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  • 1.75:1 Widescreen
  • English Dolby Surround
  • 1 Disc
  • Audio Commentary by Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest
  • Audio Commentary by Rob Reiner, Karen Murphy, Robert Leighton, and Kent Beyda
  • 32 Deleted Scenes
  • Twenty-minute demo reel
  • "Heavy Metal Memories" and "Hell Hole" promotional shorts
  • Industry Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer

This is Spinal Tap

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Rob Reiner
Starring: Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner, June Chadwick, Tony Hendra, Bruno Kirby, Fran Drescher, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Ed Begley, Jr., Patrick Macnee, Howard Hesseman, Anjelica Huston, Fred Willard
1984 | 83 Minutes | Licensor: New Line Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #12 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 7, 1998
Review Date: October 12, 2008

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Rob Reiner's directorial debut has developed into a cult phenomenon. The film that invented the "rockumentary" has now outlasted most of the bands it mocked. Following the ill-fated American comeback tour of an aging heavy metal group, this film has joined the ranks of the greatest comedies ever made.

Forum members rate this film 8.6/10


Discuss the film and DVD here   


On their only single-layer, double-sided disc Criterion presents This is Spinal Tap on the first side of the disc in the aspect ratio of 1.70:1. The image has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The image doesnít look great but it suits the look of the film for the most part. The digital transfer isnít great showing plenty of artifacts (the last shot taken below looks rather blocky) and itís even worse when zooming in on widescreen televisions. Colours actually look pretty good overall with decent saturation (not counting sequences that are purposely over-saturated) and blacks are pretty deep. Sharpness and detail is okay, though looks a little blotchy thanks to some of the noise and the fact the film itself does have a somewhat soft look.

The print looks a little rough, with plenty of debris and marks and heavy grain. Of course the film is going for a documentary look so I canít really fault it in this regard.

As a whole it looks okay. The MGM special edition (and Iím sure it will be the same for the upcoming MGM re-release on DVD and Blu-Ray) presented a similar transfer except it was enhanced for widescreen televisions (and was also presented closer to 1.78:1) and it had fewer artifacts. For the transfer alone one is better off going with that MGM release or waiting on the new one, especially since this disc, long discontinued, can still go for a fair amount on E-Bay. The Criterion edition presents the filmís intended look just fine but the anamorphic transfer on the MGM DVD does look a little better and Iím sure the upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray releases may also look much better.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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The Dolby Surround track is actually a nice a little surprise. While the vast majority of the film sticks to the fronts and remains quiet (for the most part) the concert sequences use the speakers quite effectively.

The general sequences present strong spoken dialogue with little in the way of distortion or noise. Range is pretty good, but the track sounds much better during concert sequences where the volume picks up and the surrounds are put into use. Music and the sound of the screaming crowds pass to the back speakers and the environment actually comes off quite effective. Audio quality overall is quite good.

The MGM DVD presented a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which sounded a little better but Iíve never felt there was ever a true discernable difference. Either discís audio will please fans in the end Iím sure.



As I mentioned before this edition of This is Spinal Tap went out of print many years ago. Up until recently it looked like the supplements found on here were going to remain exclusive to this release, though according to a recent announcement the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release may contain not only the supplements found on the previous MGM DVD, but the supplements found on this Criterion edition as well, which may make this DVD less sought after.

On side 1, accompanying the movie, we get two commentaries. One by the band (Guest, McKean and Shearer) and the other by the crew (Reiner, producer Karen Murphy and editors Robert Leighton and Kent Beyda).

Of the two I think I preferred the band commentary. The MGM DVD has a rather amusing commentary track where the three perform in character. The Criterion edition, which was recorded many years before the MGM one, presents the three reminiscing on making the film. This is a rare early Criterion commentary because everyone is grouped together in the same room (most of the tracks Iíve come across from Criterionís early laserdisc days has all participants recorded separately.) This makes for some good anecdotes and funny some back and forth comments. I found it amusing (as they also did) that they have trouble recalling everything, especially since the track was recorded for the Criterion laserdisc maybe no more than 15 years after the film was made. The three make for great participants and keep the track going, providing some good laughs.

