The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Columbia Pictures -1975
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 111 minutes
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Musical
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HA Master Audio Original Quadrophonic 5.0
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Eric Clapton, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townsend, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson
Directed by: Ken Russell
Music by: The Who
Written by: Based On The Rock opera By Pete Townsend, Screenplay by Ken Russel
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 7, 2010
"Your Senses will never be the same"
This classic rock opera - Told through the remarkable music of The Who and brought to life by an outstanding cast - is now remastered for Blu-ray with a stunning high-def picture and amazing lossless audio!
For those who don't know, 'Tommy' was a double-album rock opera by the band 'The Who' released in 1969. It is the story of Tommy, who after witnessing the murder of his father as a young child, shuts down and becomes deaf, dumb and blind. After years or torment, torture, experimentation and abuse, it is found that Tommy can play pinball by feel and he ends up beating the worlds best pinball player. The movie takes a turn halfway when Tommy is shoved into a mirror by his frustrated and drunk mother. This moment snaps him out of his world of darkness. Once 'free' Tommy starts to become a religious symbol to a loyal following, similar to a rock star. Exploited while catatonic, once Tommy can hear, talk and see again he, almost subconsciously, does to his followers what has been done to him. He exploits them for cash and fame, and even goes as far as instructs them to play pinball as he did, with a blindfold on, ears blocked and mouth blocked. Sounds off-the-wall huh? It is. But it's pretty unique and cool and is pulled off really well.
There is a lot going on in 'Tommy'. It has murder, rape, drug abuse, torture and exploitation. Somehow this never comes off as brutal as it could, having a kind of comic book feel to it all. Besides its great music by The Who, it has some really amazing visuals by director Ken Russell (Altered States, Lair of the White Worm) and an ensemble cast of musicians and actors that is beyond impressive. Staring Roger Daltrey as Tommy, Ann-Margret as his mother (who looks ridiculously hot rolling around in baked beans and chocolate sauce) and the stand out, Oliver Reed playing his sleazy stepfather perfectly. We are treated to cameos by Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, Elton John and Eric Clapton.
'Tommy' could be a tough watch to some, there is no dialogue besides the vocals in the songs. I really enjoyed its structure and having the narrative be the music; this story would not be successful in a traditional film form. It does drags at times, but if looked at for what it is, a rock opera, than it's successful in spades. Kudos to Ken Russel for his cinematic vision aligning his jabs at pop culture and the exploits of religion and commercialism with the power of The Who's story and music.
PG - for adult themes
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
'Tommy' sees its way to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26.5 Mbps and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 sound that has an average bitrate of 3.2 Mbps.
Sony gives us another technically superb Blu-ray, with a really fun audio presentation that had me smiling while watching this film. 'Tommy' comes with two DTS-HD MA choices, one is 5.1 mix and the other a rare experience, a "Quintaphonic" 5.0 track. Quintaphonic is 5 channels, similar to a traditional surround set-up, having the Front Right and Left speakers "matrixed" (repeated) on the rear right and left; essentially a 4 speaker stereo spread around you and a separate center channel for dialogue. The Quintaphonic track was very enjoyable for me, though not as elegant as the 5.1 mix, I loved hearing a format that I have yet to experience. The main differences were less low end a vocals that seemed right in your face, almost too much so. The "Sound in the Round", as they called it, could get a bit hectic at times, though I suspect that was its goal when it did. I switched between the tracks many times during my viewing and technically, as well as sonically, I would give my vote for the 5.1 track, however, I was drawn to the 5.0 more. It was a fun listen and very interesting to experience the beginnings of surround-sound as we know it. Tonally both track's dazzle-- cymbals, strings, bass as well as all the vocals stood in there own place in mix-ville, and sounded superb. It never got to room shaking low end, but that was of no concern, there was no need for it and the bass guitar and kick drum sounded perfect. I never heard another version of 'Tommy' so I cant compare, but unless it hasn't always been a aural treat, it should come as no surprise these tracks truly rock. The video is not as fun an experience but very good in its own right. A natural, albeit dull color palette looks filmic with a light drizzle of grain. This sharp and tinker-free transfer has a nice level of fine details as well as impressive black levels. There are a few moments where blacks do crush (check out the Acid Queens dress) and lose details. 'Tommy' never reaches the depth of newer films, but it sure looks amazing for a 35 year old film.
- (HD) Previews: The Pillars of the Earth, It Might Get Loud, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
'Tommy' is a unique experience to say the least. On a technical standpoint this is a recommended and a quite able release from Sony. The film itself, I assume, has a specific audience of The Who fans, open-minded film buffs and teenagers experimenting with 'whatever' it is they are experimenting with when getting into 60s and 70s staples like The Who, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. It's not an easy watch as the story and its flow are awkward. Personally I enjoyed it, very likely more than most, and might watch it again sooner then later. No extras are included and that is a shame, I would have loved to find out more about making of this film, it must have been a crazy scene! Bottom line- Highly Recommended for fans and an easy rental recommendation for the 'experimenters'.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS35 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Custom 1.3 Gain 128" 2.37:1 CinemaScope Screen
Pioneer SC27 Receiver (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Pioneer Elite BDP-23FD Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Triangle Zerius Speakers (7.1)
SVS PC13-Ultra Subwoofer