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USA 1984
Directed by
Rob Reiner
82 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

This Is Spinal Tap

Some people swear by this parody of a rock documentary about a has-been British heavy-metal band on a misguided tour of the U.S.of A.  It's not that good but production-wise it is spot-on (complete with "archival" footage of the lads’ early pop and flower-power incarnations) and the characterisations devilishly accurate as it makes a mockery of the already faux-important real thing.

The film fills us in on the history of Spinal Tap, a band which in the best British tradition started life as a skiffle band, eventually maturing into an R&B act called the Thamesmen (their hit was "Gimme Some Money"). After going through a psychedelic period with "Listen to the Flower People," the band mutated into Spinal Tap, and hit the big time in the days of glam rock.

Now fallen by the wayside and on an American tour to promote their new LP “Smell the Glove", we witness the back-stage farcicalities that we have since seen in many straight rock documentaries such as Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster  (2004) as one thing after another goes wrong and nerves fray.

Christopher Guest, the prime mover behind the project, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (who play band members Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls) and director Rob Reiner (who plays the director Marty DiBergi) are credited as screenwriters but apparently the dialogue was largely improvised. .

Combining dead-pan humour and some good physical jokes (as when Nigel orders an 18 inch prop Stonehenge as a prop for one of his songs) the film was a pioneering benchmark for the now common “mockumentary” genre (Eric Idle's 1978 Beatles spoof, All You Need Is Cash was an earlier example but it didn't have the success or uptake of this film) that has guaranteed its place in cult cinema history. 

FYI: After the film's initial release, McKean, Guest, and Shearer did a short club tour as Spinal Tap. The "band" reunited in 1992 for a new album, "Break Like The Wind", followed by a TV special, The Return of Spinal Tap.




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