Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: This is Spinal Tap

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 8, 2000

It’s not my fault that Stanley Kubrick’s last film was bad, and don’t hold it against me because I’m not as old as Stanley Kubrick.

Special features

Commentary Track8
Deleted Scenes8
Music Video6

This take-off on bands like Queen worked pretty well, although some of the satirical songs didn’t even go as far overboard as the originals did. Yeah, I know they were supposed to be just ‘bad’, but there’s nothing so pretend bad that you can’t find something worse done for real. But make no mistake: this is a hilarious rock-and-roll send-up, and a great DVD.

DirectorRob Reiner
WritersHarry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating8
  • Enhanced Widescreen

I really wanted to diss this disk. I mean, they forgot to put in the ‘subtitles’ that were in the original, and when they discovered that, obviously, they had used the wrong print of the film, they just went and put fake fake subtitles where the real titles were! What else did they forget that couldn’t be fixed on the cheap?

But the moment you put this disk in the drive, you know these are people who understand what the hell Spinal Tap is. The opening menu has two of the band members talking about the menu as it progresses, and it is side-splittingly funny. One of the printed “extras” is a coupon for $11 off at Guitar Center! The content creators knew what Spinal Tap was all about. Now, if only MGM also understood what the hell DVD is all about: this is yet another disk with “Last Memo” disabled. Also, the unskippable studio opener detracts a bit from the really cool “Spinal Tap” menu sequence. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. It’s supposed to open up quietly, instead it opens up with a lion’s roar.

The “movie” is a documentary of the band’s “Smell the Glove” comeback tour. Rob Reiner directs, and appears in the film as filmmaker Marty DiBergi, the “in-character” director of “This is Spinal Tap”. It follows Spinal Tap’s welcome party from Polymer Records, up to the end-of-tour party when they decide to write their “Jack the Ripper” musical “Saucy Jack”. It’s hilarious all the way through, interspersed with scenes from Spinal Tap’s “mophead” and “psychedelic” past. It is all very real, and probably the way many of us would act if we were thrust accidentally into stardom in the sixties and managed to actually stay together, which is probably the only unrealistic part of the backstory! If you’re a fan of Jethro Tull, Blue Oyster Cult, Queen, AC/DC, and more, you’ll find something to laugh about in this heavy metal send-up.

The commentary track is not your standard commentary track. You don’t learn anything about how the movie was made in real life. The commentary is by the actors for the band members, in character. So they’re talking about how “Marty DiBergi” did a hatchet-job on them, how the turning point was when they got lost going from the dressing room to the stage. A friend of mine said “that would make it a whole other movie”, and that’s what it is. You’re basically getting two movies on this DVD!

The concert footage is available separately as “music videos”, so you can see “Big Bottom” and “Hell Hole” on their own, as well as the full versions of “Gimme Some Money” and “Listen to the Flower People”. Honestly, all of them except “Big Bottom” (which is too much a poor version of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls”) could have been real.

Another “in-character” extra is the interview with “Marty DiBergi” sixteen years after the movie was made, with Marty (Rob Reiner) begging Hollywood for work. It’s funny and worth watching. There is also a “press conference” with the band, as part of the promotion on “Flower People”, and an appearance on the Joe Franklin Show. The press conference was great, the Joe Franklin piece was far too short, just about a minute, basically the tail end of a larger interview.

The trailers are really cool, especially the one done up like a “K-Tel” ad for “Heavy Metal Memories”, a compilation of Spinal Tap songs. Some great song titles in there, some of them from the Spinal Tap albums. There are also some advertisements for “Rock ‘n Roll” filled rolls for hungry people on the go, that mostly fall flat.

There are a fourteen deleted scenes, making up just over an hour, some of which are very funny. One of the best is the “corruption” of their limo driver, the Frank Sinatra fan.

If I have any complaints about this DVD (and I always have complaints, nothing wrong with that, everything can always be better even if it’s already great), it is that while there is all this great “in-character” stuff, there isn’t anything about the movie itself. No documentary about the making of the movie, no commentary with Rob Reiner actually talking about why he made the choices he did. As much fun as the in-character extras are (and they’re great), I do like hearing about the movies I’ve enjoyed, especially ones as well-made as “Spinal Tap”.

Anyway, buy this or rent it, but if you rent it, make sure you have lots of time to watch all the extras, because they’re all worth it. If you’re at all a fan, I recommend purchase.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorRob Reiner
WritersHarry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner
ActorsHarry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Interviews, Music Video, Trailer
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