This is Spinal Tap was Rob Reiner’s directorial debut and he hit a home-run with this mockumentary. Rob Reiner went on to direct The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men, and Misery amongst others. Not a bad movie resume that! Spinal Tap epitomised the 70’s glam-heavy rock scene which was just going out of vogue in the 80’s. Reiner appears as the interviewer Martin “Marty” Di Bergi who followed them on their American tour.
IMDB Storyline: In 1982, the legendary English heavy metal band Spinal Tap attempt an American comeback tour accompanied by a fan who is also a film-maker. The resulting documentary, interspersed with powerful performances of Tap’s pivotal music and profound lyrics, candidly follows a rock group heading towards crisis, culminating in the infamous affair of the eighteen-inch-high Stonehenge stage prop.
Dozens of hours were filmed for this since it was improvised and satirizes the behaviour and musical pretensions of rock bands and tendencies of rock documentaries to fawn without scepticism the allure of these groups. This is Spinal Tap’s early release achieved little commercial success, but after its VHS release it garnered popularity. It effectively launched a new genre – the mockumentary.
That reminds me of one of my favourite mockumentaries in recent memory People Like Us – a British radio and TV comedy programme, a spoof on-location documentary. If you like Spinal Tap then you will like this short episode from the program.
Wikipedia states about Spinal: The entire film was shot in Los Angeles County, over a period of about five weeks. The visit to Elvis Presley’s grave was filmed in a park in Altadena, with a mock-up of the grave site. The band sings “Heartbreak Hotel” because that was the only Elvis song for which producer Karen Murphy could obtain rights.
In the same vain as Curb Your Enthusiasm (in part a mockumentary style show): Actors were given outlines indicating where scenes would begin and end and character information necessary to avoid contradictions, but everything else came from the actors. As often as possible, the first take was used in the film, to capture natural reactions.
What really impressed me about Spinal Tap was how accomplished they were as musicians and singers. You could actually laugh and at the same time enjoy the music. The irony is after the film opened, several people told Rob Reiner that they loved the film but he should have chosen a more well-known band for a documentary!
For music and movie trivia buffs outs there: ‘Several rock stars have commented on what an uncannily accurate spoof of the rock and heavy metal world this film was. Ozzy Osbourne said when he first watched the film, he was the only person who wasn’t laughing; he thought it was a real documentary. U2 guitarist The Edge said, “I didn’t laugh, I wept. It was so close to the truth.” Marillion had five drummers in the space of a year between their first two albums, which guitarist Steve Rothery later admitted was “like Spinal Tap”.
Below is one of my favourite scenes from Spinal Tap, although there are many, when we need that extra push over the cliff…: