This Is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal Tap
Thisisspinaltapposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Reiner
Produced byKaren Murphy
Written by
Starring
Music by
  • Christopher Guest
  • Michael McKean
  • Harry Shearer
  • Rob Reiner
CinematographyPeter Smokler
Edited by
Distributed byEmbassy Pictures
Release date
  • March 2, 1984 (1984-03-02)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$4.7 million (North America)[2]

This Is Spinal Tap[3] (stylized as This Is Spın̈al Tap) is a 1984 American mockumentary directed and co-written by Rob Reiner. It stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer as members of the fictional British heavy metal band Spinal Tap, and Reiner as Marty Di Bergi, a documentary filmmaker following the band on their US tour.

The film satirizes the behavior and musical pretensions of rock bands and the hagiographic tendencies of rock documentaries such as Gimme Shelter (1970), The Song Remains the Same (1976) and The Last Waltz (1978).[4] Most of the dialogue was improvised and dozens of hours were filmed.

This is Spinal Tap received positive reviews. It was only a modest success upon its initial release but found greater success, and a cult following, after it was released on VHS. In 2002, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry.[5]

Plot

Filmmaker Marty Di Bergi follows the British rock group Spinal Tap on their 1982 United States concert tour to promote their new album Smell the Glove. The band comprises childhood friends David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel on vocals and guitar, bassist Derek Smalls, keyboardist Viv Savage, and drummer Mick Shrimpton.

The band found early success as the Thamesmen with their single "Gimme Some Money", before changing their name and achieving a minor hit with the flower power anthem "Listen to the Flower People", and finally transitioning to heavy metal. Several of their previous drummers died in strange circumstances: spontaneous human combustion, a "bizarre gardening accident", and choking on someone else's vomit.

Tufnel's amplifier dials that go up to eleven; this scene became the origin of the term up to eleven.

Several of the band's shows are canceled because of low ticket sales, and major retailers refuse to sell Smell the Glove because of its sexist cover art. Tensions arise between the band and their manager Ian Faith. David's girlfriend Jeanine, a manipulative yoga and astrology devotee, joins the group on tour and participates in band meetings, influencing their costumes and stage presentation. The band's distributor opts to release Smell the Glove with an entirely black cover without consulting the band. Despite their manager convincing the band that it would have a similar appeal to the White Album, the album fails to draw crowds to autograph sessions with the band.

Nigel suggests staging a lavish show, and asks Ian to order a Stonehenge megalith. However, Tufnel, rushing a sketch on a napkin, mislabels its dimensions; the resulting prop is only 18 inches high, making the group a laughingstock. The group blames Ian, and when David suggests Jeanine should co-manage the group, Ian quits.

The tour continues, rescheduled into smaller and smaller venues. Nigel is marginalized by Jeanine and David. At their next gig, at a United States Air Force base, Nigel is upset by an equipment malfunction and quits mid-performance. At their next gig, in an amphitheater at an amusement park, the band finds their repertoire is severely limited without Nigel, and improvise an experimental "Jazz Odyssey", which is poorly received.

At the last show of the tour, David and Derek consider exploring old side projects, such as a musical theatre production about Jack the Ripper. Before they go on stage, Nigel appears to tell them that their song "Sex Farm" has become a major hit in Japan, and that Ian wants to arrange a tour there. As the band performs, David invites Nigel onstage, reuniting them. With Faith reinstalled as manager, Spinal Tap performs a series of sold-out shows in Japan, despite the loss of drummer Mick, who explodes onstage.