To state it emphatically this blog entry must be turned up to ‘11’ so please pardon the noise: IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), YOU MUST GO TO THE CHINESE MULTIPLEX 1 AT 9:45 TONIGHT!
It is often the case that a film frequently designated as a “Cult” Movie (like Rob Reiner’s THIS IS SPINAL TAP) would not truly qualify for the label unless the public’s perception of that film has changed over time. The normal trajectory for altered perceptions can often be tracked as an under-the-radar film that becomes a “hit” long after its original theatrical run. The time lag is usually an indication that attitudes have shifted and a movie that was originally misunderstood is now seen in a different light, or at least “found its audience.”
Tonight at the Chinese Multiplex, passholders have the chance to see this classic on the Big Screen, a rarity considering that most fans of the film first discovered it as a rental on home video. There are a few of us that can brag of not only having seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP during its brief theatrical release, but also of being well aware of its ‘Mockumentary’ status (before the word was coined) from the get-go. Frankly, we were befuddled by all of the chatter later about metalheads seeing the movie, thinking it was real, and complaining that the moviemakers picked a lousy band to make a documentary about. How could that possibly be?
Here are a few SPINAL TAP Tidbits to ponder prior to the screening:
The actors who play the core group (Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest) were all musicians and play their own instruments in the film.
Shearer, McKean, Guest and Rob Reiner are given the credit “written by” on the screen, but almost every actor appearing in the film improvised their part. The four petitioned the Writer’s Guild to credit the entire cast, but were turned down.
The film was Rob Reiner’s first feature film directing credit. He went on to make a number of hit movies, including Stand by Me (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and A Few Good Men (1992).
One of the prime inspirations for the film was the rock documentary The Last Waltz (1978), Martin Scorsese’s film of the farewell concert by The Band. Scorsese injected himself into the film, much as Reiner’s interviewer “Marty DiBergi” does.
Here are the names of some of the Spinal Tap “albums”: Intravenus de Milo, The Gospel According to Spinal Tap, Shark Sandwich and Smell the Glove.
In 2002 the movie was on that year’s list of films selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry because it was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
So to reiterate: if you have NEVER seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP, you are to be envied and should not pass up the chance to see it with a large audience. And if you have only seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP on home video, do not pass up this chance to see it on the big screen with a large audience.
For you first-timers: keep in mind that there is a world of sketches, semi-sequels, music videos and live performances of Spinal Tap to enjoy on YouTube once you have devoured the original film. Then there is the world of DVDs and Blu-rays (and out-of-print laserdiscs and CD-ROMs for the very obsessive) of the film, which offer hours and hours of additional footage unused in the feature film, multiple commentary tracks by any number of participants (both in character and out-of-character), documentaries and much more. It’s a mini-industry. Enjoy!