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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1984
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 83 Minutes
Genre: Comedy/Music

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, June Chadwick, Bruno Kirby
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Music by: Spinal Tap
Written by: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 28, 2009

"The world's loudest band comes to Blu-ray"

Film Synopsis:

In 1982 legendary British heavy metal band Spinal Tap attempt an American comeback tour accompanied by a fan who is also a film-maker. The resulting documentary, combined with powerful performances of Spinal Tap's pivotal music and profound lyrics, candidly follows a rock group heading towards crisis, culminating in the infamous affair of the 18-inch-high Stonehenge stage prop surrounded by dancing midgets.

My Take:

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, star as Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls, AKA Spinal Tap! Satirizing the wild personal behavior and musical pretensions of classic rock bands, This is Spinal Tap presents a second-rate band made up of aging members who are desperately trying to cling onto what little fame they used to have. Rob Reiner stars as Rocumentary filmmaker Marti Dibergi who captures the band on their first U.S. Tour in years as they promote the upcoming release of their new album Smell the glove.

As a fan of director Rob Reiner's films I am deeply ashamed to admit that I had never seen This is Spinal Tap before receiving if from Fox for review. I have heard about it and knew it was popular but for some reason it never crossed my path and my interest in what I thought was a run of the mill rock band documentary film was never high enough to warrant further investigation. Well I couldn't have been more wrong. What an incredibly entertaining and at times uproariously funny movie! The thing that I find so entertaining is the way in which its humor and characters are integrated. It has an almost daft innocence that is never directly in your face but arises from situations that aren't overtly abnormal on the surface but as presented from the perspectives of David, Nigel, Derek, Ian, and Marti can truly be a trip. There is a host of laugh out loud moments that still have me chuckling to myself. Listening to Nigel as he shows Marti his guitar collection and amplifier that has a gain control that goes up to 11.The band working their way to the stage in Cleveland. The Stonehenge stage prop followed by the dancing little people. Derek onstage cocoon failure as well as his metal detector fiasco at the airport. These are just to name a few and don't include the bygone era flashbacks of the band or the strange status of all of their past drummers. Everything from the pumped hair to the vulgar lyrics presents a richly satirical perspective on an over the hill rock band that has evolved and survived in a difficult business for nearly two decades. Their attempt at a comeback is thwarted by their inept behavior, inability to see themselves for what they are at this stage in their careers, and a bit of bad luck.

At 83 minutes it is paced perfectly as no time feels wasted. McKean, Guest, and Shearer are simply brilliant. I think Nigel (Guest) is my favorite. His meltdown over the sandwiches, Mozart/Bach inspired piano ballad Lick me love pump and his design for the Stonehenge stage prop (plus his other contributions that may have been previous mentioned) had me in stitches. Rob Reiner incorporates a series of well placed supporting cameos that add to the hilarity. This includes appearances by Billy Crystal, Ed Begley Jr., Howard Hesseman, Angelica Huston, Fred Willard, Patrick Macnee, Paul Benedict, Fran Drescher, and Bruno Kirby. When I was finished watching this I told my wife and kids about it. They wanted to see it so I sat and watched it again with them and the kids thought it was a hoot. I guess it would be fair to say that I really enjoyed This is Spinal Tap. It only took me twenty five years to see it but the wait was worth it.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for thematic material and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 84

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 74

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

This is Spinal Tap comes to Blu-ray Disc from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3 mbps.

Having never seen this film before I have no frame of reference with which to compare this rendering to. I can say that it is clearly obvious that this isn't the type of source that is going to offer glistening clarity and eye popping detail. The video has a distinctively soft aura that prevents the perception of fine detail and deep image penetration. Resolution is stable with consistent and lackluster imagery that rarely resembles high definition. Colors aren't overly vibrant or bright however they appear naturally rendered. I found fleshtones to be a little on the pink side but otherwise naturally depicted. Blacks and shadow detail are adequate and coincide with the other aspects of the presentation. Grain is noticeably present and provides an occasionally gritty backdrop that I didn't find terribly objectionable. I detected pockets of noise against a few light backgrounds but I think it was mildly exacerbated by grain which highlighted its presence. From what I could tell this is a faithful presentation that doesn't show any outward signs of digital manipulation.

I was impressed with the quality of this lossless high resolution audio mix. The concert sequences feature lively dynamic presence, active use of the surround platform, and palpable low level bass that occasionally energized the room. The drum roll that opens chapter two starts at the rear of the room and progresses toward the front as the drummer rolls the toms from high to low. The guitars and keyboards sound incredibly nuanced and smooth. Mid bass frequencies and the beat of the snare drum had full body and defining textured. The lower bass frequencies and kick drum provide good tactile response that never sounds bloated or slow. The vocals are firmly planted in the center channel and are at just the right volume within the mix to be clearly distinct without overemphasis or edginess. The soundstage is wide with excellent directional spacing, acoustic presence and good rear channel immersion. The non-concert related scenes didn't have the same feeling of dynamic potential however it really wasn't necessary. Dialogue was rendered clearly and was always intelligible. The surrounds were engaged here and there to provide ambient background sounds and light spatial dimension. This is an interesting audio presentation that contains two audibly different mixes. This isn't a bad thing though as the blend works effectively and sounds great.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by members of Spinal Tap

