Monday, May 29, 2006


This Is Spinal Tap, still the king of mockumentaries (not to mention mock rockumentaries -- rockumockumentaries?) is 83 minutes long. The special edition DVD includes an hour and seven minutes of outtakes, for a total of two and a half hours of material. (The Criterion laserdisc apparently had some outtakes not on the DVD, but I've never seen it.) And then there is the legendary four-and-a-half hour workprint. Recently, I had a chance to see this workprint, thanks to Odd Obsession Movies. The workprint is nothing like a "director's cut": Rob Reiner undoubtedly never contemplated releasing a four-and-a-half hour comedy, and most of the scenes in the workprint that do appear in the movie are far from their final form. And I certainly wouldn't recommend watching the workprint first. Still, for the fan of Spinal Tap, it's fascinating viewing.

So what do the extra two hours consist of? (Actually, a little more than two hours, since some of the stuff in the final movie and DVD outtakes isn't in the workprint, most notably Marty's interview with the band on their history and the interview in the hot tub that appears in the outtakes.) For one thing, there's a lot of footage of the band and their hangers-on sitting or lying around in hotel rooms. (More on this later.) Apart from that, most of the "new" material is not completely new scenes. The main exceptions to this are scenes from a subplot revolving around the singer of Spinal Tap's opening band (briefly described here) which was excised completely from both the film and the outtakes, except for the lip sores that mysteriously appear at one point. But this aside, what we mainly get is longer versions of scenes in the movie or outtakes. The new material appears at the beginning, end, and middle of scenes: Reiner did a lot of tightening up of scenes in the process of editing. (This is true of the DVD outtakes as well: those are in no sense raw footage.)

What was cut was by and large not jokes, though a few good gags were lost. My favorite of these is Nigel's statement that "Lick My Love Pump," his classical piece, was scored for "cello, French horn, English horn, and flugelorn." Ian also had a few good bits that were cut. When the band is sitting around depressed after the disc jockey's remark that they're in the "where are they now?" category, Ian tries to get them fired up by wrecking their hotel room for them, while they look on apathetically. (Bits of this footage were used in Marty's interview with Ian in the final film.) In the DVD outtakes, there's a scene where Bobbi visits the band after they've performed a great concert, is very enthusiastic, and tells them that she's going to call a meeting and get the record company behind them. On the DVD this ends with Ian explaining to the band that they didn't make anything over the guarantee. In the workprint, the conversation about the guarantee comes before Bobbi enters, and the scene ends with Ian taking his leave of the very encouraged band members while muttering to himself: "We are fucked. We are fucked." The workprint version of the scene seems clearly more effective to me. Perhaps Reiner wanted, or was forced, to avoid the f-word in the outtakes, even though it was used in the film itself. This article has brief descriptions of a few other bits that were cut.

Much of the extra material fleshes out the characters and makes them less cartoonish, particularly David, Nigel and Derek. We see more of David and Nigel's relationship, and their struggles to preserve it. (Some of this is in the DVD outtakes, but it has more impact when it's integrated into the film.) Derek isn't as much of a moron, and we see more of his attempts to moderate between David and Nigel. And aside from specific scenes, the fact that in the workprint we spend so much time watching the characters interact casually, like real people, leads us to think of them more as real people. The greater reality of the characters, in turn, raises the workprint's emotional stakes: the split between David and Nigel isn't just a joke.

Two specific changes add to this seriousness. In the original movie the scene at Rainbow Trout studios where Nigel blows up at David lasts less than a minute. The DVD outtakes add another two and a quarter minutes, including brief glimpses of Derek trying to mediate between the two. In the workprint the scene lasts for eleven and a half minutes, including more of Derek's mediation. And it's not played for laughs: you can feel the growing frustration of the band members.

And in the workprint, the gig where Nigel rejoins the band is not just the last gig of the tour. Before Nigel returns it's going to be the last gig ever: "Tap" are planning to break up. Commenting on the "Tap lives" banner, Derek says "We do live, for about eighty-two more minutes."

