Directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof from The Boomtown Rats, this movie version of the 1979 Pink Floyd album was described by one critic as “the longest-ever rock video, and certainly the most depressing”.
The central character is a young man by the name of Pink (natch) – a successful rock star facing the break-up of his marriage while on tour. This leads Pink to review his whole life and to begin building a protective psychological wall around himself, each brick representing the things that have caused him to suffer throughout his life: a suffocating, over-protective mother, vicious schoolteachers, a faithless wife, stupid groupies . . .
Pink imagines himself elevated to the position of a fascist dictator, with the audience his obedient followers.
At the story’s climax he faces up to his tormentors, and the wall finally crumbles. But as soon as this wall has fallen, another one slowly begins to rise, suggesting a perpetual cycle of imprisonment.
Filming began in September 1981, and the original intent was to use Pink Floyd concert footage in the film, but Parker was not satisfied with the results after five nights of filming the band live at Earl’s Court.
And so Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset was transformed into the Anzio bridgehead, complete with barrage balloons, bunkers, and Italian gun emplacements.
An enormous composite set of Pink’s LA hotel penthouse suite was constructed at Pinewood Studios, and a dilapidated, damp-walled warehouse at a disused cake factory in Hammersmith was converted into a surreal mental ward.
The Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster provided the location for the Nuremberg-style rally, with a small army of 380 real skinheads hired in to make up the crowd, while a cafe set which had been specially built behind King’s Cross railway station was completely destroyed by the notorious “Tilbury Skins”, who couldn’t believe their luck . . .
Shooting of The Wall took 61 consecutive 14-hour days, consisting of 977 shots, 4,885 takes and 350,000 feet of film – and then the animation began. Over 10,000 full-colour paintings were created – to provide 15 minutes of animation for the film – in the old gatehouse at Pinewood, overseen by Gerry Scarfe and the principal animator, Mike Stuart.
After eight months of editing, 60 hours of film had been whittled down to 99 minutes of screen time. The movie premiered in London in July 1982.
Because of the enduring success of the album version of The Wall (which has sold in excess of 23 million copies) the film has also endured and has become a cult hit of the genre.