Tommy (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $24.95) The Who’s powerful 1969 rock opera strained through director Ken Russell’s hookah pipe in 1975 and became a wildly imaginative roller-coaster ride of a film.
Now available in Blu-ray, it’s not quite a high-def darling but is still one of the best drug-free trips available for home-entertainment music fans.
The cinematic adaptation managed to retain maestro Pete Townshend’s themes of isolation, enlightenment and following false idols while mixing in a star-studded cast led by Ann-Margret as Tommy’s mother, Oliver Reed as the stepfather, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, Eric Clapton as the Preacher and Tina Turner blistering as the Acid Queen.
Of course, Roger Daltry became a multimedia pop megastar here for his work as the deaf-dumb-and-blind-boy-turned-messiah, and his performance shines throughout.
However, even though the music soundtrack sounds great thanks to painstaking digital remastering, it is still awash in synthesizer-layered silliness, taking away from the raw edge of the Who’s and guest musicians’ sound.
Even worse, the brilliance of drummer Keith Moon is replaced by the bland beatings of Kenny Jones.
Thank goodness Mr. Moon was able to take the screen as the perverted Uncle Ernie in scenes that more than made up for the percussive loss and add to his legend of lunacy.
The maelstrom of imagery (remember the baked-bean scene?) in the Blu-ray format looks pretty good. Its visuals are cleaned up, but it’s still like watching a decades-old film.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the film, Sony offers only one treat in the way of an extra. Those with broadband-connected Blu-ray players can take advantage of MovieIQ+sync, a menu of information that runs alongside the film.
The stream is actually pretty interesting, with facts tied to the movie, cast biographies and a music track list, all accessible with the remote.
Viewers will learn quickly about V-E Day, that Mott The Hoople performed “1951/What About the Boy?” for the soundtrack and that Eric Clapton is the only musician to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame three times.
Those with a smart phone can use a special code with its browser, link into the MovieIQ and read the resource on the phone’s screen while watching the movie.