Few films have the reputation of This is Spinal Tap. It was the first film of its kind (and remains one of the few to genuinely get such a parody so perfectly right) and to this day the cast members perform as their Spinal Tap selves at concerts and on television (most recently, Late Night with Conan O’Brien). It’s a rockumentary/mockumentary that has really stood the test of time and if you don’t know what you’re in for going into it, you might just believe everything you’re witnessing is completely real. And that’s why it’s so brilliant.
In 1982 legendary British heavy metal band Spinal Tap attempt an American comeback tour accompanied by a fan who is also a film-maker. The resulting documentary, combined with powerful performances of Spinal Tap’s pivotal music and profound lyrics, candidly follows a rock group heading towards crisis, culminating in the infamous affair of the 18-inch-high Stonehenge stage prop surrounded by dancing midgets.
Confession: I’d never seen this film until this Blu-ray arrived. I know, I know…it’s a shocker. It wasn’t from a lack of interest, mind you, I just didn’t know anyone who owned it and as a result I never got around to seeing it. But that’s all fine now as I’ve witnessed the film and while I knew from the start it was a mock documentary, I wasn’t sure exactly how much of it was bogus and what was supposed to be played straight. This is simply because that’s how deceptively well this whole film was made—watching it a first time allows you to only really “get” the joke about halfway through the film and by the time you start a second round it’s all much more obvious.
But that’s really the reason this film has lasted as long as it has. “Take it to 11” has been amongst pop culture since this film debuted and even if you don’t know that it came out of this film, it’s without a doubt something you’ve heard. I figured that after knowing the joke came from this film, I wouldn’t find the sequence funny…but needless to say I was laughing my head off by the end of it. I was genuinely surprised by this because usually when I get to watching a film as old as this and have had all of the funny lines used in a myriad of other mediums, I simply don’t laugh as much as I should. Yet…there’s just something about this film that everything still just felt hilarious and awesome from start to finish.
I think what helps this film still feel like that is there aren’t many films like it. In fact, I honestly can’t think of any off of the top of my head; I mean rock documentaries, sure, but none done in this tongue-in-cheek style. It’s a very small genre and such a niche one that it’d be difficult to even create something like this again without it just feeling like a rehash (especially when the “band members” are still floating around doing concerts and the like). That’s really saying something for this film…I mean not only did it have a cast that went on to do bigger and better things (including a very young Fran Drescher, Billy Crystal, and Dana Carvey), but it just feels so damn original to this day. I’m genuinely impressed that I wasn’t just counting the time (although with a scant run time of 83 minutes, there isn’t admittedly much to count), as I really enjoyed this film.
But that’s to be expected—this is a true classic, after all. It’s not all just full of the typical juvenile humor that is injected into R rated comedies these days, although there is certainly a few penis jokes and the like. While it’s not all “good, clean humor,” it is a genuinely entertaining and hilarious film from start to finish. Highly Recommended if you were as deprived as I was and haven’t seen this film yet.
Anyone who has been watching Fox’s Blu-ray schedule has no doubt noticed this title fluctuating wildly for the last few months. I’m not entirely sure what caused the massive delay, but whatever the reason the Blu-ray is finally available in a two-disc set. Packaged inside of a standard Elite Eco Blu-ray case, the disc is a plain metal disc art with some faded weathering effects printed for good measure, while the bonus disc (which is a DVD, not a Blu-ray) is that of a volume dial that…yes, goes all the way to 11. Menus are simple and easy to navigate.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded (@33mpbs) transfer that, while showing its age, still looks remarkable. If you get too close to the screen you can see the video artifacts and cel popping more frequently, but overall it’s a very pleasant looking transfer. Occasionally muddy, but given the way this film must’ve been shot, I’m not all that surprised, but overall a very clean image for a twenty-five year old film.
The audio is, quite frankly, the best I’ve heard for a film this old. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track backs the film up and it is simply superb. Not only is the audio for the documentary portions crystal clear, but the music parts are hefty, with plenty of LFE output and surround to rock the room. It’s about as awesome as you’d expect from a rock n’ roll based film and I’m happy to report the audio is a strong as it is. Also included is a DD2.0 track as well as English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
The majority of the extras is all ported over from the previous DVD releases and include:
• Over 1 Hour of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (1:07:51, SD)
• Audio Commentary by the Members of Spinal Tap
• Catching Up With Marty DiBergi Featurette (5:01, SD)
• Flower People Press Conference (1:49, SD)
• 4 Classic Spinal Tap Music Videos
o Gimme Some Money
o (Listed to the) Flower People
o Hell Hole
o Big Bottom
• Spinal Tap Appearance on The Joe Franklin Show (2:01, SD)
• Spinal Tap sells cheese and a variety of other exciting products (Five total)
These are all well worth watching, especially the hour of deleted scenes and outtakes—some are completely ridiculous and make it more obvious this is all a spoof, but that doesn’t make them any less worth watching. Their quality is pretty horrid though; as stated none of the extras here are in high definition, so what we get are very dated and aged looking source material that hasn’t been cleaned up in any way.
New to this release, and residing solely on the second disc, are:
• “Stonehenge” Performance at the 2007 Live Earth Concert (6:55, SD)
• National Geographic Stonehenge Interview with Nigel Tufnel (8:15, SD)
Yes…they pressed a whole new disc for about fifteen minutes of footage. The film and extras reside on a 50gb disc which has a mere 32.7gb taken up (and the bonus DVD takes up just under 900mb), so why they had to press a whole new disc, I don’t know. Unless that was the reason for this releases frequent delays and the Blu-ray discs were already pressed, I don’t know. Seems like a waste, but hey…that second disc’s art is pretty awesome.
Overall this Blu-ray release doesn’t bring a whole lot of new to the table, but its still Recommended. The video transfer is solid and the audio is outstanding and fans of the film will more than find that reason enough to upgrade.
This is Spinal Tap arrives on Blu-ray on July 28th.