If you are a rock and roll fan, there is a good bet that This is Spinal Tap is one of your all-time favorite films. The mockumentary (if you will, rockumentary) has been winning audiences over for years, and is viewed by many, including people who are not even music fans, as a brilliant satire of the music industry. It is a bona fide classic and rightfully so.
But, did you know that there is a sequel of sorts?
In 1992, Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) reunited for a concert at the legendary Royal Albert Hall, playing a variety of songs from the 1984 This is Spinal Tap soundtrack, as well as selections from their then new release, Break Like the Wind. By this point it is clear that a band made up for a mockumentary in the 80s had become something of a cultural phenomenon. For the record, all things Spinal Tap that you see/hear are actually these guys playing. They are actually talented musicians despite being known for comedy!
The presentation first aired on TV as a special in 1992, running roughly 60 minutes. A home video version added additional content and ran about 110 minutes. However, the version that aired on TV did have some content that did not appear on the later released home video version, including scenes with Jamie Lee Curtis and Robin Williams (though their names still appear in the end credits of the extended version). Apparently, the short version is a bonus feature on the European Blu-ray release, but sadly does not appear on the domestic release, likely for legal reasons.
The overall format of The Return of Spinal Tap features the musicians doing a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, but every few songs there are comedic interludes showing what the band members and those close to them have been up to in the intervening years; thus the special is set in the same “fictional universe” as the first movie. We hear from director Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner), the Air Force Base commander for the original movie, see what the three band members have been up to on the side, and even see them revisit their childhood homes and the like. Of course, the film is not devoid of comedic moments in the style of the classic 1984 film that should get a few laughs out of viewers. Guests in the presentation include Kenny Rogers, Martin Short, Les Claypool, Danny Woodburn, and Albert Lee.
Someone coming to watch this film should know what they are getting; this is NOT what one could consider a “true sequel,” but more of a "companion piece." Knowing what you are getting ahead of time can help you to determine if this is something that will be worth your time. Those who were into the soundtrack of the original movie and are hard rock/metal fans in general are the ones who will probably get the most mileage of what is contained in this movie, while those who were fans of the satirical and comedic elements will experience periodic satisfaction but ultimately be underwhelmed in those regards.
The content for the versions of the movie is as follows:
THE TELEVISION VERSION: Runs approximately 60 minutes. Considerably shorter than the video version; there is more of a balance between music and comedy scenes here. Features an alternate intro and some celebrity interviews/scenes/etc. that did not appear on the video version.
-Crawl text intro (not on home video release)
-Martha Quinn intro outside Royal Albert Hall (not on home video release)
-The Folksmen backstage
-Title screen/”Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”
-Robin Williams interview (not on home video release)
-Martha Quinn “catching up with the band” dialogue (not on home video release)
-David St. Hubbins soccer clinic and shops
-Nigel Tufnel’s folding wine glass
-Smalls Family’s telephone cleaning business
-“The Majesty of Rock”
-Artie Fufkin (Paul Shaffer) interview
-Martha Quinn commercial outro
-David Golfing (with Kenny Rogers)
-Martha Quinn narration/David and Nigel’s old neighborhood (Martha Quinn content not on home video release)
-“Just Begin Again” with Martha Quinn narration of Cher letter (Martha Quinn content not on video release, Spinal Tap band members read content of letter prior to the song in video version)
-Martha Quinn interviews Jeff Beck (not on home video release)
-Air Force Base Commander interview
-“Diva Fever” beginning
-Nigel’s Guitar Solo with Martha Quinn narration (Martha Quinn content not on home video release)
-Nigel’s animal travel business
-“Diva Fever” end with closing Martha Quinn narration (Martha Quinn content not on home video release)
-“Faces” Spoken Word segment (in the home video release this is moved to the intro)
-Martin Short interview (home video release does not contain complete segment)
-“Sex Farm” Rap (home video release has an extended scene in which the whole song is performed)
-Mel Torme scene
-Derek’s London flats and Christian rock band
-“Listen to the Flower People”
-Jamie Lee Curtis interview (not on home video release, Curtis is the real life wife of Christopher Guest/Nigel Tufnel)
-Nigel and David’s old pub
-Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner) interview
-Martha Quinn intro (not on home video release)
-Additional Martha Quinn dialogue (not on home video release)
-“All the Way Home”
-End credits/Folksmen playing for change (both versions use same closing credits sequence, but the actual credits themselves are different).
THE VIDEO VERSION: Runs approximately 110 minutes. Major difference between this and the television airing is the addition of more songs and full performances of them, as well as the addition of a Bob Geldoff intro. A number of the celebrity interviews have been cut, including the Robin Williams scene, and every single appearance/voiceover from former MTV VJ Martha Quinn.
-Opening Sequence-Return Of Spinal Tap (appears later on short version, which has a different intro)
-Backstage Folksmen appearance
-Bob Geldof Introduces the Band (not on TV airing)
-“Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”
-Cash On Delivery (not on TV airing)
-Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner)
-“The Majesty of Rock”
-“Just Begin Again”
-Martin Short interview
-“Sex Farm” (full song, full song is not on TV airing)
-Where Are They Now segments
-“Rock and Roll Creation” (not on TV airing, though the pods use during the song are clearly visible on stage during the TV version)
-“Bitch School” (not on TV airing)
-Listen to the Flower People
-Pull a Spinal Tap
-Acoustic Set Part 1
-David And Nigel's Old Neighborhood
-Acoustic Set Part 2 (some portions of the acoustic set were not on TV airing, including “Rainy Day Sun” and“Clam Caravan”)
-“Break Like The Wind”
-Catching Up With Derek Smalls
-“Stinkin’ Up the Great Outdoors” (not on TV airing)
-“Christmas With The Devil” (not on TV airing)
-“Big Bottom”/Mel Torme scene (Tap performance of the song not on TV airing)
-“Now Leaving on Track 13” (not on TV airing)
-Closing credits/The Folksmen (both versions use same closing credits sequence, but the actual credits themselves are different)
Note that these lists detailing the differences between the two versions of the movie are not necessarily all-inclusive. Additionally, most home video releases are apparently the 110 minute while the European Blu-ray Disc has the shorter 60 minute version. While DVDs of the movie are available, they are presumably bootlegs due to the weak picture and audio quality plus incorrectly titled songs on the DVD case and the disc’s menus.
So, where do I stand when it comes to this film featuring England’s loudest and mostly fictional band? It is a tough call, and it is even harder to come to a verdict when you consider that there are two different versions of the movie with a radically different run time. The performances are great, though the comedy sequences are hit and miss, but when they hit, they strike gold. Between the two, I would have to say that the 60 minute version is the superior one, as it is paced better and has a stronger balance between the music and comedy scenes, but true fans of the Spinal Tap music will want the 110 minute version for the additional performances. As it stands, though, for this fan, the 110 minute version was a little too long and slow in places (the original This is Spinal Tap film ran just over 80 minutes). Neither version is officially available on home video (unless you count the European Blu-ray of This is Spinal Tap which has the 60 minute version) but both can be found on video sites like YouTube.
If you are a die-hard Spinal Tap fan and could not get enough of the band after hearing their albums and seeing the original film, The Return of Spinal Tap could be just what you need! Just be forewarned that there are no official video releases, and you are not going to be getting a “direct sequel.” For the curious fans, though, this one is worth a look.
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