Pink Floyd—The Wall

Pink Floyd—The Wall
Pink Floyd—The Wall

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Parker
Produced by Alan Marshall
Written by Roger Waters
Narrated by Pink Floyd
Starring Bob Geldof
Christine Hargreaves
Eleanor David
Alex McAvoy
Bob Hoskins
Michael Ensign
Music by Pink Floyd
Michael Kamen (orchestrations)
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Editing by Gerry Hambling
Distributed by MGM/UA (Theatrical)
MGM (1982-99)
Sony Music (1999-2010)
Warner Bros. (2010-)
Release date(s) August 6, 1982 (1982-08-06) (New York City)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $22,244,207

Pink Floyd—The Wall is a 1982 British live-action/animated musical film directed by Alan Parker based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall. The screenplay was written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. The film is highly metaphorical and is rich in symbolic imagery and sound. It features very little dialogue and is mainly driven by Pink Floyd's music.

The film contains fifteen minutes of elaborate animation sequences by the political cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, part of which depict a nightmarish vision of the German bombing campaign over the United Kingdom during World War II set to the song "Goodbye Blue Sky".


Plot summary

The film depicts the construction and ultimate demolition of a metaphorical wall, alienation.

Pink (Bob Geldof), the protagonist (and unreliable narrator) of the film, is a rock star, one of several reasons behind his apparent depressive and detached emotional state. He is first seen in a quiet hotel room, having trashed it. The opening music is not by Pink Floyd, but is the Vera Lynn recording of "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot".[1] During the following scenes, it is revealed that Pink's father, a British soldier, was killed in action in the course of World War II in Pink's infancy, a reference to the death of Roger Waters' real-life father, Eric Fletcher Waters, in combat in Italy during Operation Shingle (the Battle of Anzio) in February 1944.

The movie then flashes back to Pink as a young English boy growing up in the early 1950s. Throughout his childhood, Pink longs for a father figure after he learns his father died in the war. At school, he is humiliated for writing poems in class. The poems that the teacher seizes from him and reads aloud are lyrics from "Money" from Dark Side of the Moon. Pink is also affected by his overprotective mother. He eventually gets married, but he and his wife grow apart and she has an affair while Pink is on tour. When Pink learns of the affair, he compensates with expensive materialistic possessions and turns to a willing groupie (Jenny Wright), whom he brings back to his hotel room only to trash it in a fit of violence, causing her to flee in terror.

Pink slowly begins to lose his mind to metaphorical "worms". He shaves off all of his body hair and his eyebrows (an incident inspired by former bandmate Syd Barrett, who appeared at a 1975 recording session of Wish You Were Here, having shaved his eyebrows, head hair, and body hair[2][3]) and, while watching The Dam Busters on television, morphs into his neo-Nazi alter-ego. Pink's manager (Bob Hoskins), along with the hotel manager (Michael Ensign) and some paramedics, discover Pink and inject him with drugs to enable him to perform. The drugs cause Pink to hallucinate and he fantasises that he is a neo-Nazi dictator, his concert a rally. His followers proceed to attack ethnic minorities, Pink holds a rally in suburban London, singing "Waiting for the Worms". The scene is inter-cut by images of animated marching hammers that goose-step across ruins.

Pink (Bob Geldof) at the neo-Nazi rally.

Pink screams "Stop!" and takes refuge in a bathroom stall at the concert venue, reciting poems which would later be used as lyrics on Pink Floyd's "Your Possible Pasts" from The Final Cut album and "5:11 AM (The Moment Of Clarity)" from Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. In an animated sequence, Pink puts himself on trial. He is depicted as a small, pink rag doll that rarely moves. The film concludes with several children cleaning up a pile of debris after an earlier riot, with a freeze-frame on one of the children emptying a molotov cocktail lasting until the credits.



