DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Quadrophenia, Blu-ray (1979/1980)

Restored high resolution film version of Who album is worth the wait!

Published on November 14, 2012

Quadrophenia, Blu-ray (1979/1980)

Featuring Music From The Who (Pete Townsend; Roger Daltrey; John Entwhistle and Keith Moon)
Cast: Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Phillip Davis, Sting, Ray Winstone
Studio: Criterion Collection [8/28/2012]
Director:  Franc Roddam
Video:  1.85:1 for 16×9 1080p HD
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; PCM Stereo 2.0
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Chapters: “The Real Me”; The Goldhawk; “Cut My Hair”; A Day In The Life; “My Generation”; I’m One”; “F-A-S-T”; Split Personality; Pills For Brighton; “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”; “Get Out And Stay Out”; Bank Holiday Weekend; Ace Face; “Quadrophenia”; “We Are The Mods”; Is It In My Head”; Home, Sweet Home; “It Was A Giggle”; “5:15”; Love Reign O’er Me”; “Bell Boy” “I’ve Had Enough”; “Doctor Jimmy”; Color Bars
Extras: New audio commentary featuring Director Franc Roddam and Brian Tufano; Interview with Bill Curbshley; Interview With Bob Pridden; Segment From BBC Series Talking Pictures (1979); Segment From Sept Jours Du Monde; Episode From 1965 Series Seize Millions De Jeunes; 36-Page Booklet Including Original Liner Notes From 1973 Album
Length: 120 minutes
Rating:  Audio: *****         Video: ****

Pete Townsend employed a cinematic vision in many of his music albums. Tommy (1969), hailed as the most articulate rock opera of its kind, was eventually transformed into a movie. TommyThe Movie attempted to visualize the double-sided album as a film opera. Under the overly-stylistic, garish direction of Ken Russell, an uneven casting of characters (some with very limited singing talent like Oliver Reed and Jack Nicholson) disappointed critics and fans. Quadrophenia (1973), it was decided would be another story. Exploring the ideas of schizophrenia and relating it to the four diverse personalities of the band, the songwriting hit an artistic zenith, not often approached in rock music (especially on a 2-disc project). Townsend used the Brighton riots as a backdrop to the working class story of the emerging Mod scene in the sixties. It is common knowledge that the sessions for this album were difficult, and took its toll on the songwriter. The subsequent American tour was disastrous and left The Who in flux. But this was an iconic Who album (perhaps the last great one).

First-time director Franc Roddam was tapped to direct Quadrophenia. With a cast of unknowns, (including Ray Winstone and Sting), the youthful disenfranchisement of ‘60s pop culture drives the narrative. The main character Jimmy suffers from schizophrenia, and the volatile culture that surrounds him reflects this. Music is changing and generates a symbolic clash between the rockers (who ride choppers and listen to ‘50s rock and roll) and mods (who embrace contemporary music like The Kinks, and of course, The Who). He hates his job, parents and society in general. His only outlet is hanging with his scooter-driving mod friends. Things hit a climactic high when Jimmy and the mods (including a charismatic Sting) arrive at Brighton and have a violent clash with the rockers. He finds a girl, Steph (Leslie Ash), and basks in the glow of communal feeling. Of course, this doesn’t last long. One of his childhood mates (Ray Winstone) is beat up by his friends, as he chooses not to intervene. After returning home, he quits his job, loses the girl to his best friend and his inevitable disillusionment results in a descent into drug-fueled madness.

The general narrative of the story is two-fold. In the first part, there is a coming-of-age teenage vision of England. In one scene Jimmy injects some life into a staid party with rock music with some punk-like dance moves. Once the movie shifts to the beach town, things get ugly in a suddenly random (some would describe this as realistic) manner. Logic and linear events are not mainstays of rebellious youth. The themes of alienation are not groundbreaking, but they are very effective in portraying a changing society. Phil Daniels is excellent as the angry displaced youth. He brings a natural credibility and unrestrained hostility to his role. Roddam’s direction is assured (especially for a debut project), and the gritty story has a personal resonance.

The transfer to Blu-ray is very good. There is little graininess and an increased sharp focus. The overall, moody look of the original film (especially shadows and unbalanced lighting) is not engineered out of the restoration. The various shots of the beach cliffs are stunning. The restored audio quality (in Stereo 2.0 and the vastly superior 5.1 mix) is brilliant. There is an amazingly engrossed sound that includes pristinely clear regional dialogue (perhaps the reason for English subtitles). Subtle details like waves crashing or crowd scenes are crisp, not muddled. Most importantly, the phenomenal music score (including “5:15” and “Love Reign O’er Me”) explodes with shimmering vitality. The remaining members of the group had input regarding the digital upgrade of the music. There is a plethora of interesting bonus material that contain excerpts from two separate, French TV programs (Sept Jours Du Monde, “Mods” ) about the mod/rocker history.  [Actually, there isn’t that much music from The Who; only a few tunes...Ed.]

Quadrophenia deserves a second look!

—Robbie Gerson




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