This is Spinal Tap (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus turns it right up to eleven for this new Spinal Tap Blu-ray release...
"Hello, my name is Marty DiBergi. I'm a filmmaker. I make a lot of commercials. That little dog that chases the covered wagon underneath the sink? That was mine. In 1966, I went down to Greenwich Village, New York City to a rock club called Electric Banana. Don't look for it, it's not there anymore. But that night, I heard a band that for me redefined the word ‘rock and roll’. I remember being knocked out by their... their exuberance, their raw power—and their punctuality. That band was Britain's now-legendary Spinal Tap. Seventeen years and fifteen albums later, Spinal Tap is still going strong. And they've earned a distinguished place in rock history as one of England's loudest bands. So in the late fall of 1982, when I heard that Tap was releasing a new album called ‘Smell the Glove’, and was planning their first tour of the United States in almost six years to promote that album, well needless to say I jumped at the chance to make the documentary—the, if you will, ‘rockumentary’—that you're about to see. I wanted to capture the... the sights, the sounds... the smells of a hard-working rock band, on the road. And I got that; I got more... a lot more. But hey, enough of my yakkin'; whaddaya say? Let's boogie!" - Marty DiBergi
I’d consider myself quite a latecomer to Spinal Tap. Over the years I’ve sometimes had a good laugh with it and sometimes just not really got it. For example, when the two disc edition DVD hit a few years back it had been a while since I’d seen the movie and I just didn’t have much fun with it. I can only imagine I was under heavy sedation at the time or something because watching Spinal Tap again for this review was a blast.
This Is Spinal Tap’s biggest laughs comes from its subtlety. The moments between the dialogue or how the dialogue is delivered is astonishingly effective and many of the movie's finest moments can almost be totally missed. Small glances or reactions from band members David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) can make the smallest of conversations comedic gold and when this is all delivered perfectly naturally within the improvisation of a scene and you know each cast member is trying to make the others crack on film, there’s a real sense of fun about the proceedings.
Favourite scenes for me are the obvious ones. Tufnel’s explanation of having ‘eleven’ instead of ten for the band's volume is and has always has been hilarious. The gags about how past drummers have passed on and the incredibly authentic early footage of the band members' career is just amazing. Michael McKean's early Mick Jagger-esq performance in the black and white footage just hits the nail square on the head in its depiction. Of course the musical numbers still shine and perfectly tread the line of real rock songs and comic send ups, which bands like Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords have carried on the tradition of so well. Essentially everything about Spinal Tap’s magnified look at the absurd life of a rock band is spot on and as with all great comedies each time you watch it you’ll find something different to enjoy.
While this will never be contender for Blu-ray transfer of the year or anything like that, I have to say that I was impressed with this HD transfer. For a movie that’s in the style of a fly on the wall documentary and in the eighties, the transfer remains faithful to the age of the movie while boosting certain areas to fit into the HD catalogue.
Bright lights at concerts really make the band glow and while detail isn’t ground breaking, there’s enough of an improvement over the DVD release to show off the upgrade. Faces in the audience aren’t lost in fuzzy darkness in the wider shots and generally the gigs have never looked so good.
As for the scenes where we just follow the band around, the soft image, which is improved from standard definition but is hardly impressive and the fine layer of grain keeps the authenticity of the documentary intact and with the odd fleck of dirt or print imperfections on show This Is Spinal Tap somehow just feels realer because of the small issues.
This Is Spinal Tap only really has two things to achieve in the audio department. Clear dialogue so we can cherish every great line and a fine presentation of the music. This new Blu-ray ticks both boxes.
The dialogue sits nicely in the front speakers and retains its documentary feel while never feeling limited but the track really comes to life with the music. The boom of the drums hits the bass with just the right amount of oomph, the guitars whine and screech with a whole lot of power and the vocals fill in the rest. Now I’m not saying this sounds as good as many modern concerts on Blu-ray, mainly because despite the DTS-HD track’s range, the age of audio still feels a little constrained but once again—and this is beginning to make me feel like a broken record—it sticks with the authentic feel of the spoof documentary.