Even before the original Pink Floyd album was recorded, a film was intended to be made from it.[4] However, the concept of the film was intended to be live footage from the album's tour, with Scarfe's animation and extra scenes. The film was going to star Waters himself. EMI did not intend to make the film, as they did not understand the concept.[5]

Director Alan Parker, a Pink Floyd fan, asked EMI whether The Wall could be adapted to film. EMI suggested that Parker talk to Waters, who had asked Parker to direct the film. Parker instead suggested that he produce it and give the directing task to Scarfe and Michael Seresin, a cinematographer.[6] Waters began work on the film's screenplay after studying scriptwriting books. He and Scarfe produced a special-edition book containing the screenplay and art to pitch the project to investors. While the book depicted Waters in the role of Pink, after screen tests, he was removed from the starring role;[7] he was replaced with the punk musician Bob Geldof. In Behind the Wall, both Waters and Geldof later admitted to a story during casting where Geldof and his manager took a taxi to an airport, and Geldof's manager pitched the role to the singer, who continued to reject the offer and express his contempt for the project throughout the ride, unaware that the taxi driver was Waters' brother, who promptly proceeded to tell Waters about Geldof's opinion.

The iconic "marching hammers".

Since Waters was no longer in the starring role, it no longer made sense for the feature to include Pink Floyd footage, so the live film aspect was dropped.[8] The footage culled from the five Wall concerts at Earl's Court from 13–17 June 1981 that were held specifically for filming was deemed unusable also for technical reasons as the fast Panavision lenses needed for the low light levels turned out to have insufficient resolution for the movie screen. Complex parts such as "Hey You" still had not been properly shot by the end of the live shows.[9] Parker also managed to convince Waters and Scarfe that the concert footage was too theatrical and that it would jar with the animation and stage live action. After the concert footage was dropped, Seresin left the project and Parker became the only director connected to The Wall.[10]

During production, Geldof suffered a cut to his hand while filming the destruction of the hotel room set as he pulls away the venetian blinds. The footage remains in the film. Also, it was discovered during the filming of the pool scenes that Geldof did not know how to swim. Interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios, and it was suggested that they suspend Geldof in Christopher Reeve's clear cast used for the Superman flying sequences from storage, but his frame was too small by comparison; it was then decided to use a similar mould for Helen Slater from Supergirl, which was a more acceptable fit, and he simply lay on his back.[11]

The war scenes were shot on Saunton Sands in North Devon, which also featured on the cover of Pink Floyd's 'Momentary Lapse of Reason', six years later.[citation needed]


The Wall was shown "out of competition" during the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[12] Critics and audiences were taken aback. Film critic Roger Ebert has championed it as "one of the great modern musicals."[13]

The premiere at Cannes was amazing - the midnight screening. They took down two truckloads of audio equipment from the recording studios so it would sound better than normal. It was one of the last films to be shown in the old Palais which was pretty run down and the sound was so loud it peeled the paint of the walls. It was like snow - it all started to shower down and everyone had dandruff at the end. I remember seeing Terry Samuel there, who at the time was head of Warner Brothers, sitting next to Steven Spielberg. They were only five rows ahead of me and I'm sure I saw Steven Spielberg mouthing to him at the end when the lights came up, 'what the fuck was that?' And Samuel turned to me and then bowed respectfully.

What the fuck was that? indeed. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before - a weird fusion of live action, story-telling and of the surreal.

The film's official premiere was at the Empire, Leicester Square[15] in London, on 14 July 1982. It was attended by Pink Floyd members Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason, but not Richard Wright,[15] because he was no longer a member of the band. It was also attended by various celebrities including Bob Geldof (who plays the lead role in the film), Paula Yates, Gerald Scarfe, Pete Townshend, Sting, Roger Taylor, James Hunt, Lulu, and Andy Summers.[16]


So it's difficult, painful and despairing, and its three most important artists came away from it with bad feelings. Why would anybody want to see it? Perhaps because filming this material could not possibly have been a happy experience for anyone—not if it's taken seriously.

