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This article is about the feature film based on the Who. For the album, see Quadrophenia.

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File:Quadrophenia movie.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
by Renato Casaro
Directed byFranc Roddam
Written by
Produced by
  • Roy Baird
  • Bill Curbishley
  • Phil Daniels
  • Leslie Ash
  • Toyah
  • Philip Davis
  • Mark Wingett
  • Sting
  • Ray Winstone
CinematographyBrian Tufano
Edited by
  • Sean Barton
  • Mike Taylor
Music by
Distributed byThe Who Films
Release date
  • 14 September 1979 (1979-09-14) (Toronto)
  • 2 November 1979 (1979-11-02)
Running time
120 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£2 million[2]
Box office£14 million[3]

Quadrophenia is a 1979 British drama film, loosely based on the 1973 rock opera of the same name by The Who. It was directed by Franc Roddam in his feature directing début. Unlike the adaptation of Tommy, Quadrophenia is not a musical film, and the band does not appear live in the film.

The film stars Phil Daniels as Jimmy, a young 1960s London-based Mod who escapes from his dead-end job as a mailroom boy by dancing, partying, taking amphetamines, riding his scooter, and brawling with the motorcycle-riding Rockers. After he and his friends participate in a huge brawl with the Rockers at the seaside town of Brighton, he is arrested and his life starts to spiral out of control; he loses his girlfriend (Leslie Ash) and discovers that his idol, the popular mod nicknamed "Ace Face" (Sting) is actually a bell boy at a hotel.


The film, set in 1964, follows the life of Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels), a young London Mod. Disillusioned by his parents and a dull job as a post room boy in an advertising firm, Jimmy finds an outlet for his teenage angst by taking amphetamines, partying, riding scooters and brawling with Rockers, accompanied by his Mod friends Dave (Mark Wingett), Chalky (Philip Davis) and Spider (Gary Shail). One of the Mods' rivals, the Rockers, is in fact Jimmy's childhood friend, Kevin (Ray Winstone). An attack by hostile Rockers on Spider leads to a retaliation attack on Kevin. Jimmy participates in the beating, but when he realises the victim is Kevin, he doesn't help him, instead riding away on his scooter.

A bank holiday weekend provides the excuse for the rivalry between Mods and Rockers to come to a head, as they both descend upon the seaside town of Brighton. A series of running battles ensues. 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 – and they have sex. When the pair emerge, they find themselves in the middle of the melee just as police are detaining rioters. Jimmy is arrested, detained with a volatile, popular Mod he calls 'Ace Face' (Sting), and later fined the then-large sum of £50. When fined £75, Ace Face mocks the magistrate by offering to pay on the spot with a cheque, to the amusement of the fellow Mods.

Back in London, Jimmy becomes severely depressed. He is thrown out of his house by his mother, who finds his stash of amphetamine pills. He then quits his job, spends his severance package on more pills, and finds out that Steph has become the girlfriend of his friend Dave. After a brief fight with Dave, the following morning his rejection is confirmed by Steph and with his beloved Lambretta scooter accidentally destroyed in a crash, Jimmy takes a train back to Brighton. In an attempt to relive the recent excitement, he revisits the scenes of the riots and of his encounter with Steph. To his horror, Jimmy discovers that his idol, Ace Face, is in reality an undistinguished bellboy at a Brighton hotel. Jimmy steals Ace's scooter and heads out to Beachy Head, where he rides perilously close to the cliff edge. Finally, he crashes the scooter over a cliff, which is where the film begins, with Jimmy walking back from the cliff top in the sunset back drop.


  • Phil Daniels as Jimmy Cooper
  • Leslie Ash as Steph
  • Philip Davis as Chalky
  • Mark Wingett as Dave
  • Sting as Ace Face
  • Ray Winstone as Kevin Herriot, Jimmy's childhood friend
  • Gary Shail as Spider
  • Garry Cooper as Peter Fenton, Steph's boyfriend
  • Toyah Willcox as Monkey
  • Trevor Laird as Ferdy
  • Andy Sayce as Kenny
  • Kate Williams as Mrs. Cooper, Jimmy's mother
  • Michael Elphick as Mr. George Cooper, Jimmy's father
  • Kim Neve as Yvonne Cooper, Jimmy's sister
  • Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Fulford, Jimmy's employer
  • Daniel Peacock as Danny
  • Jeremy Child as Agency Man
  • John Phillips as Magistrate
  • Timothy Spall as Harry the Projectionist
  • Patrick Murray as Des the projectionist assistant
  • George Innes as Cafe Owner
  • John Bindon as Harry North, gangster
  • P. H. Moriarty as Barman at Villain Club
  • Hugh Lloyd as Mr. Cale
  • Gary Holton as aggressive Rocker 1
  • John Altman as Johnny 'John the Mod' Fagin
  • Jesse Birdsall as aggressive Rocker 2
  • Oliver Pierre as Jimmy and Danny's tailor
  • Julian Firth as drugged up Mod
  • Simon Gipps-Kent as party host
  • Mickey Royce as Ken 'Jonesy' Jones
  • James Lombard as Nicky
  • Dave Cash as newsreader (uncredited)

John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) screen-tested for the role of Jimmy. However, the distributors of the film refused to insure him for the part and he was replaced by Phil Daniels.[4][5]

Most of the 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[6] Subsequently the cast agreed to be part of a Quadrophenia Convention at Brighton in 2009.[6]


Main article: Quadrophenia (soundtrack)

Quadrophenia is the soundtrack album to the 1979 film of the same name, which refers to the 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia.[7] It was initially released on Polydor Records in 1979 as a cassette and LP and was re-released as a compact disc in 1993 and 2001. The album was dedicated to Peter Meaden, a prominent Mod and first manager of The Who, who had died a year prior to the album's release.