Now this is where the This Is Spinal Tap Blu-ray throws the goods at us. To start with, the disc opens with a black screen and the band provide a menu commentary, which is brilliant. It’s not particularly long but it’s a nice touch and a great way to start off the feel good factor.
‘This Is Spinal Tap - Up To 11’ (43:03 SD) is a great little documentary. I say little, because despite its running time, it has the feeling of a TV special as opposed to a movie documentary. There is no input from the band or anyone involved in the movie, instead this are a bunch of British comedians (Gervais, Izzard, Brydon etc) and a couple of rock bands (King of Leon, Anvil) talking us through what they love about Spinal Tap, their favourite characters and stories they have about seeing the movie. What makes this so good is it genuinely feels like a bunch of fans loving talking about the movie. Kings of Leon provide a few laughs with their worry that they might end up looking like Spinal Tap in a documentary which is being made about them, and I don’t know about you guys out there, but Ricky Gervais laughing at something that makes him laugh, makes me laugh even more, as per his knack of doing so on his own podcasts.
‘Spirinkle Some ***kin’ Fairly Dust On It’ (04:21 SD) is an interview with The Troggs member Reg Pressley, whose rants with his band in some bootleg tapes are cited as an inspiration for Spinal Tap.
The ‘2007 Live Earth Short Film & Performance' (06:56 SD) is a nice inclusion from the recent global event (that was entirely pointless) and ‘The Return of Spinal Tap’ (57:43 SD) is a live concert at the Albert Hall with some short films included.
‘Stonehenge Interviews With Nigel’ (09:01 SD) seem to be advertisement to promote the National Geographic channel’s season on Stonehenge, all of which are bloody funny with Nigel’s theories on the secrets behind the mystical monument.
Extra movie material includes fourteen outtakes and deleted scenes (01:07:00 SD), all of which are funny, original trailers (04:56 SD), music videos—Gimmie Some Money, (Listen To) The Flower People, Hell Hole and Big Bottom (12:24 SD), TV Spots (01:36 SD) ‘Flower People Conference’ (01:49 SD) which was a whole lot of fun and ‘Cheese Roll Trailer’ (01:50 SD) which is a sort of original trailer... but not.
Other fun inclusions are ‘Creative Meeting and Bitch School Video’ (04:33 SD) which has the band being given a video pitch and then shows the final video, 'Heavy Metal Memories' (01:37 SD), which is a great spoof advert for a Spinal Tap boxset only available on mail order and then a batch of featurettes: 'Home Video and DVD Pod', 'Influence Pod', 'The Controversy Pod’, 'Mick Fleetwood Pod', 'Back For The Dead Pod' and 'Music Pod' (20:52 SD), all of which are the band talking about their history intercut with a live set.
Lastly and probably most awesomely, there’s a band commentary which is so much fun it’s almost ridiculous. Comments and ad-libs about what’s happening in their film and how these events affected the band are a delight and the finest addition to an already great disc.
With pretty much every band before and (highlighting the movie's genius) after reflected in Spinal Tap’s depiction, This is Spinal Tap is truly a timeless movie. This may well have come out in 1984 but there is nothing dated about it, This is Spinal Tap feels fresh, relevant and its style is still used in real rockumentaries and comedy alike.
This is a fine package and while it doesn’t feel like a definitive edition it’s certainly one that’s packed with extras. For A/V, This Is Spinal Tap is not a Blu-ray looking to pick a fight with the big boys, though it's certainly the best it has ever looked and sounded so all in all, this is a release you’ll have plenty of fun with.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 7th September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 English, PCM 2.0 Stereo English, PCM 2.0 Stereo French
Subtitles: Danish, Swedish, French, German, Norwegian, Finnish
Extras: Documentary, Commentary, Menu Commentary, The Return of Spinal Tap Royal Albert Hall Concert, 2007 Live Earth Performance, National Geographic Stonehenge interviews with Nigel, Sprinkle Some ****in Fairy Dust On It: Interview with Reg Presley of The Troggs, Outakes, Original Trailer, Music Videos, TV Spots, Featurettes, Creative Meeting and Bitch School Video,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer
Genre: Comedy and Documentary
Length: 83 minutes
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