This Is Spinal Tap

Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Black Comedy Disc 1:
Main Menu Audio & Intro Animation 
Audio Commentary-Derek Smalls (Character), David St. Hubbins (Character) & Nigel Tufnel (Character)

Disc 2:
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-Catching Up With Marty DiBergi (5:01)
Deleted Scenes ("Rare Outtakes") - 65:04
Featurette-Flower People Press Conference (1:49)
Featurette-Spinal Tap on "The Joe Franklin Show" (1:56)
Music Video-Gimme Some Money
Music Video-(Listen To The) Flower People
Music Video-Hell Hole
Music Video-Big Bottom
Theatrical Trailer
Soundtrack Promo-Heavy Metal Memories
Trailer-Cheese Rolling
TV Spots (3)
Commercials-Rock and Rolls (3)

Year Released 1983
Running Time
(not 83 minutes as stated on the packaging)
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1: No/No
Disc 2: Dual Layered
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Rob Reiner

Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Christopher Guest 
Michael McKean 
Harry Shearer 
Rob Reiner 
June Chadwick 
Tony Hedra 
Bruno Kirby
Case Transparent Amaray with insert
RPI $34.95 Music Spinal Tap

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s) 
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles French
Annoying Product Placement Yes, slightly
Action In or After Credits Yes, throughout

Plot Synopsis

    This Is Spinal Tap is a magnificent and classic look at the gradual fall from grace of the heavy metal band Spinal Tap, reputedly the greatest and LOUDEST heavy metal band in the history of the genre. Recorded in fly-on-the-wall style by acclaimed director Marty DiBergi, this "rockumentary" follows the boys from Spinal Tap on their tour of America. We get to see the band "warts and all" as this tour doesn't go the way they expect, and are provided with an intimate insight into the band members' personal lives and loves.

    This Is Spinal Tap has rapidly gained cult status among the rockumentary genre, and for good reason. Poignant, intimate, funny and ultimately uplifting, you are never likely to see a better or more detailed insight into all that is Spinal Tap.

    HUGE PLOT SPOILER - ONLY HIGHLIGHT WITH MOUSE IF YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN THIS ROCKUMENTARY: Yes, I know This Is Spinal Tap is satire and the band is not real as such, but half the fun in seeing this movie for the first time is finding this out for yourself. It is so well done that it takes a while for this to become apparent, and I have no intention of spoiling this for you. The DVD is presented in such a way as to perpetuate this illusion as far as possible, and so I will respect this perspective in the remainder of the review.

Transfer Quality


    The quality of this transfer is reflective of the original 16mm source material, and as such is relatively imperfect.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    On my reference DVD player, there was a consistent pause and slight skip in the image at 46:50 - this was not apparent on another DVD player that I tried this DVD in.

    The transfer is not overly sharp, but is certainly sharp enough to reveal far more detail in the image than I have ever seen before in VHS viewings of this movie. Grain is a significant problem for this transfer. Some grain is deliberate special effect, such as the numerous TV flashbacks, but other grain appears to be inherent in the print, and certainly well-and-truly shows up the 17 years of age that this movie is. Motion is problematic for this transfer, with any rapid camera motion leading to quite dramatic loss in image detail.

    Shadow detail is generally quite limited, with blacks being indistinct and detail-less. Low level noise is not an issue.

    Colours in this transfer were relatively vibrant and strongly saturated, without ever being oversaturated or bleeding.

    Whilst I did not notice any MPEG artefacts whilst watching this transfer in real time, they never appeared to be too far away from breaking out, mainly due to the copious amounts of grain in the transfer that the compression has to cope with. Pausing the image could easily demonstrate subtle background macro-blocking. This movie has been compressed onto a single layer DVD, and would perhaps have looked better if it were allowed the luxury of being compressed onto a dual layered DVD.

