This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

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I wonder what's down there. Actually, I don't. Because I know.
I wonder what’s down there. Actually, I don’t. Because I know.

Twitter Plot Summary: The return of a rock band in the midst of their decline from grace. Funny stuff happens to them.

Five Point Summary:

1. “You can’t dust for vomit.”
2. “…but this goes up to 11.”
3. Cucumber at the airport.
4. Stonehenge is 6″ tall.
5. An upbeat finale. Next stop: Japan!

This Is Spinal tap remains one of the funniest films ever made, whether you are a fan of rock/metal music or not, although obviously those of us that have a penchant for a bit of heavy metal are likely to get more out of it. Lovingly spoofing serious rock documentaries, we follow dog food commercial director Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) as he documents Spinal Tap’s first tour of the United States in six years. A band on the decline, the Tap have to face a multitude of problems on the tour, from cancelled gigs to stage-related mishaps to not being able to find the stage (rock and roll!). The band comprise of lead guitarist David St Hubbins (McKean), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnell (Guest) and bass guitarist Derek Smalls (Shearer), with added support from current drummer Mick Shrimpton (Parnell) and keyboard player Viv Savage (Kaff).

Much of the film’s content has since passed into the modern lexicon, none more so than Nigel Tufnell’s Marshall amp which goes up to 11 rather than the standard 10. “Going up to 11” has since become a living phrase in itself to indicate pushing something to the extreme. Or by just going one louder than ten. Almost every other aspect of the story is based on the real exploits of rock and metal bands of the era, which adds an element of realism to proceedings. It’s easy to see real bands enduring similar problems, although all of them happening to the same band is perhaps a touch unlikely. Then again, there are many aspects of this film that later played out to a similar degree in the real life documentary about Canadian metal band Anvil, proving if there was any doubt that there was more than a hint of reality to the situation.

Typical rock n roll.
Typical rock n roll.

The most amusing recurring gag is the numerous deaths and accidents that have previously befallen Tap’s multitude of drummers, from spontaneous combustion to choking on vomit (not their own). Suffice to say, it seems almost inevitable that their current drummer will meet an untimely end. It also helps that the music, whilst not lyrically serious in the slightest, is as good as the material from the bands they are spoofing. In some cases that means it’s a very silly and not entirely appropriate in a music sense, but again fits in with the inherent silliness as portrayed by the band. Talking of which the band are loveable in their stupidity, simply because they remain resolutely innocent and unaware of half of the daft things they’re saying. Further adding to the humour is that the cast, all American, put on some superb deadpan English accents.

Spinal Tap may begin the film on the decline, but the finale is as triumphant as it gets, a potential tour of Japan on the cards and the possible escape from their steady decline into mediocrity. Whilst dealing with interfering girlfriends and a love triangle, for want of a better term between St Hubbins, Tufnell and Janine, the aforementioned girlfriend of St Hubbins, plus Smalls and his cucumber smuggling, you have a perfect spoof of rock and roll excess.

Score: 5/5

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