This Is Spinal Tap

Year: 1984
Production Co: Spinal Tap Productions
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: Rob Reiner
Cast: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Ed Begley Jr, Fran Drescher, Billy Crystal, Howard Hesseman, Anjelica Huston, Fred Willard

People the western world over know the Jaws theme, the context of the line 'go ahead, make my day' and the refrain 'that's not a knife'. In the strange osmosis that sometimes happens, lines or motifs from movies leach into our cultural and media consciousness to the extent that more people know about them and what they mean than have seen the movies they're from.

In the same way, when describing how something is so extreme it breaks the boundaries of the usual parameters for its operation, we'll often describe it as 'going up to eleven'.

I wonder if all the people who've ever said but haven't seen the film realise the intent of the joke - that Spinal Tap bassist Nigel Tufnel (Guest) is so breathtakingly stupid he can't conceive of documentarian Marty DiBergi's (Reiner) suggestion to just make the whole scale louder than it is. Tufnel doesn't understand or care, all he knows is that it's louder than it's supposed to be, and he's in a rock band - excess is his reason for being. That's also the reason he calls a classical piano piece Lick My Love Pump.

Every film movement has a progenitor and This Is Spinal Tap gave birth to the mockumentary genre that's still in rude health 25 years later. The premise isn't complicated - documentary maker DiBergi follows a British heavy metal band as they tour the world, make music, have creative differences, fall out and make up and (still one of the funniest sequences in film history) exude manic energy backstage shouting 'rock and roll' while getting completely lost because they have no idea where the stage is.

There's too many hilarious lines to even scratch the surface if you're trying to explain it to someone who hasn't seen it, and it says something of the enduring influence of the movie that the stars' Internet Movie Database photos are of them in their Spinal Tap garb despite very successful careers in film and TV since.

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