    Aliasing was never an issue with this DVD, and neither were film artefacts, which were remarkably absent from this transfer, having clearly been carefully removed. Occasional subtle bursts of film artefacts were seen, but these were totally non-distracting, and would have been totally missed had I not been looking out for them. There was a vertical scratch in the image between 69:41 - 69:44 and some image wobble during the end credits was slightly distracting (such as at 75:07).

    The first frame in many scenes exhibited a slight vertical jump as a result of the film editing process, but I did not find this overly distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only the one audio sountrack on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 5.1. An audio commentary is also present. I listened to both.

    The dialogue was always easy to hear and understand, although it did have a somewhat dated, monophonic sound about it. Audio sync was never a problem.

    A loud pop was heard at 37:17.

    The music (by Spinal Tap) has been aggressively rendered in stereo with some surround ambient spill. Indeed, sometimes I felt that the difference in fidelity between the dialogue and the music was too dramatic, as was the aggressively wide front soundstage created by the musical mix. Some of the music was a little light on in the center channel, making the vocals a tad difficult to make out at times.

    Other than the aforementioned spill from the music, the surround channels had very little action indeed. I was a little disappointed in this aspect of the transfer, as I felt that the surrounds could have been used at times to create additional ambience.

    The subwoofer was highly active during the musical sequences, as is to be expected, but silent at other times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are a copious selection of extras on this DVD, all presented in keeping with the Spinal Tap ethos.


    The main menu features an extremely amusing and appropriate introductory animation, followed by some suitable musical underscoring.

Audio Commentary (Derek Smalls-Character, David St. Hubbins-Character & Nigel Tufnel-Character

    This is mixed with Derek in the center channel, David panned mid-right and Nigel panned mid-left. This creates a nice separation between the speakers without seeming artificially extreme.

    By the nature of this commentary, there is little in the way of technical information presented. However, if you approach it more in the vein of a second soundtrack to the movie, you will be well-pleased with the results.

Menu Audio

Featurette-Catching Up With Marty DiBergi (5:01)

    This extra is very much a "where is he now" featurette. It has a very odd sound to it, with equal volumes coming from all speakers. Some of the dialogue is distorted.

Deleted Scenes ("Rare Outtakes") - 65:04

    Extensive unused footage - almost like being given another version of the movie to watch. The quality is variable, from acceptable to very poor, and the audio sync is also variable, often being dramatically out.

Featurette-Flower People Press Conference (1:49)

Featurette-Spinal Tap on "The Joe Franklin Show" (1:56)

Music Video-Gimme Some Money

Music Video-(Listen To The) Flower People

Music Video-Hell Hole

Music Video-Big Bottom

Theatrical Trailer

Soundtrack Promo-Heavy Metal Memories

Trailer-Cheese Rolling

TV Spots (3)

Commercials-Rock and Rolls (3)

    I'm sure I recall these from the many hours of TV that I watched as a youngster.

R4 vs R1

    There are two versions of this DVD available in Region 1. The initial Criterion Collection release, now out of print and a collector's item, and the MGM remastered re-release. The only missing extra between the R1 MGM version and the R4 MGM version appears to be an omitted photo gallery from the R4 version.

    The Criterion Collection out-of-print version has a number of unique extras, the two key ones being two audio commentaries from;

  1. Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, and
  2. Rob Reiner, Karen Murphy (Producer), Robert Leighton (Editor) and Kent Beyda (Editor)
    However, the Criterion Collection DVD is not 16x9 enhanced, is far poorer visually than the MGM version and does not have a remastered 5.1 audio soundtrack.

    When comparing versions of this movie, it is reasonable to state that the MGM versions are equivalent, but any true die-hard Spinal Tap fan should have both the MGM version and the Criterion Collection version (and no, my one is NOT for sale).


    This Is Spinal Tap is an amazing movie, beautifully presented. It belongs in your collection as the ultimate example of the rockumentary genre.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
30th October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Loewe Xemix 5006DD/Lenoxx DVD-9000,  using RGB/S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the RGB/S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Denon AVD-1000 DTS AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer