Portsmouth has several claims to fame in the history of rock and roll, but perhaps one of the most cherished is its starring role in the film Tommy, directed by Ken Russell, and featuring the music of The Who.
Starring Roger Daltrey Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John, Arthur Brown, and Jack Nicholson, it is a visually stunning and critically-acclaimed work of art.
Key scenes were filmed on Portsdown Hill, Southsea seafront, Hilsea Lido, and the Kings Theatre, whose stage hosted the famous Pinball Wizard sequence with Elton John in hige platform boots battling Roger Daltrey’s Tommy in a pin-table showdown.
Many city youths were on location as extras, and the film achieved legendary status when South Parade Pier caught fire during filming in June, 1974.
How fantastic, then, that the newly-revived South Parade Pier is to host not only an open-air screening of the film, but also the premiere of an 18-minute ‘making of’ feature filmed by students from the old Portsmouth Polytechnic.
Sadly, it is digital copy of an old VHS tape, but somewhere out there is the original film, which Bob Ede hopes to find so it can be restored to its full glory and donated to the Portsmouth Music Experience exhibition.
We hope it can be found— who knows? It could even be languishing in a Portsmouth attic or garden shed!
The screening, like a previous showing of Tommy at the Kings Theatre, attended by the director himself, promises to be a memorable event — and the film certainly deserves to become a museum piece in the city where it was made.