Lambert & Stamp

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday April 3, 2015

A scene from 'Lambert & Stamp'
A scene from 'Lambert & Stamp'  (Source:Sony Pictures Classics)

If you were to judge from the title alone, you might decide that "Lambert & Stamp" was a buddy movie -- a comedy featuring two somewhat mis-matched and larger-than-life characters doing something bold.

In a sense, that's what this documentary, by James D. Cooper, is. But Kit Lambert and Christopher Stamp aren't fictional characters created to populate a road flick or a cop movie. They are -- or, rather, were -- a pair of would-be filmmakers in their own right who, as a means to an end, decided to go out, discover a promising band, make them famous, and then use that success as a springboard to greater glory.

It sounds like the sort of impossible plan Homer Simpson might concoct, except that they actually managed to pull it off. The band they discovered, championed, polished, and produced? Surely you have heard of The Detours. No? Perhaps you might know them by the name they took under Lambert and Stamp's guidance: The Who.

The surviving members of the band -- including Christopher Stamp, Roger Daltry, and Pete Townshend -- sit down with Cooper to talk about the early struggle for success, their creative conflicts and successes, and the onset of wealth and fame, with all the problems they entailed. It's a classic story of rock and roll, booze and drugs and music creating a perfect storm of creativity against the setting of the 1960s.

Actor Terence Stamp -- Christopher's elder brother -- drops by to take a little credit as the voice of reason that sent an aimless young Christopher to the theater in the first place, where -- Terence Stamp reckoned -- Christopher might meet some friendly girls. What he met was a passion for showbiz and, eventually, Kit Lambert -- himself a lover of music, and a frustrated composer, with a taste for classical forms but an appreciation for the energy and drive of rock and roll.

The band accomplished great things, but also went through the usual disputes and tensions. Paltry and Townshend talk over times in which Keith Moon was melting down; Stamp regrets never having gotten to direct a feature film (he wanted to helm the movie version of "Tommy," but really, could anyone other than Ken Russell have pulled it off?).

Fans of The Who will probably be familiar with much of what's hashed over here, but even so there's a crackle of residual energy that fifty years, and the deaths of Kit Lambert, Keith Moon and John Entwistle have not completely dispelled. The '60s weren't just a time; they were also a certain attitude, some of it rebellion (more justifiable than we might now remember) but some of it, also, a desire to make the world anew. We could use some of that energy in these weary, jaundiced times.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.