Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This is Spinal Tap

I mentioned earlier today that I watched This is Spinal Tap so I could free up some room on my DVR since the movie is available on DVD.

The movie starts off with Rob Reiner, who plays Marty DiBergi. Marty is on a soundstage, telling us that he's a director of TV commercials. But, close to 20 years ago in some obscure hole in the wall, he saw a band that blew his mind. So when the band decided to tour the US for the first time in several years to promote their new album Smell the Glove, Marty decided to document the tour. The movie is the result of the footage documented on that tour. Of course, Spinal Tap is a completely fictitious band, actually having been conceived for a sketch TV show some years earlier. The movie is a mockumentary, not a documentary.

Vocalist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) was childhood freinds with guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and eventually added keyboardist Viv (David Kaff) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer, if you're wondering what the Simpsons voice actor looks like), as well as a series of drummers: one of the running jokes is the bizarre deaths of the band's drummers. Much of this is explained in scenes set before the tour, on what looks like a British estate, reminiscent of all sorts of documentary interviews from the era.

As for the tour, there are ominous portents. Their manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) informs them that dates are canceled, or they're forced to play in smaller venues, with one of the more humorous ones being at an Air Force base (Fred Willard plays their Air Force liaison at the base). There's also a problem with their album cover as record label liaison Bobbi (a young Fran Drescher) tells them, and all sorts of other problems.

In between the performances, we get to see scenes of the band backstage and on their days off, as well as some footage of the members away from the tour; notable here is a joke about Tufnel's amplifier, which has a maximum setting of eleven instead of ten. Why not just prorate the volume so that when you want the extra volume you can go from nine to ten on a regular amplifier? Oh no, you don't understand at all. This amplifier goes to eleven.

This Is Spinal Tap is one of those movies that has its reputation now thanks to its becoming a cult classic, as opposed to being acclaimed on first release. The scene of the amplifier going up to 11 is probably the iconic scene, having crossed over into more general culture.

As for the rest, I don't think I have quite the high opinion that critics and a lot of fans do, although I think that may be because of how lat I've come to the movie. If I had seen it when I was younger I'd probably think more of it. It's amusing, but to me not something I would have thought of as a cult classic. That having been said, Rob Reiner and the rest of the cast did an excellent job giving the movie an air of reality. (I'm not a metal fan, which may also have something to do with my not appreciating the movie as much as others.) Apparently much of the dialog was improvised which is why it sounds more real. The camera work also does a very good job of making this look like a real documentary. And according to Wikipedia, several musicians got the impression that the film captured their experiences on the road.

With all that said, This is Spinal Tap is one that I can recommend because I'm sure a lot of you will like it more than I di

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