Quadrophenia: A Way Of Life

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Featurette - Montage (7:11)
Year Released 1979
Running Time 114:46 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (90:11)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Franc Roddam
The Who Films
Universal Pictures Video
Starring Phil Daniels
Mark Lingett
Philip Davis
Leslie Ash
Garry Cooper
Toyah Wilcox
Trevor Laird
Kate Williams
Michael Elphick
Kim Neve
Ray Winstone
Gary Shail
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music The Who

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio No
16x9 Enhancement No
Theatrical Aspect Ratio ?
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Well, this is a monumental disappointment and a half. One of my favourite rock albums of all time is the soundtrack to the film Quadrophenia, as is The Who album of the same name - and no they are not the same thing. In addition, it must be twenty years since I have seen the film, the last time admittedly in something of a drug-induced haze. Accordingly I was very much looking forward to seeing the film in its incarnation on DVD. What a monumental disappointment and a travesty of the highest order in my view.

    To some extent, you really had to be there to understand what the film is all about, although the broad story has been regretfully repeated with dire consequences across the world often enough over the last twenty-odd years. This is firmly set in the mid 1960s, in London, and typifying the death of the naivety of Britain to a large extent. The Mods and The Rockers. The green parka-clad, pill-popping riders of scooters and the leather-clad riders of motorcycles. British Beat versus American Rock. Next door neighbour against next door neighbour. Gang versus gang. Idiocy and idiocy. It all comes together for one weekend of agro on the beach front of Brighton, on the south coast of England. Told from the eyes of Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels), this is the story of his gang of friends as they lead up to a Bank Holiday to remember at the beach. Their dull existence in working class London - and believe me, London in the 1960s was the epitome of British class society - as they struggle to put the money together for the pills that sustain their lives. The anticipation of the Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton, when the Mods congregate to battle the Rockers. The fights, the arrests, the drugs, the sex and the consequences. It's all here in something of a warts and all look at gang life in the 1960s.

   It hardly seems the stuff of anarchy nowadays, but the sad fact is that this sort of nihilistic behaviour is repeated in cities around the world. To some this is an unadulterated piece of rubbish, financed by a rock band reaching the height of its monetary ascendancy and with nothing better to do than blow money on sex, drugs - and a film. To some, it is a masterpiece of the highest order, a powerful film about a time when Britain really did lose its naivety as drugs, racism and disillusionment burrowed to the very heart of successive generations of British youth. To me, it is a memorable film that encapsulates the period so well, but really one to which the appellation of masterpiece is not appropriate. Unfortunately, it is firmly set in the period depicted and does not translate well to the approaching new millennium. However, you can see the power it has in the obvious influences in such films as Human Traffic and Trainspotting, amongst many other (predominantly) British films. Blessed with a good cast of young actors, this is so inside the idiom that it transcends acting and becomes reality. Phil Daniels is terrific as the increasingly unstable Jimmy Cooper, but every role is well portrayed. Such notable musical names as Sting and Toyah Wilcox (well, I know her anyway since nearly all her albums are in my collection) get to strut their stuff in another field, to reasonable effect. Obviously made with a limited budget, the overall effect is still as powerful as it was back in 1979.

    Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but nonetheless a quite powerful film whose influence is still being felt in films twenty years later. Whilst I definitely believe it a film that should be seen, I do recognize that many do not share that point of view - and for precisely the same reasons I would guess. However, whether the film is to your taste or not, I can guarantee you that the transfer is not.

Transfer Quality


    This is definitely a twenty-one year old film going on fifty-one. A brief run through some reviews of the Region 2 release of the film, which is the self-same release as this effort, indicates that I am not alone in feeling that this transfer is an utter piece of rubbish. Basically, the general feeling is that this should be avoided until such time as it is remastered. It is a shocker and I simply cannot believe how poor this looks. Basically I have seen better-looking fifty year old films from Force Video and Avenue One DVD. Yes the budget was not huge for the film, but this looks like it may have been mastered from a well-worn VHS tape. I cannot believe that a source print better than the one used here could not be found, or failing that, that some restoration could not be done to the film to at least give it a fighting chance of a half decent transfer.

    The transfer is presented Full Screen and it is of course not 16x9 enhanced. Unfortunately, all the usual reference points for technical details on films seem to be devoid of any indication as to the original theatrical aspect ratio of the film. My feeling, and recollection through an admittedly heavily drug-induced haze, is that the film was originally released in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio - but don't quote me on that. However, this does not look as if it has been pan and scanned, as there are no obvious scenes where composition looks astray. Any concrete information on the aspect ratio would however be much appreciated.

