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USA 1984
Directed by
Rob Reiner
82 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 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. Production-wise it is admittedly spot-on (complete with "archival" footage of the lads’ early pop and flower-power incarnations), but since the real thing is sufficiently risible as to give one equal satisfaction is it really that funny?.

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 as one thing after another goes wrong and nerves fray.

Christopher Guest, 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.

Whilst really only mildly amusing it was however a pioneering benchmark the now common “mockumentary” genre (Eric Idle's 1878 Beatles spoof, All You Need Is Cash was an earlier example but it didn't have the success or uptake of this film) and, as seems to be the nature of things, 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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