The film opened with a limited release on August 6, 1982 and entered at #28 of the US box office charts despite only playing in one theatre on its first weekend, grossing over $68,000, a rare feat even by today's standards. The film then spent just over a month below the top 20 while still in the top 30. The film later expanded to over 600 theatres on September 10, achieving #3 at the box office charts, below E.T. and An Officer and a Gentleman. The film eventually earned $22 million dollars before closing in early 1983. It earned its creators two British Academy Awards; 'Best Sound' for James Guthrie, Eddy Joseph, Clive Winter, Graham Hartstone & Nicholas Le Messurier;[18] and 'Best Original Song' for Waters.[18]

The film received generally favourable reviews. Reviewing The Wall on their television program At the Movies in 1982, film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both recommended the movie. Ebert described The Wall as "a stunning vision of self-destruction" and "one of the most horrifying musicals of all time...but the movie is effective. The music is strong and true, the images are like sledge hammers, and for once, the rock and roll hero isn’t just a spoiled narcissist, but a real, suffering image of all the despair of this nuclear age. This is a real good movie." Siskel was more reserved in his judgment, stating that he felt that the film’s imagery was too repetitive. However, he admitted that the "central image" of the fascist rally sequence "will stay with me for an awful long time." In February 2010, Roger Ebert added The Wall to his list of "great movies," describing the film as "without question the best of all serious fiction films devoted to rock. Seeing it now in more timid times, it looks more daring than in did in 1982, when I saw it at Cannes...It's disquieting and depressing and very good."[17] It was chosen for opening night of Ebertfest 2010.

While Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film with a total of a 65% rating (out of 17 reviews), the community of the website ranked the film with a 88% (out of 375 reviews). Danny Peary wrote that the "picture is unrelentingly downbeat and at times repulsive...but I don't find it unwatchable - which is more than I could say if Ken Russell had directed this. The cinematography by Peter Bizou is extremely impressive and a few of the individual scenes have undeniable power."[19]

Roger Waters has expressed deep reservations about the film, saying that the filming had been "a very unnerving and unpleasant experience... we all fell out in a big way." As for the film itself, he said: "I found it was so unremitting in its onslaught upon the senses, that it didn't give me, anyway, as an audience, a chance to get involved with it," although he had nothing but praise for Geldof's performance.[20] Parker, who frequently clashed with Waters and Gerald Scarfe, described the filming as "one of the most miserable experiences of my creative life."[21] David Gilmour stated (on the "In the Studio with Redbeard" episodes of The Wall, A Momentary Lapse of Reason and On an Island) that the conflict between him and Waters started with the making of the film. Gilmour also stated on the documentary Behind The Wall (which was aired on the BBC in the UK and VH1 in the US) that "the movie was the less successful telling of The Wall story as opposed to the album and concert versions."

Although the symbol of the crossed hammers was a creation of the film and not related to any real racist group, it was adopted by Southern US racist group the Hammerskins in the late 1980s.[22]


A documentary was produced about the making of Pink Floyd The Wall entitled The Other Side of the Wall that includes interviews with Parker, Scarfe, and clips of Waters, originally aired on MTV in 1982. A second documentary about the film was produced in 1999 entitled Retrospective that includes interviews with Waters, Parker, Scarfe, and other members of the film's production team. Both are featured on The Wall DVD as extras.

Video release and rights issues

The film was originally released on VHS and Laserdisc on the former MGM/UA Home Video (in the North America and International) and Thorn-EMI (in the United Kingdom) in 1983,[23] and continued on with what became MGM Home Entertainment until around 2000 (it was originally not part of MGM's pre-1986 library acquired by Turner Entertainment).

The following year, after Turner merged with Time Warner, the film was incorporated into Turner's holdings. However, since Sony Music had, by that time, owned some rights to the film (along with Roger Waters' production company, Tin Blue, Ltd., and music publishing company Kimbridge Music, as well as a good chunk of the band's catalogue, including The Wall), the video rights were transferred from MGM to Sony Music Video, and all current video releases are from Sony Music.[citation needed]

However, Turner Entertainment Co./Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. remains the theatrical and television rights holder for the film.[citation needed]

There are various releases and re-releases.[24]


Song changes from album:

