Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
United Kingdom, 1975. Robert Stigwood Organisation Ltd., Hemdale. Screenplay by Ken Russell, additional material by John Entwistle, Keith Moon, based on the rock opera by Pete Townshend. Cinematography by Dick Bush, Robin Lehman, Ronnie Taylor. Produced by Ken Russell, Robert Stigwood. Production Design by John Clark. Costume Design by Shirley Russell. Film Editing by Stuart Baird. Academy Awards 1975. Golden Globe Awards 1975.
Unbearable adaptation of the hit Broadway musical stars The Who’s Roger Daltrey as a musical genius who goes blind, dumb and deaf after a psychologically traumatic childhood incident involving his highly strung mother (Ann-Margret). His one method of enjoyment since his psychosomatically-inflicted situation came upon him is playing pinball, something he practices so devotedly that as an adult he becomes a world-class player. His ability to heal other people’s emotional wounds with his sensitivity (and pinball expertise) captures the world’s attention and even makes him the head of a mini religious cult. Pete Townshend’s score, adapted more or less faithfully from the original play and album, sounds terrific on the big screen and is performed with marvelous energy by Daltrey, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson and an absolutely stunning Ann-Margret (one of the few times an Oscar nomination has been given for an all-singing part). What ruins it is director Ken Russell, who overindulges in ridiculous set pieces (what’s with her writhing in brown goo?) and paces the entire thing at a fever pitch without your brain ever having the opportunity to calm down for even a second. It’s unfortunate what good potential is wasted here.