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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Rock Music > Mockumentary > This Is Spinal Tap (1984/MGM Blu-ray)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984/MGM Blu-ray)


Picture: B††† Sound: B †††Extras: B+ †††Film: A-



Is this Spinal Tap?


Itís hard to believe that a film like Rob Reinerís This Is Spinal Tap is 25 years old at the time of this review, and perhaps even harder to believe that in the course of time this rockumentary/mockumentary has evolved into almost something more.Itís certain just as relevant now as it was then, itís just as funny, and itís commentary on the music business and record industry is just as hysterical now as it was then, all the more reason to have this film as part of any serious collection, especially with the arrival of the film on Blu-ray.


What makes this particular film so effective is that it blends together a certain raw believability of what would-be a rock band called Spinal Tap, who has legitimate songs written and the comedic timing of itís three front men: Michael McKean (David St. Hubbins), Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel), and Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls).These three actors Ďsellí the film with their ability to not only become Spinal Tap, but to create larger than life characters who are so enamored with themselves that the film just becomes one big in-joke after another.Even director Rob Reiner got in on the action with his made-up Marty Dibergi character playing a documentary filmmaker as he opens the film up and tells us that he wanted to capture ďTapĒ on their farewell tour and this is what he got, the end result is what we see through the rest of the film, although much of the film it sit down interviews, there are concert numbers, but also much of the day-to-day moments of life on the road as a rock musician is captured here, of course this is all fake, but by creating a documentary-like texture we realize that anything can be believable in this format, even the outrageousness of a band called Spinal Tap and their gimmicks.


What makes the film all the more a tragedy of some sorts is that we realize while we are on our fake farewell tour with this made-up band that times are changing and the once ever-popular band is now falling into the ďwhere are they nowĒ category, fans are moving on, the band canít book shows, and even a puppet show gets first billing over them!While these are all designed to be funny, there is certainly a certain level of truth and commentary that is being made at this moment as certain Ďfadsí come and go according to our taxi driver in the film.We certainly see a transformation from the days of larger than life rock and roll to the more mainstream pop music during this time, 1984 was certainly a time when music was at itís most fluid and bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Queen were now seemingly a thing of the past, a new era of music had arrived, but yet no one really bought into the 80ís, it was comprised of so many one-hit wonders, especially looking back 25 years later.The timing of a film like This is Spinal Tap appears ingenious all the more.††


The film has had a very interesting history throughout the years as well, it was issued as a Criterion 12Ē laserdisc, which was recycled over to DVD for a very short pressing and fans enjoyed the bands commentary on that set, it went out of print very quickly and became a hot commodity on things like eBay.Shortly after that it became apparent that the disc was going to be issued by MGM and that title arrived with supplements as well, although this time a new commentary was issued with the band, this time they are in character and itís just as hilarious as the film!††


To date though none of the releases on home video every really looked that great, the film contains a very rough documentary like to begin with and is shot with the appearance of news clips, archived footage, handheld material, and therefore the 1.85 X 1 framed aspect ratio, even in this 1080p AVC @ 33 MBPS digital High Definition transfer is by default never going to look pristine.Colors are certainly improved here, overall resolution is much sharper, but much of the footage still has the grainy 16mm-like appearance that gives the film itís intended look and that is what we are most excited about.While the sharpness is limited, itís evident very early on that this transfer is about as good as the film will really ever look for home video, if it were any sharper or the resolution was tighter, it would take away from the films rawness.


The sound on the other hand is a greater improvement as we get a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that obliterates all previous versions of the film on any format, the sound here certainly improves upon the lackluster Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was on the MGM DVD, most of the sound here is dialogue in interview-like fashion, so the audio in those portions is appropriately flatter and more up front, but then there are the concert sections where the entire 5.1 mix is utilized and finally we get a fullness and punch that was always missing in previous versions.Most will notice a new level of overall clarity and resolution in the vocals, there is also a depth that is discovered here with low-end presence coming through, especially on tracks like Hell Hole and Big Botton.


The extras are taken from the MGM DVD a few years back, including a very hilarious section of deleted scenes and outtakes that lasts nearly 1-hour, plus the commentary by the band that is a must-listen, there is also 4 of the bands music videos, along with several of the other featurettes and TV-spots/commercials, there is however a bonus DVD (what a DVD?) that includes ďStonehengeĒ as a 2007 performance by the band at the Live Earth Concert, plus a interview with Nigel Tufnel that makes for a nice little addition, why this wasnít just throw onto the Blu-ray is beyond me.


Fans do not need a reason to dump their DVD and take up this new Blu-ray edition of the film, although the Criterion versions are still valuable for their commentary as itís different than the one featured for MGM and will always make that a collectorís item.The Blu-ray certainly improves the film to new heights in the picture and sound category and while the film will always have limitations in that department, itís still great having the film in a High Definition version to show your friends and family, plus the bonus features are funny enough that it makes for a great encore afterwards.


This IS Spinal Tap!



-†† Nate Goss


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