  • Catching up with Marti Dibergi - Featuring Rob Reiner (5 minutes)

  • 14 rare outtakes

  • Vintage Tap material - Flower people press conference & Spinal Tap on The Joe Franklin Show

  • Music Videos: Hell hole, Big bottom, Flower people, Gimme some money

  • Promotional materials - Heavy metal memories, 3 TV spots,

  • Commercials

  • Disc 2

  • Exclusive Bonus DVD:

  • Stonehenge - A performance at the 2007 Live Earth Concert

  • National Geographic Stonehenge interview with Nigel Tufnel

Final Thoughts:

This is Spinal Tap is a wonderfully original and funny comedy that pokes fun at the rock bands of old. Writer/Director Rob Reiner and his co-writing partners Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer who also star in the movie do a great job and provide plenty of memorable moments. It is considered by many to be a classic film and after watching it twice within a 24 hour period I would have to say that I agree whole heartedly. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Fox boasting an excellent assortment of extra features and a rousing DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix. Its high definition video presentation won't show off the capabilities of your large 1080p display but it does appear to be a faithful rendering that will purists will appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend that you give it a spin.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)

Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen

Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)

Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

678 Posts

It would seem as though you've never seen this flick Ralph. I must say that back in the day, true, diehard rockers really frowned upon this movie as..well, sacrilegious. For you to watch it twice in a day makes me want to revisit it. Thanks for another informative review.

7,557 Posts
Ralph, I also saw this for the first time only a few years ago. Definitely a classic! Looking forward to the BD.

8,253 Posts

You NEVER saw Spinal Tap? Wow!

Glad you enjoyed it. One of my fave comedies & to me still the best of the Guest mockumentaries.

Your review has me seriously considering getting this on BD. I have kept a tight hold on my long OOP Criterion DVD, due mainly to the trove of bonus materials that the more recent MGM re-issue was lacking in spots. The Criterion commentary w/ McKean, Shearer & Guest as "themselves" (not in character) was great & very informative (a lot of the film was ad-libbed & during DeBegi's bit reading off old reviews of Tap albums to the band.....the reactions from Tap are very real as the actors apparently had no idea what Reiner was going to say).

While I will still cling to my Criterion disc, a BD re-buy will net me anamorphic widescreen & far superior audio.

Thanks for the review.

8,253 Posts

Originally Posted by johndn /forum/post/16903344


It would seem as though you've never seen this flick Ralph. I must say that back in the day, true, diehard rockers really frowned upon this movie as..well, sacrilegious.

Real rock acts have Tap moments quite a bit. Part of the rockers taking offense back then was mainly because a lot of the stuff they did in the film had actually happened to real bands in the past. Reiner, Guest, et al just took real stories & put them in the film.

While I'm fan of acts like Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull and the like, more often than not, those songs trigger memories of Tap tunes a lot.

The recent Iron Maiden Flight 666 film, for example. During one concert clip, the costumed Eddie mascot comes out on stage as always. Part of the costume's pyro & mechanincal FX, however, stop working. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson is clearly seen laughing at the tech issue taking place - and I imagine visions of Spinal Tap are dancing thru Bruce's head @ that very moment.

82 Posts
"This Blu-Ray release is so awesome, so much so that you ask yourself, 'how much more awesome could it be?' and the answer in none..... none... more awesome."

Seriously, this is mandatory viewing for any musician, and definitely worth a watch even if you aren't, if only to see the origin of the "11" meme. And to anyone who enjoyed Spinal Tap, keep a lookout for a movie called Anvil: The Story of Anvil. It's very similar, the main difference being that it's actually true.

781 Posts
Thanks for the review.

Blu ray reviews DO NOT need to compare to DVD any more than DVD reviews compared to VHS. If you are concerned about buying the blu ray to replace the DVD - there are other places to find that information. Or post a thread in the Blu Ray section.

Ralph - bang up job, as always. You are the only reviewer I actually read any more.

Premium Member
21,004 Posts
The thread has been cleaned up of some of bickering comments, inwhich one was down right nasty. I won't put words in Ralph's mouth, but the AVS reviews are an overview of the BR disc which includes

Picture Quality

Audio Quality

Overview of extras

General film review relating to the movie itself

No one is expected to agree with everything any reviewer says, but to call the hardwork that Ralph puts in "worthless" is out of line and not appreciated at AVS. Ralph, along with the other moderators are unpaid volunteers giving their hours to help the ownership with AVS. The personal unpaid time Ralph puts into every review puts the rest of us to shame.

If you are looking for comparisons, then visit the BR software forum...which we have several members that take their personal time to help the rest of us see a screen shot comparison. This area is NOT for that focus.

I apologize to Ralph for stepping in...but he is too nice of person, so I'll play the role of the "bad cop".

8,253 Posts
Both sorry & not sorry to have missed the need for a "bad cop" here.

Keep on keepin' on Ralph - always great reviews of the BLU RAY DISCS here.
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