By Laurie Coker

Rating: C-

My guy loves music, more than many, I guess, because he works in the industry and plays guitar every chance he gets. While I, too, enjoy music, I hardly know one band from the next by name, even though I do know countless refrains and lyrics. Lisztomania (1975), recently released by Warner’s Archive Collection, didn’t ring a bell with me when I heard the name, and my man, six years older, could not pull up a memory either. Out on the heels of Tommy, the rock opera featuring The Who’s tunes, Lisztomania has the historically relevant honor of being the very first movie released in Dolby Stereo.

Unfortunately, unlike Tommy, Lisztomania lacks any real cohesive story. Many involved with the first film participated in Lisztomania, but little more compares. Some tout Tommy as a cult classic and Lisztomania fizzled into obscurity. Looking at just the soundtrack and not for a defined plot or well-developed characters, Lisztomania, does impress, but will appeal mainly to those who LOVE music passionately and can tolerate the films notable flaws. English director Ken Russell made is name with such fodder and certainly masters the visually chaotic musical, mesmerizing mess here. Simply put, far too much goes on on screen.

Ultimately, Russell fails to create a historically accurate biography of composer Franz Liszt.  He instead places Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies in an outlandish modern (70s) setting and visually impales the audience with unconnected images. Lisztomania explores Europe’s first rock star by making him a modern rock star and not a museum piece, but to what end? Entertainment, I suppose, but I found my mind often drifting. I am placing a C- in my grade book, because something must be said for the innovation of Russell and crew, even it little credit can be given for more.

Warner’s Archive Collection release features a decent 16:9 enhanced presentation of this Panavision production and the original Dolby Stereo mix remains intact and maintains it original grandeur, even by today’s standards. There are no extras or special features or extras.


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