Wednesday, May 14, 2008
DBlock's Great Films #1: This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Every week I will profile a classic film. The first one in this series is "This is Spinal Tap" (1984)
Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins
Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel
Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls
Rob Reiner as Marty DeBergi
Directed by Rob Reiner
Its 1982 and Spinal Tap, proclaimed "One of England's loudest bands", is touring the US in support of their latest album, "Smell of the Glove". Marti DeBergi, a director of television commercials, films the tour and interviews the band members throughout. Topics such as bad reviews of former albums and the various instances of drummers dying under odd circumstances. It is said that one died from a "bizarre gardening accident", another "choked on vomit" (someone else's) and yet another died from "spontaneous combustion". David St. Hubbins, the band's guitarist and lead singer is quickly reports that "Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported."
Spinal Tap, once a popular band that frequently sold-out packed arenas, is now a pretentious has-been band out of the limelight relegated to intimate venues and even Air Force bases. The band members are so innocent that they don't see their declining significance which causes us to feel affection for them. Spinal Tap's concerts are repeatedly canceled due to low ticket sales and it finds itself in a battle with its record label over the sexist cover of "Smell of the Glove". The record label decides to release an all-black record cover to the surprise of the band (reminiscent of The Beatles' "White Album")
The three prominent band members are shown to musically talented but otherwise very stupid. One classic and hilarious scene is when Nigel Tufnel, the band's guitarist, plays a piano piece he came up with to Marti Dibergi. Dibergi, stuck by the beautiful of the piano piece being played asks for its name, Tufnel responds that its called "Lick My Love Pump".
The arrival of St. Hubbins' girlfriend Jeanine throws a wrench in to the already tense tour. Tufnel, who has been friend with St. Hubbins for almost 30 years, seems to have a crush on his best friend and becomes jealous at the sight of her. She becomes a "Yoko" to the band, eventually forcing the band manager and Tufnel to quit near the end of the tour. Both come back as one of their songs, "Sex Farm", is a surprise hit in Japan. Everything is back to normal and the band is enjoying themselves as they find salvation in packed arena's far away from where their old success occurred.
The three main actors and director wrote the screenplay (which was mostly improvized) and songs themselves. The concert scenes of the band are great as the songs are genuinely good and provides some of the movie's funniest scenes such as when Derek Smalls, the band's bassist, is stuck inside a prop and another scene where an error produces a minitaure mock-up of Stonehenge that is almost crushed by a couple of little people on stage.
"This is Spinal Tap" is one of the funniest and most original movies of all time. In its release, it hit too close to home for many rock 'n' roll bands. Singer Tom Waits claimed he cried upon viewing it and Eddie Van Halen has said that when he first saw the film, everyone else in the room with him laughed as he failed to see the humor in the film. I see "This is Spinal Tap" as like a warped episode of "Where Are They Now?". A band's decline is nothing real bands want to see. It played on the stupidity and ego of these bands, for them it took a mocumentary to truly see themselves.