The album contains ten of the seventeen tracks from the original rock opera Quadrophenia (as not all of the tracks were used in the film). These are different mixes than those that appear on the 1973 album as they were remixed in 1979 by John Entwistle. The most notable difference is the track "The Real Me" (used for the title sequence of the film) which features a different bass track, more prominent vocals and a more definite ending.[8] Most of the tracks are also edited to be slightly shorter. The soundtrack also includes three tracks by The Who that did not appear on the 1973 album.


File:Alley Between East Street and Little East Street - - 1116449.jpg

Alley between East Street and Little East Street, Brighton, England, made famous as the location where Jimmy Cooper and Steph have sex in Quadrophenia. The small yard is to the right of the "Chris from Margate" graffiti, a spot often visited and left with graffiti to mark that visit. Turning left will take you to East Street.

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 a party gatecrashing scene. The film was almost cancelled when Keith Moon, the drummer for 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 attempts suicide at the end of the film, was the location of a real-life suicide that supposedly influenced the film's ending.

The stunt coordinators underestimated the distance 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 in 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. Dexter managed America whose first major gig at "Implosion" at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, was the opening act to The Who on 20 December 1970.


Janet Maslin, reviewing the film for The New York Times in 1979, called it "...gritty and ragged and sometimes quite beautiful", creating a "...slice-of-life movie that feels tremendously authentic in its sentiments as well as its details."[9] Maslin states that the director's scenes of youth battles "...capture a fierce, dizzying excitement that epitomizes a kind of youthful extreme."[9] Reviewer Brian Gibson from Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada) stated that "Roddam's look back at an angsty young man in '65 is a throwback to the [working-class] kitchen-sink dramas that began plumbing the depths of lower-class lives then. Reeking with a restless teen spirit, Quadrophenia leads us down adolescence's blind alleys of rebellion." [10] Critic Matt Brunson from Creative Loafing stated that the film "[m]anages to be both quintessentially British and irrefutably universal", giving it a 3.5/4 score.[10] Reviewer Eric Melin from states that the film has a "...gritty, realistic feel and the themes of youthful rebellion and confusion are absolutely timeless, magnified by the specificity of the setting rather than being limited by it"; he also gave the movie a 3.5/4 score.[10] Critic Peter Canavese from Groucho Reviews called the film an "...anti-musical" that is "...all the more brilliant for this seemingly counter-intuitive approach"; he gave the movie a 3.5/4 score.[10] Reviewer Christopher Long from Movie Metropolis commented that "[w]hen you're an angry young man [like the main character], there's no better way to prove you're an individual than to dress and act exactly like everybody else"; Long gave the film a 6/10 score.[10]

Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews stated that the " lives through the superb raw angst-ridden performance of [lead] Phil Daniels"; Schwartz gave the movie a B+.[10] Critic Cole Smithey from called the film a "...glorious representational story of male teen angst that transcends its British locations and great music with a sense of the confused romantic notions that young men the world over carry with them"; Smithey gave the film an A+.[10] Reviewer Ken Hanke from the Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) called it a "[d]isappointing film version of a great concept album"; he gave the film a 3/5 score.[10] Film critic Jeffrey M. Anderson from Combustible Celluloid states that where the film "...succeeds[, it does so] through its devil-may-care attitude and energy"; on the other hand, Anderson states that the film "...feels like a low-budget homemade movie from the period."[10]

As of December 2016, Quadrophenia holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

DVD releases[]

Universal first released the film on DVD in 1999 with an 8-minute montage featurette. It used the VHS print, resulting in a much lower-quality video than expected. Following this in the US was a special edition by Rhino, which included a remastered matted wide screen transfer, a commentary, several interviews, galleries, and a quiz. However, it was a shorter cut of the film, with several minutes of footage missing.

On 7 August 2006, Universal improved upon their original DVD with a Region 2 two-disc special edition. The film was digitally remastered and included a brand new commentary by Franc Roddam, Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash. Disc 2 features an hour-long documentary and a featurette with Roddam discussing the locations.[11] Unlike their previous DVD, it was the complete, longer version, and it was matted to the correct aspect ratio.

On 1 January 2012, The Criterion Collection hinted in their annual New Year's drawing that they would be releasing a special edition version of this movie, presumably on both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.[12] This edition was released on 28 August 2012.


  1. "Quadrophenia (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 19 March 1979. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  2. Alex von Tunzelmann. "Quadrophenia: back when Britain's youngsters ran riot". The Guardian. London.
  4. "Internet Movie Database". Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  5. Catterall, Ali; Wells, Simon (2002). Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties. HarperCollins UK. ISBN 978-0-00-714554-6.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "QUADCON The Quadrophenia Movie Convention". Retrieved 15 November 2008.
  7. "The Who Official Band Website – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon | | Quadrophenia – Original Soundtrack". Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  8. "The Who – Quadrophenia (1979 Soundtrack)". 4 June 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Maslin, Janet (2 November 1979). "Movie Review - Quadrophenia - Screen: Rock Drama From a Who Album:Mods and Rockers". Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 10.9 "Quadrophenia - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  11. "Pete Townshend – Who I Am: the autobiography". Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  12. "Happy New Year! – From the Current – The Criterion Collection". 1 January 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012.


  • Ali Catterall and Simon Wells, Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since The Sixties (Fourth Estate, 2001), ISBN 0-00-714554-3

External links[]

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