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THIS IS SPINAL TAP (director/writer: Rob Reiner; screenwriters: Christopher Guest/Michael McKean/Harry Shearer; cinematographer: Peter Smokler; editors: Kent Beyda/Kim Secrist; music: Mr. Guest/Mr. McKean/Mr. Shearer/Mr. Reiner; cast: Rob Reiner (Marty DiBerti), Michael McKean (David St. Hubbins), Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel), Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls), R. J. Parnell (Mick Shrimpton), David Kaff (Viv Savage), Patrick MacNee (Sir Denis Eton-Hogg), Angelica Huston (Polly Deutsch), Tony Hendra (Ian Faith), Fran Drescher (Bobbi Flekman), Paul Shaffer (Artie Fufkin), Fred Willard (Colonel On Military Base), Howard Hesseman (Terry Ladd), June Chadwick (Jeanine Pettibone); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Karen Murphy; Embassy Pictures; 1984)
“The satire is ever so refreshingly played straight, is seemingly benign and dead-on funny.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This cultish clever rockumentary is helmed by Rob Reiner (also stars as filmmaker Marty DiBerti) and is written by Mr. Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer; it’s a pseudo documentary that intends to chronicle the comeback American tour of a Brit heavy metal group called Spinal Tap. It’s the first in a long line of mockumentaries to follow suit, with many considering this the best. The satire is based on a one joke idea that seems fit for the length of a TV program but grows too thin to sustain an entire feature film (its major failing).

TV commercial director Marty DiBerti, a long time admirer of Spinal Tap–lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean, guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer)–is on hand to plug their new LP “Smell the Glove,” which their nervous manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) vows will be released on the Philadelphia stop of their tour. Diberti has complete access to the group to do a publicity documentary on the group that’s fallen from favor to the bottom of the charts after such smash albums as “Shark Sandwich,” “Intravenous DeMilo,” “The Sun Never Sweats” and “The Gospel according to Spinal Tap.” After six years, the group goes again on an American tour but with different results.

The band runs into all sorts of obstacles on their tour from shows cancelled, unable to fill the arenas, inadequate props failing, trouble over a sexist album cover of a naked woman led around in a dog collar to smell a black glove that their record company refuses to OK because it won’t be carried in leading department stores, in-store appearances that are not attended, the lead singer’s Yoko Ono-like girlfriend (June Chadwick) casts a spell on the dumb bloke and tries to take over the band, the band has second billing to a puppet show at a fairgrounds and tension builds as the band seems to be on the verge of breaking up due to irrational spats.

The satire is ever so refreshingly played straight, is seeminglybenign and dead-on funny, the comedy is of the skitlike SNL kind and the rambling empty-headed interviews between the tunes are of the wink-wink deadpan humor kind that make use of all the clichés to spoof the airhead heavy metal musicians and the greedy philistine record heads who profit off the so-called art of the so-called artists and the masses who loved the dumb lyrics.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”