Quadrophenia – The Movie

quadrophenia movie poster

Quadrophenia Overview

Quadrophenia is a 1979 British film based on the 1973 rock opera album Quadrophenia by The Who. The film stars Phil Daniels in the leading role as a Mod named Jimmy. The film also stars Toyah Willcox, Mark Wingett, Leslie Ash, Ray Winstone, Timothy Spall, Gary Holton, Phil Davis, Michael Elphick, Kate Williams, Sting, John Altman and Trevor Laird. It was directed by Franc Roddam in his feature directing debut.

In 2004 the magazine Total Film named Quadrophenia the 35th greatest British film of all time.

The Quadrophenia cast were reunited after 28 years at Earls Court on 1 and 2 September 2007 as part of ‘The Quadrophenia Reunion’ at the ‘London Film & Comic Con’ run by Quadcon.co.uk. Subsequently the cast have agreed to be part of a Quadrophenia Convention at Brighton in 2009.

Quadrophenia Plot Summary

Quadrophenia The film, set in 1964, follows the story of Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels), a London Mod (one of a group of fashion-obsessed working-class youths who listen to African-American soul, Jamaican ska, and British beat music and R&B, take amphetamines and ride Vespa and Lambretta scooters). The Mods’ arch-enemies are the Rockers, who in turn wear black leather and ride motorcycles and prefer traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll. Disillusioned by his parents and a dead-end job as a post room boy in an advertising firm, Jimmy finds an outlet for his teenage angst with his Mod pals Dave (Mark Wingett), Chalky (Philip Davis) and Spider (Gary Shail). However, his angst and confusion are compounded by the fact that one of his Rocker rivals is in fact childhood friend Kevin (Ray Winstone), to whom he comments, “I don’t wanna be like everybody else – that’s why I’m a Mod, see?”

A bank holiday weekend provides the excuse for the rivalry between the two gangs to come to a head, as they both descend upon the seaside town of Brighton. A series of running battles ensues, based on the real-life “Second Battle of Hastings” riot of 1964. As the police close in on the rioters, Jimmy escapes down an alleyway with Steph (Leslie Ash), a girl on whom he has a crush, to have sex. When the pair emerge, Jimmy is arrested and later fined £50.

Back in London, Jimmy becomes increasingly depressed and unstable as his life begins to fall apart. He is thrown out of his house by his mother, who finds his stash of blues (blue amphetamine pills). He then quits his job, blows his severance package on blues, and finds out that Steph has become the girlfriend of his mate Dave. After a fight with Dave, Jimmy crashes his scooter, and, high on pills, takes a train to a now tranquil Brighton in an attempt to recapture the elation he felt during the holiday weekend. He revisits the scene of his encounter with Steph, and then discovers that his idol, the suave Mod “poster boy” Ace Face (played by Sting), is in reality a lowly bellboy at a Brighton hotel. He steals Ace’s scooter and heads out to the cliffs at Beachy Head, where he rides towards the cliff edge. The film ends with the scooter smashing on the rocks below. When the final shots of falling scooter are played in slow motion, a figure, presumably Jimmy, is visible standing at the top of the cliff. Since the film also opens with a shot of Jimmy walking back from the cliff edge, it can be assumed that he jumped clear at the last second.

Quadrophenia Production

An interesting and well known continuity error in the film is that in the final scenes with Jimmy riding Ace’s scooter along the cliffs, some scenes show the scooter to have a fly screen and other show it without. The shadow of the filming helicopter can also be seen as well as the tracks from the scooter from previous takes.

At the time of its original release, Quadrophenia was received mostly negatively by critics and was panned for its large amounts of sex, violence, profanity and drug use, which were then still fairly uncommon in film. It did acquire a large word-of-mouth reputation amongst teenagers too young to go and see it. Today it is considered a cult classic and is recognised as a realistic reflection of youth culture in the 1960s. Many have praised Phil Daniels’ intense performance. The film currently holds a 100% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Quadrophenia was a major influence on the mod revival in music and fashion which provided a launching pad for the careers of bands such as Secret Affair, The Chords and The Lambrettas while boosting the popularity of The Jam, previously perceived as a punk act. Sting’s appearance in it also benefited his band The Police despite the fact that their music was not noticeably compatible with traditional Mod tastes.

Several references to The Who appear throughout the film, including an anachronistic inclusion of a repackaged Who album that was not available at the time, a clip of the band performing ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ on the TV series Ready Steady Go, pictures of the band and a ‘Maximum R&B’ poster in Jimmy’s bedroom, and the inclusion of My Generation during the gatecrashing scene. Quadrophenia the film was almost cancelled when Keith Moon, a member of The Who, died, but in the words of Roddam, the producers, Roy Baird and Bill Curbishley, ‘held it together’ and the film was made.

Only one scene in the whole film was shot in the studio; all others were on location. Beachy Head, where Jimmy may or may not have tried to kill himself at the end of the film, was the location of a real-life suicide that influenced the soundtrack and film adaptation (Beachy Head is a well-known suicide spot with locals).

The stunt coordinators underestimated the length that the scooter would fly through the air after being driven off Beachy Head. Franc Roddam, who shot the scene from a helicopter, was almost hit.

Jeff Dexter, a club dancer and disc jockey fixture on the Sixties London music scene was the DJ in the club scenes, and was the uncredited choreographer of 500 extras for the ballroom and club scenes. He also choreographed Sting’s feet in his dance close-ups. Jeff Dexter managed America (band) whose 1st major gig at “Implosion” at the The Roundhouse Chalk Farm was the opening act to The Who on December 20th, 1970.