Track Changes
When the Tigers Broke Free 1 New song[25]
"In the Flesh?" Extended/re-mixed/lead vocal re-recorded by Geldof[25]
"The Thin Ice" Extended/re-mixed[25] with additional piano overdub in second verse, baby sounds removed
"Another Brick in the Wall" 1 Unchanged
"When the Tigers Broke Free" 2 New song[25]
"Goodbye Blue Sky" Re-mixed[25] (moved positions)
"The Happiest Days of Our Lives" Re-mixed. Helicopter sounds dropped.[25]
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 Re-mixed[25] with extra lead guitar, children's chorus part edited and shortened, teacher's lines re-recorded by Alex McAvoy and interspersed within children's chorus portion
"Mother" Re-recorded completely with exception of guitar solo. Lyrics changed into a more narrative-oriented style to work as film music e.g. "Is it just a waste of time?" became "Am I really dying?".[25]
"Empty Spaces" Dropped in favour of "What Shall We Do Now?"[25]
"What Shall We Do Now?" An alternate version of "Empty Spaces"[25]
"Young Lust" Unchanged, but with screams added and phone call part removed.
"One of My Turns" Re-mixed
"Don't Leave Me Now" Shortened
"Another Brick in the Wall" 3 Re-recorded completely[25] with a faster tempo
"Goodbye Cruel World" Unchanged
"Hey You" Deleted as Waters and Parker felt the footage was too repetitive (eighty percent of the footage appears in montage sequences elsewhere),[21] but available to view as in worn black and white work print form as a bonus feature on the DVD release.[26]
"Is There Anybody Out There?" Classical guitar re-recorded
"Nobody Home" Unchanged, but with different clips from the TV set.
"Vera" Unchanged
"Bring the Boys Back Home" Re-recorded completely with brass band and Welsh male vocal choir extended and Roger Waters' lead vocals removed[15]
"Comfortably Numb" Re-mixed with screams added. Bass line partially different from album
"The Show Must Go On" Removed
"In the Flesh" Re-recorded completely with brass band and Bob Geldof on lead vocals.[25]
"Run Like Hell" Re-mixed and shortened.
"Waiting for the Worms" Shortened but with extended coda
"Stop" Re-recorded completely[25] with Geldof unaccompanied on lead vocals. (The audio in the background of this scene is from Gary Yudman's introduction from The Wall Live at Earl's Court.)
"The Trial" Re-mixed
"Outside the Wall" Re-recorded completely[25] with brass band and Welsh male voice choir. Extended.

The only songs from the album not used in the film are "Hey You" and "The Show Must Go On". Most of the "Hey You" footage was later edited into the film and raw footage of the intact sequence was first made available on the DVD release as a deleted scene.

A soundtrack album from Columbia Records was listed in the film's end credits, but only a single containing "When the Tigers Broke Free" and the rerecorded "Bring the Boys Back Home" was released. "When the Tigers Broke Free" later became a bonus track on the band's 1983 album The Final Cut, an album Waters intended as an extension to The Wall. Guitarist David Gilmour, however, dismissed the album as a collection of songs that had been rejected for The Wall project, but were being recycled.


  1. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus,. pp. 150p.. ISBN 071194301x. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets. Dell Publishing. p. 225. 
  5. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets. Dell Publishing. p. 244. 
  6. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets. Dell Publishing. pp. 244–245. 
  7. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets. Dell Publishing. pp. 245–246. 
  8. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets. Dell Publishing. p. 246. 
  9. ^ Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 83
  10. ^ Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 105
  11. ^ Geldof, Bob. Is That It?. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 
  12. ^
  13. ^,,170375,00.html
  14. ^ Scarfe, Gerald. The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall. Da Capo Press. p. 216. 
  15. ^ a b c Mabbett, Andy (2010). Pink Floyd - The Music and the Mystery. London: Omnibus,. ISBN 9781849383707. 
  16. ^ Miles, Barry; Andy Mabbett (1994). Pink Floyd the visual documentary ([Updated ed.] ed.). London :: Omnibus,. ISBN 0711941092. 
  17. ^ a b "Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  18. ^ a b "Past Winners and Nominees - Film - Awards". BAFTA. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986) p.331
  20. ^ Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 129
  21. ^ a b Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 118
  22. ^ "The Hammerskin Nation". Extremism in America. Anti-Defamation League. 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  23. ^ Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 127
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bench, Jeff (2004). Pink Floyd's The Wall. Richmond, Surrey, UK: Reynolds and Hearn,. pp. 107–110p.. ISBN 190311182X. 
  26. ^ Pink Floyd's The Wall, page 128

Chart positions

Year Chart Position
2005 Australian ARIA DVD Chart #10

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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