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This is Spinal Tap (1984) Print E-mail
Monday, 27 July 2009
ImageI don't know what is with people and this movie.  It must be a nostalgic item, because it just doesn't make the grade.  I am a sound engineer and a lover of the rock genre, and this movie is nothing more than a poor attempt at a rockumentary.  There is just no appeal with this film.  I found myself constantly looking to see how much runtime was left.  Thank goodness the film is only 80 minutes long.

The film isn't without a few laughs, but they are few and far between.  The only one that I can completely laugh at time and time again is "This one goes to 11."  By far it is the funniest scene.  The stuck pod and Stonehenge sequences are also quite funny.  My problem with the film is that it doesn't go anywhere.  There is really no story to tell.  The band has massive egos, but play small clubs.  Strife between band members eventually strikes and the band falls apart.

The film has all the elements of a rock band in the 70s and 80s.  Still the film is so wobblely that a light breeze would knock it over.  Perhaps you had to be into this film when it first came out, but even working in the rock scene does not help the likeability of this film.

"This is Spinal Tap" is the premiere film by Rob Reiner.  He even plays the director of the film crew that is making a documentary on the band, Spinal Tap.  Spinal consists of a variety of band members, however there are three front men.  The bass player is Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).  The lead guitarist is Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest).  Lead vocalist is David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean).

Nigel and David are the primary front runners, controlling the creative aspect of the band.  Over the course of the film they deal with album cover choices, riders, show stopping effects and fame.  There isn't much else to say about this film.

The film is written by Guest, McKean, Shearer and Reiner.  The writing is sporadic, seemingly written around a few good jokes.  Reiner sure gained fame with this film, but I consider it his worse directorial.

When the film was released in 1984 it grossed about 4.5 million dollars.  It was seemingly re-released in 2000 to a few theaters and only grossed $200,000.  I imagine that people have had enough of the film on home video that they didn't need to see it again in theaters.  Or perhaps it means that popularity of the film is waning. The film's limited budget is noticeable in the video quality of the transfer.  It is hard to distinguish what is problematic with the transfer and what was part of the original video quality.  The film was originally shot on 16mm stock, so it doesn't translate well in the digital world and on a nine-foot screen.  The film is constantly out of focus, which is true to the original source.  However, it gets quite annoying when watching it on such a big screen.  Details and textures are virtually extinct, not that I was expecting much considering the source.  Edges are noticeably outlined by a halo effect and blooming.  This is especially noticeable when Hubbins wears a white suit.  Film grain is present throughout, but it is very fine instead of the expected coarse grain usually present in 16mm stock.  The contrast and brightness levels appear accurate, as do fleshtones.  Colors suffice but are not quite vibrant.  If watching this film on standard screen sizes, then the quality is much better than the original home video release.  However, I do not advise displaying this film on a large projection screen.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1, accompanied by the original Dolby Stereo track.  The DTS-HD track is absolutely preferable.  The studio has done a tremendous job remastering the audio.  The dialogue is nice and clean, present in the center channel.  The surround channels do not contain discreet effects, only a smattering of bled music.  The rock sequences have great power.  The music separation is nicely done.  Drums, guitar and vocals stand out separately, but still remain a whole.  The clarity is quite impressive.  The subwoofer is present, but it feels far away at times.  The bass playing by Derek Smalls contains a bit more high-mids than bass frequencies.  There are times in which the audio track sounds claustrophobic.  The precedence effect surely comes into play with this track.  Still, based on the original material, this surround track is a terrific upgrade for fans.

The Blu-ray package of "This is Spinal Tap" comes with two discs.  The first disc is the Blu-ray disc and contains the feature as well as most of the special features.  First there is an audio commentary with most of the cast members.  There is a bunch of laughs in this commentary and is highly recommended for anyone that considers them a fan of the film.  Next on the disc is a plethora of deleted scenes and outtakes.  There is over and hour of footage.  It is quite exhausting when you don't much care for the film to begin with.  "Catching Up With Marty DiBergi" contains footage of Rob Reiner discussing his career.  "Flower People Press Conference" is a bit of fluff.  "Spinal Tap Appearance on 'The Joe Franklin Show'" is a brief performance segment.  "Spinal Tap sells cheese and a variety of other exciting products" is a section of promotional spots.  The last section on the Blu-ray disc contains four music videos: "Big Bottom," "Hell Hole," "(Listen to the) Flower People" and "Gimmie Some Money."

There is a second disc in the collection.  The second disc is a standard DVD.  There are only two short features on this disc.  The first is, "'Stonehenge' Performance at the 2007 Live Earth Concert."  The second feature is the "National Geographic Stonehenge Interview with Nigel Tufnel."

"This is Spinal Tap" is either a love it or hate it movie.  Seemingly most people love it.  So if you have an inkling that you would like this film then give it a shot.  I for one didn't find it terribly interesting.  The video quality is representative of the original source material.  The audio quality is a nice upgrade.

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