    Where does one start with what plagues this transfer? Generally soft to very soft definition threatens at times to bury the film, and this really is anything but a sharp transfer. It does have to be said though that for a couple of minutes, especially in the Brighton scenes the sharpness does actually reach average. Detail as a result is quite average to poor: the depth of field is shocking at times which detracts for instance from the long shots of Brighton - you simply cannot see the city. Shadow detail is pretty poor - not altogether unexpected but certainly much worse than what is good for the film. It is anything but a clear transfer and this is riddled with grain and low level noise throughout.

    You certainly will not find bright, vibrant colours here at all. Undersaturated tones are the general call here, which I suppose to some extent captures well enough the feel of London of the 1960s. There is no great depths to the blacks here and at times they really have a woeful feel to them. You can certainly forget anything approaching oversaturation here in general, except perhaps for the dance hall scenes with red lighting and the blue lighting of the sun lamp used by Jimmy's sister. Colour bleed appears to be a minor issue on a couple of occasions, which compounds the lack of sharpness and clarity in the transfer.

    MPEG artefacts are quite prevalent throughout the transfer in the form of some pixelization in the background - although I suppose to be fair, it may just be extreme noise and grain, since that is far more common. There is nothing in the way of film-to-video artefacts here, but then again they may be hidden by the other problems. The opening scene sets a very poor standard as far as film artefacts go and this display of scratches and dirt is continued throughout the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming very late in the film at 90:11. Whilst the actual change is quite decent, it seems somewhat perverse to me to have a 115 minute film transferred to DVD with the layer change coming so late. I would have thought that an earlier layer change would have provided at least a better allocation of space to permit the optimal amount of space for MPEG compression. After all, this film transfer needs every bit of help it can get.

    If you require French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish subtitles on your DVD, you may well have put this one back on the rack thanks to the packaging. These are all on the DVD but are omitted from the packaging, due to Universal Pictures Home Video being unsure of the subtitles to be placed on the DVD at the time the slicks needed to be printed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    According to the packaging for this DVD, and for the same reason as the omitted subtitles, there is one soundtrack on the disc, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. If you believed the packaging, you would miss out on a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Whilst it is nice to know that all these additional soundtracks are available on the DVD, I stuck with the English default even so.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably clear and reasonably easy to understand in the transfer. There seemed to be no serious problem with audio sync in the transfer, although you should be aware that I am quite tolerant of it and the Region 2 reviews indicate that audio sync is an issue with that release.

    There is no music score here per se, as all the music to the film comes from contemporary music. Most of this is of course from The Who, but others such as The Crystals, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and The Ronettes also get a run here. The soundtrack album is utterly superb stuff, and so is this.

    It is a pity that the music has not been given a better soundtrack to allow it to really shine. Whilst this is thankfully free of any serious drop outs or other distortions, it is still not a terribly great sounding effort. Just a little muddy at times, with the distinct feel of mono tweaked into stereo, even though I believe it was a stereo recording. There is little in the way of dynamics here at all, and sounds such as the motorbikes that really should have some throat to them simply do not have any impact really in the soundtrack. Overall I would classify this as decent at best, but it really should be a lot, lot better.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use  


    There is not much here to be concerned about at all.


    Reasonably well themed but not much else.

Featurette - Montage (7:11)

    A collection of stills taken during the making of the film, interspersed with clips from the film and displayed over the top of clips of the film. Some are interesting in that they show bits that did not make the final cut of the film. They are presented in a Full Frame format, are obviously not 16x9 enhanced and are accompanied by some great music from The Who in Dolby Digital 2.0. Had there have been more annotation here, it would have been better, but overall this is hardly essential stuff at all.

R4 vs R1

    This film has not yet graced the Region 1 release sheets, making the Region 4 release (shudder) the version of choice if you really have to have the film now. There is a release in Region 2 but it would seem as if this is the exact same transfer, so no relief from that area either. I really would however recommend that you don't really want the film badly enough to indulge in this transfer.


    Quadrophenia is no masterpiece, but it is still a powerful film that has influenced a succession of British films in particular. The presentation here borders on the appalling, with an extremely lacklustre transfer that does nothing but make watching the film relatively tedious. I really could not in all honesty recommend this transfer to anyone, not even fans of the film. Your aged and tired VHS tape is probably not that much worse than this.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
1st December 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL