Rare documentary on the making of Ken Russell’s film of The Who’s rock-opera Tommy to be screened on South Parade Pier

South Parade Pier catches fire during the filming of Tommy
South Parade Pier catches fire during the filming of Tommy
Have your say

AS A Portsmouth Polytechnic film studies student, Bob Ede found himself with a front row seat to the filming of the classic Ken Russell film, Tommy.

A group of students, including Bob, had been given permission to document the chaotic filming of The Who’s rock-opera, Tommy.

Bob Ede

Bob Ede

Much of the movie was shot in and around the city, and the students were there to capture it all – including the infamous day South Parade Pier caught fire during filming in June 1974.

Now, the resulting 18-minute documentary, Russell Mania, is getting a belated premiere before a screening of Tommy on the newly reopened pier.

Bob, who was 23 at the time, will introduce the evening and answer questions.

Having found and made a digital copy of an old VHS of Russell Mania, Bob is now searching for the original film with the aim of restoring it and making a high-quality version. He hopes to then donate a copy to Portsmouth Music Experience, the Portsmouth Guildhall-based exhibition tracing the city’s music history.

Bob, from Hayling Island, said: ‘We really hope we can find the original print of the film as it would be a shame if Russell Mania doesn’t ever get seen in its original form, it really is a piece of important local history for all the people who took part as extras and as a document of what went on behind the scenes.

‘There are scenes of places in Portsmouth that don’t exist any more, like some of the shots of the old terraced houses, so it would be a real shame if it never resurfaced.’

Bob suspects the sole print is in an archive or vault somewhere.

‘The film that went through the camera was the original film that was then edited, then a print was struck from that,’ he said. ‘It’s not in what is now the University of Portsmouth’s archive. It could be in the possession of the producers – the Robert Stigwood organisation, or Roger Daltrey himself, but they haven’t returned my attempts to get in touch.

‘If anyone knows where it is or could help, your suggestions are gratefully received.’

The story of the ‘deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure played a mean pinball’ featured an all-star cast, including The Who frontman Roger Daltrey in the title role, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Ann-Margret, and many more.

Nigel Grundy, curator at The Portsmouth Music Experience, said: ‘Tommy is a delightfully nostalgic journey for those who remember the city as it was and the recently rediscovered mini-documentary Russell Mania further informs and helps to preserve the city’s cultural heritage.’

The film will be screened outdoors if possible, with an indoor location available as back-up, as part of the Portsmouth Film Society Sunset Screenings at 7.30pm on Friday, September 16.

For more details go to portsmouthfilmsociety.org.uk