The second track by the production crew is another excellent commentary, but since itís far more technical itís not as fun as the cast commentary. This one has each member recorded separately (although the editors appear to be recorded together). They offer many production notes, and where they got some ideas and found cast members. I have to say, though, that the most interesting aspect of the commentary is where the two editors talk about cutting what sounds like hours of footage down to 82-minutes. More technical overall but still quite interesting to listen to.

The second side of the disc, Side 2, presents the remaining supplements. The biggest would be the 1 hour and 20-minutes worth of deleted scenes included. You can watch them all through or choose them separately, divided amongst 32 chapters. Itís made up primarily of sequences that were mentioned in the commentaries (including the real reason behind those lip soars.) The MGM release also contained deleted scenes, close to an hourís worth as well, but amazingly most of the scenes were different than what is presented on this release. I remember always hearing that there were much longer versions of the film (this is even mentioned in the commentary tracks) but had trouble believing it. Well, after going through the Criterion and MGM DVDs I am more prone to believe it. While I remember there being some cross over (I remember the bit where Bruno Kirby gets stoned is on both, along with a sequence where the band reads a line for a radio stationóthough the MGM was missing the naked groupie), thereís about 2-hours worth of deleted scenes between the two releases. Not all of the sequences found on here are gold, but there are some funny bits and they are most definitely worth looking at.

There are two trailers included. One is an industrial trailer, which is what is shown to theater owners. Here Reiner begs and pleads to play his movie because he doesn't want to go back to TV. And when he should show a scene from the movie he shows a cheese rolling clip instead. The theatrical trailers is Reiner begging people to see his movie and he shows the cheese rolling footage again.

A demo reel is also included. This is what was used to show the studio heads what they were planning on doing. The film is in incredibly rough shape and I don't know if anything could have actually been done to repair it but it is still watchable. It runs about 20 minutes and contains some of the same jokes used in the movie.

There are also some promotional shorts contained on the disc. You get a music video for "Hell Hole" which I'm guessing could have premiered on MTV. It is a funny video but the joke is is that it doesn't really look any different from any other rock video at the time. Next is an ad for a "Best of Spinal Tap" album called "Heavy Metal Memories". This has the group in druid outfits telling you how great this album is.

A booklet by Peter Occhiogrosso, author of the book "Inside Spinal Tap", which has actually been discontinued (again) recently. He writes about the band as if they were real, adding yet again that documentary feel to the disc.

This was an early release for Criterion (spine #12) and was a port from their laserdisc. It was an impressive release then and is still pretty good even by todayís standards. I think for the supplements alone the disc was worth picking up, if one could find it cheap on auction sites. But since it looks like the upcoming MGM DVD/Blu-Ray release will contain the supplements found on here, and will probably be cheaper than what it can go for on E-Bay, people will just want to wait for that release.



The soundtrack sounds pretty good and the general look of the image suits the film. But it has a good share of artifacts, coming off quite blotchy overall, not helped by the fact itís non-anamorphic. The MGM DVD is anamorphic and would be the better one to pick up for those concerned more about the look. The supplements are quite good and entertaining, making the disc unique, but since the disc went out of print quite a while ago it can go for quite a bit on auction sites. But again MGM is re-releasing the film on DVD and Blu-Ray and by the looks of it it will not only contain the supplements found on the MGM DVD but will also contain the supplements found on here (though Iím unsure about deleted scenes.) I would suggest waiting for that release and see how it stacks up against the Criterion release and the old MGM disc if youíre concerned about supplements.

In all it is an okay DVD release from Criterion in terms of supplements, but there appears to be a much better one coming out that Iíd wait for.

View packaging for this DVD


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