In 1973, The Who followed their classic Who's Next by releasing the double album Quadrophenia, another rock opera by Pete Townshend in the mode of Tommy. It tells the story of Jimmy, a disillusioned teenager (is there any other kind?) growing up in London 1964. The album hit #2 on the charts and songs such as "The Real Me," "5.15," and "Love Reign O'er Me" continue to get regular play on classic-rock radio stations.
Many fans agree with Townshend's honest assessment in the recent BBC documentary 'Quadrophenia: Can You See the Real Me?' when he stated, "[The Who] never really ever made a truly great album again." Last year, a deluxe edition of the album titled Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut was released, containing demos and new mixes for some of the songs. In July, dates for a North American tour, their third in support of the album, were announced. And joining in, The Criterion Collection has now released a Blu-ray Edition of Franc Roddam's film 'Quadrophenia'.
Unlike Ken Russell's 'Tommy', Roddam's film isn’t a musical. Instead, the album's story is dramatized and the songs are used to offer insight into the scenes. The film opens with Jimmy (Phil Daniels) at some unidentified beach. He's a London teenager circa 1964 and identifies as a Mod. Sounds of the surf are heard, as are snippets of four songs, which will tap into Jimmy's different moods. Then a cut to Jimmy on his scooter on the London streets at night, with "The Real Me" blaring on the soundtrack as opening credits roll. It seems like a typical night for him. He is harassed a bit by a group of Rockers on motorcycles passing by, meets up with his friends at a music club, and is on the make for amphetamine pills.
There's a major division between the Mods and Rockers, which is rather strange because they have more in common than they realize. They are both groups of young people, desperate to identify with anything after rejecting their parents' way of life, so they invest themselves in a particular mode of dress and behavior and keep to those with similar tastes. A fight almost breaks out in a public bath when a Rocker is singing Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and Jimmy starts belting out The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" to drown him out. When finally face-to-face, Jimmy discovers it's his childhood friend Kevin (Ray Winstone) and a truce is called, which becomes uneasy for Jimmy as he doesn't want his Mod friends to know he's friendly with a Rocker. The two groups are constantly at each other and things escalate out of control during a weekend at Brighton.
Jimmy grows increasingly dejected with work, love, his parents, his friends, even his lifestyle, as personified by Ace Face (Sting), who is looked up to as the alpha Mod. As Jimmy leaves London searching for piece of mind, Roddam lets The Who's songs rather than character dialogue tell the story for the remainder of the film. Though they play in a different order than on the album, it works very well, especially in conjunction with the visuals.
Similar to 'Rebel Without a Cause', 'Quadrophenia' in an engaging film that explores teenage angst. It succeeds because Roddam and his writers find the core of Townshend's story and bring it to life on screen with the help of a talented cast. He also knew when to make use of the source material.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Quadrophenia' (#624 in The Criterion Collection) is a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a clear keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a 36-page illustrated booklet featuring "Jimmy vs. World" by Howard Hampton, "History" by Irish Jack, and "Quadrophenia: Liner Notes from the Album" by Pete Townshend, which was a short story from Jimmy's point of view.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. The liner notes reveal, "This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K film scanner from a 35mm interpositive. It was then color graded on a Baselight 8 digital grading system, under the supervision of director of photography Brian Tufano. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction."
The colors look good, with reds like Dave's sweater standing out among his fellow Mods who are usually in a drab green jacket. Whites are clean and solid as seen in the Dover cliffs. Blacks aren't as strong, some times getting swallowed up into each other. There's strong shadow delineation, as seen by how well the spectators in the first music club can be seen in the back of the room.
There's a good amount of grain that increases when the light decreases. Details are solid, from the sharp lines seen in the patterns in the suits of a few Mods to architectural textures like the walls of Jimmy's parents' apartment. When Roddam and cinematographer Brian Tufano chose lens to deliver wide depth of field, it comes across in the sharp focus seen in the image.
The audio is available in English LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio. The extensive liner notes reveal, "The film was originally released with a 2.0 stereo soundtrack, which is presented as the default track on this disc. It was restored and remastered at 24-bit from the 1979 Dolby magnetic master. Artifacts such as dropouts, azimuth errors, hums, and thumps were manually mitigated using the Pro Tools HD platform. "Pete Townsend originally envisioned the 1973 album Quadrophenia as a quadraphonic, or four-channel surround, recording. In 2011, Townsend and the Who's sound engineer, Bob Pridden, went back to the record's original source tapes to create a deluxe, remastered box set of the album, entitled Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut, for which they also created new 5.1 surround versions of certain songs. Knowing that this work had been done, Criterion contacted the band and asked them to work with us on making 5.1 versions of the Who songs in the movie. "For this release of 'Quadrophenia', we created an all-new, remixed 5.1 surround soundtrack, produced at 24-bit using a variety of sound elements from the original album and the 1979 movie. All the Who music was taken from first-generation sources - 4 track 1/2-inch, 8 track 1-inch, and 16-track and 24-track 2-inch analogue tapes - found in the band's archives. In some cases, the songs were reconstructed from scratch from these original multitrack recordings. The film's dialogue and effects were taken from the original 35mm dialogue/music/effects magnetic audio stems. The availability of these separate dialogue and effects stems enabled us to render a detailed and engaging 5.1 audio image. Under the supervision of the band and the film's editor, Sean Barton, a brand-new mix was created at Deluxe 142, in London, by mixer Alan Sallabank, and approved by director Franc Roddam. The staggering result is an immersive experience, and we suggest you play it loud."
I would echo that suggestion because the 5.1 mix sounds amazing, so I am not going to side with the purists this time. The music has outstanding fidelity. The vocals, which are primarily Roger Daltrey's, are clear and don't get buried in the mix. John Entwistle's superb work is on display right from "The Real Me" in the opening credits. Heavy yet nimble bass lines get the subwoofer thumping as does Keith Moon's controlled, chaotic drumming. The warm brassy tone of the horns rings out during "5.15". Townshend's masterful guitar work has rarely sounded better.
When songs are from sources within a scene, like "Be My Baby" playing at Sandra's party, the room tone ambiance softens the clarity and power of the music. Overall ambiance is good. For example, down in Brighton, the large group of kids milling and the chaos that ensues can be heard in the surrounds. The dialogue is clear and quiet moments are free of hiss or defect. The track has an extremely wide dynamic range, from the loudness of The Who rocking to quiet sounds like faint footsteps running across wet pavement.
Of course, it's highly recommended for Who fans because of the new audio, but I'd even recommend this to others who aren't into the band or rock 'n' roll. The film does a very good job capturing a moment in time while telling a universal story that isn't limited to teenagers, as anyone let down by people and institutions around them can identify with it. I wish Townshend or Daltrey could have participated in new features, but that's my only gripe.
If there's anything you take away from the review, make sure it's "play it loud."