Quadrophenia (1979)

by Modculture 13 March, 2011

Quadrophenia (1979)

Quadrophenia (1979)

It’s incredibly difficult to review Quadrophenia as a movie in the modern era. Many of us have been brought up with it, been inspired by it and ultimately distanced ourselves from its movie simplistic view of what ‘Mod’ is. But try to take away any pre-conceptions you may have and watch it again –  you’ll realise that Quadrophenia is a still very powerful British youth movie which maintains an edge over 25 years after its initial release.

And if you’re serious about buying the movie, buy this version. Quadrophenia: Special Edition is the version of the movie that’s been waiting to come out for years. The original DVD was a straight copy over of the video, the US version by Rhino (which I did some of the extras for) was an improvement, but still lacked in terms of picture and sound. This version seems to get it just right. Ok, I’ve bought a new TV since I last saw the film. But even taking that into account, the digitally remastered picture is evident from the first frame – and the sound literally jumps out of the speakers (in comparison to the old muffled soundtrack).

And the film? Well, I expect you know it’s based on the Who’s 1973 concept album about a London mod – Jimmy – who lets his obsession with the mod lifestyle take over his life, falling apart when when he takes it all too far. If you’ve never seen it, sit back and enjoy the (scooter) ride. If you have, well the movie is just as you remember it – there’s always been tales of missing scenes, but there’s nothing new here – and none mentioned in either the extras or the commentary by director Franc Roddam. But what is here works as well as ever – yes it’s littered with minor errors in detail and yes all the Mod extras in Brighton look like Eric from Lovejoy – but the film bursts with the energy of all the best youth flicks – and I imagine its still got the ability to give anyone watching for the first time a real buzz. And don’t forget what a superb cast it has –  featuring the likes of Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Philip Davis, Mark Wingett, Ray Winstone, Michael Elphick, John Bindon, John Altman, Timothy Spall and Gary Holton – many of whom were in their first acting roles.

Quadrophenia (1979)

Quadrophenia (1979)

The DVD commentary is well worth a listen – great banter between Roddam and Phil Daniels, littered with anecdotes and snippets of trainspotter information – discover that Daniels still goes to the football with Ferdie, that the club band (the Cross Section) really did exist and won their role in the movie in a competition and that the ‘loving’ couple JImmy catches under the bridge in his headlights are actually characters from Roddam’s previous TV project. There’s also some addition commentary from Leslie Ash – tagged on later it seems and not worth talking about.

And then there’s the extras, which are a genuine bonus. A documentary, ‘A Way Of Life’, tells it as it happened from Franc Roddam’s point of view, with contributions from the cast, including Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett and Toyah. It’s interesting because it’s genuine ‘from the horse’s mouth’ background – find out why John Lydon just missed out on the Jimmy role, how the cast got their ‘training’ in what the 60s mod scene was all about, who trained them to dance, why Sting couldn’t  dance (or ride a scooter) and much more. Another short, where Franc looks at the locations then and now, is interesting too – and will save you doing one of those Brighton tours!

It’s just about as complete as possible – unless those missing scenes ever do turn up. If you’ve already got the film, it’s well worth upgrading. If you’ve not got it – go and buy it. Yes, it’s easy to criticise the film as a simplistic view of the Mod scene past – but you can’t deny it’s a cracking piece of entertainment – and arguably Britain’s finest youth flick.

Extras on the DVD:

A Way Of Life: Making Quadrophenia – a restrospective documentary looking back 25 years to the making of the movie, On Location With Franc – Franc Roddam revisits several locations used in the film, Audio Commentary – with director Franc Roddam and actors Phil Daniels and  Leslie Ash.

Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website

Update: Since this review appeared online, there is now a Blu-ray version of Quadrophenia. You can find out about that here.