spinaltapbluStudio: MGM Entertainment
Year: 1984
Release Date: July 28, 2009
Run time: 84 minutes
Rating: R

Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD50
Region: A

Director Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) solemnly alerts us to the glory that was Spinal Tap in his introduction to this “rockumentary” about the legendary British heavy-metal group, featuring lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and a succession of drummers whose careers were cut short by spontaneously combusting on their stool, drowning in somebody else’s vomit, or otherwise perishing in untimely fashion. Under DiBergi’s studious interrogation, the band and their familiars retrace the band’s evolution from head-bopping Mersey Beat poseurs to head-banging metal poseurs, each change in musical direction or tonsorial chic having little effect on the surviving trio’s sublime idiocy. For, as St. Hubbins (he’s the “deep” one, relatively speaking) sagely observes, “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

Happily for us, director Reiner, who developed the underlying story line with Guest and former Credibility Gap pranksters McKean and Shearer, stays squarely on the right side of the line, even as his writer-actors remain hilariously trapped on the other side. In lieu of a formal shooting script, the quartet created an extensive and detailed band history ripe with the sort of dead-pan detail that hard-core rock historians and screwball aficionados will savor on countless replays; with the three Tap members also musicians themselves, the “band” developed its stage act under the unsuspecting noses of L.A. club denizens, who accepted them as just as loud, flashy, sexist, and obvious as any other mullet-tressed, leather-garbed brigade of guitar slingers, circa 1984. The resulting footage thus manages to lob its punch lines and build its characters (including some thinly veiled character assassinations of various industry folks) with a loose, tossed-away verve rooted in the improvisational approach. This Is Spinal Tap remains the funniest, and most truthful, look at rock culture ever filmed and a personal best for all involved.

Despite a lean running time of 82 minutes, This Is Spinal Tap manages to lampoon an impressive number of rock and metal cliches. The result is a plethora of classic scenes and one-liners, such as when Spinal Tap’s guitarist shows off his amps to director Marty DiBergi, and brags about how it’s so loud it “goes to 11.” When DiBergi asks why he just doesn’t make 10 louder, the guitarist looks puzzled for a moment before offering his deadpan response: “This one goes to 11.”

Despite its greatness, ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ does suffer a bit from the fact that it pre-dated the heyday of the hair metal explosion, which could have lent itself to some more good gags that seem to be missing from the film. And some of the jokes here have copied so many times they probably don’t seem as fresh as they did more than 20 years ago. But considering, for example,that Spinal Tap’s “black” album pre-dated Metallica’s by seven years, it’s hard to complain too much.
Movie Quality: 9/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are not strong, but are sufficient for a film that is 25 years old and more of a documentary feel. This is a brighter looking color palette, this helps in balancing out the lack of pop. Flesh tones are natural and accurate. Black levels are strong. There is film grain throughout the print which never becomes a hindrance to the image. This print is an upgrade over the previous DVD release which will make fans of the film happy.
Video Quality: 8/10

The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA Lossless 5.1 mix. I was quite impressed with the depth of the dialogue coming through the center channel. Dialogue was clean and clear with no apparent issues. This film has some decent usage of the rears. The concert scenes sounded very good. The soundtrack was dynamic sounding throughout. I was rather surprised by the quality of the audio.
Audio Quality: 8.5/10

Special Features

  • 1 Hour of Deleted Scenes
  • Audio Commentary by the Members of Spinal Tap
  • Catching Up With Marty DiBergi
  • Flower People Press Conference
  • 4 Classic Spinal Tap Music Videos
  • Spinal Tap Appearance on Joe Franklin Show
  • Spinal Tap Sells Cheese
  • Bonus DVD “Stonehenge” Performance at 2007 Live Earth Concert
  • National Geographic Stonehendge

Special Features: 8.5/10

Final Thoughts

‘This Is Spinal Tap’ is a joyful film that having watched this so many years later is just as fun as it was when I first saw this back in the late 80’s. The print on Blu-ray is not going to win any awards, but the audio was a surprise. There is also a nice set of special features included with a bonus DVD of their “Stonehenge” Performance at 2007 Live Earth Concert. Highly recommended for fans.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10