#TBT: This Is Spinal Tap Is the Funniest Movie About Metal Ever Made
Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. It's Valentine's Day, TBT number 59, and I plan on spending it with a "Big Bottom". With the only 8/11 on IMDB, what else could we be talking about besides This Is Spinal Tap?
THIS IS SPINAL TAP
Release Date: March 1984
Back in 2001, Roger Ebert lauded This Is Spinal Tap as being "one of the funniest films ever made." And, 18 years after Ebert's review, I can reflect the exact same sentiment. Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), David St. Hubbard (Michael McKean) star as three clueless, shaggy-haired British rock-stars who comprise the butt-rock musical group Spinal Tap. Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner) stars as in the meta role as a documentary film maker who follows Spinal Tap around during the band's rise, and demise, from 'small potatoes' to arena-filling success.
Upon re-watching the movie (for the millionth time) for the purposes of this TBT, I found myself sincerely laughing throughout the entirety of the film. The absurdity of the characters and struggle of their journey to stardom is just as funny and relevant as it ever was. Check out this scene depicting Di Beri and Tufnel sharing an intimate moment in between the lads gallivanting on tour as the new metal sensation Spinal Tap:
The humor is so unique and cunning and the chemistry between the actors is so believable, that upon release, many movie-goers thought the film wasn't a 'mock'umentary at all. The music, a superlative of metal/rock fashions of the time, was so popular that Spinal Tap (whose music was actually played by the Guest, McKean, and Smalls) became a semi-real band. Check out one of Spinal Tap's big hits "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight":
In a 2018 interview on his late-night talk show, Stephen Colbert called Michael McKean "comedically immortal" for This Is Spinal Tap, citing that the movie "almost single-handedly created a genre". If you've ever seen any other movies from the same host of actors such as Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, or A Mighty Wind, you'll agree that the mockumentary-style was the perfect vehicle for highlighting the hyperbole in story-telling. This Is Spinal Tap had almost no screenplay and McKean, Guest, and Shearer improvised most of the lines. Knowing that, consider the sheer brilliance of this next scene with Tufnel, St. Hubbard, and Smalls recalling the drummers that Spinal Tap has had in their line-up:
In the Colbert interview, McKean talks about how This Is Spinal Tap came to be, "Initially, we were given a small chunk of money to make a screen play, and we said 'nuh-uh', and we made a demo version of what we wanted to do. So we got alotta our friends who improvise – Tony Hendra, and Richard Belzar, and Rob Reiner, and we made a 20-minute version with our own bucks and eventually made a sale."
In 2002, This Is Spinal Tap was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry because it is a film that is considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.
If you've always wondered where the phrase "but this one goes to 11" comes from, the oft quoted and infamous line from the movie, wonder no more. Here's a clip of that very scene:
Even though I know this line is coming, that whole part is remarkably hilarious and I don't think the punchline alone carries the absurdity of the scene. That steady, dead-pan, comedic pacing of that clip courses throughout the entirety of movie. The 84-minute run-time of the film was sussed out from over 100 hours of impov-rich footage.
With that in mind I sincerely hope for you, my dear readers, that This Is Spinal Tap hasn't been satirized to the point that the original content material holds no interest or value to you anymore. The movie is the very definition of iconic and has been a point of reference within the music and metal industry for 34 years now. However, like I said I watched it again and enjoyed it all over again. Almost the entire movie is quotable or memorable for the dialogue or visual gags. In case you needed more convincing to curl up with Spinal Tap this Valentine's Day, here's one of the funniest scenes in the movie involving a smaller than anticipated stage prop for their cult-worshipping devilish track "Stonehenge":