The Wrecking Crew’…which also sounds worthwhile. Still, of the three, this would be my pick to see.

    • Ken Hanke

      You have through Thursday to catch it, but maybe make that before Thursday night, since it may well get bumped for early screenings of Jurassic World.

  3. Dionysis

    Right; two docs and a bio-pic. I guess tomorrow night is a good movie night.

    • Ken Hanke

      As good as any other, and there’s no AFS function to possibly make cancelling anything necessary.

  4. Saw this at the Sydney Film Festival a week ago and couldn’t agree with you more Ken. Anything with a Pete Townshend interview in it is going to be worth a watch, and he’s in fine form here.
    Love that it shot on 16mm too, however perverse that is from a practical point of view for a talking head documentary.

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