The other big difference between the workprint and the final film is that the workprint has much more of a cinema verite feel, due to all the footage of people hanging around in hotel rooms that I mentioned before (or of the band en route from one place to another), and to the unedited nature of the scenes. The cinema verite feel is reinforced by the fact that most of the footage appears to have been transferred to black and white (at least on the disk that I watched). At times it feels almost like you're watching real documentary footage of a real band.

In addition to providing a glimpse of how the final film was edited, the workprint helps explain why This Is Spinal Tap is such a classic. The final film comes off largely as a series of very funny sketches. But the workprint demonstrates that these sketches were built upon a solid foundation of characterization and story, even if much of this foundation is de-emphasized in the final film.

(Incidentally, my mentions of Odd Obsession Movies may have given the impression that it only carries ultra-obscure stuff. That's not the case. While they may not carry many recent blockbusters, they have a wide selection of "mainstream" classics and B-movies.)

  (0) comments

Friday, May 26, 2006


I was recently up in the Chicago are for a couple of weeks. While there, I saw several movies from the invaluable Odd Obsession Movies (which, incidentally, is moving to 1822 N. Milwaukee Ave. beginning June 1). Among these was Samuel Fuller's 1982 film White Dog. White Dog is not a perfect film: the allegory is a bit too transparent for my taste, and some of the human performances are weak (though Kristy McNichol, as one of the leads, is good). But of the Fuller films I've seen, it may be my favorite overall. If it doesn't rise to the fevered heights of The Naked Kiss at its best, it also doesn't sink to the bathetic depths of that film at its worst. It's less heavyhanded, and less wonky, than Shock Corridor. And it's a lot more interesting than The Big Red One (though granted, I only watched the unrestored version of this, and less than an hour of that). Yet White Dog was buried by the studio, and is now virtually unavailable in the U.S.

Like Never Let Me Go, it's probably best to not know anything about White Dog's plot when you first see it, and the reason why it was buried is inseparable from its plot. But if you're curious, the first paragraph of this article tells what happened.

The quality of the picture in Odd Obsession's copy is not very good. Furthermore, there are unremovable Dutch subtitles, which are annoying (unless you're Dutch). But this is probably as good a copy as you're likely to find.

  (0) comments

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I admit it: I check my stats and referrals on sitemeter regularly. Apart from the depressing fact that about half my visitors seem to be looking for sc*nl*t**ns of Fr**ts B*sk*t (asterisked to avoid making things even worse), I occasionally learn something interesting. For instance, at one point a year or two ago there was a sudden jump in the number of visitors searching for "Minami kun no koibito"; following the links back to the original searches I discovered that a new live-action TV adaptation (making two so far) had just premiered. But when I checked my referrals a few minutes ago, I found that since 5 P.M. yesterday I had gotten 55 hits from people searching for Hiruko Kashiwagi, or Hiruko Kashiwagi plus "inu" or "dog" (plus one search for simply "manga" and "dog"). This is over half the total number of visitors during that period, and more visitors than I usually get in a day. And this time, looking at the original searches didn't tell me anything. If anybody knows what's going on, please write me; I'm really curious. (Links to my reviews of the manga mentioned above are on the sidebar.)

(UPDATE, 9:41 P.M.: It appears that this article, which appeared in today's New York Times, is the answer. (Here's a link to a copy which doesn't require registration.) The relevant quote: "Another was 'Inu,' or 'Dog,' by Haruko Kashiwagi. It's considered clever, fairly high-toned and mainstream, which is surprising because, in part, it's about a woman who has sex with her dog." (In fact the dog only goes down on her.) I haven't made an exact count, but by now the hit count from this is somewhere around 125, which is actually surprisingly low, considering.)

  (0) comments

Friday, May 12, 2006


I do have some more substantial posts in mind, when I get around to them (I know: promises, promises...). But for now I just wanted to pass along some great news I just read: Tokyopop has licensed the Twelve Kingdoms series of novels by Fuyumi Ono (via Anime on My Mind). These are the novels that the excellent fantasy anime of the same title is based on, and from what I've heard the novels are just as good if not better. Also, check out this thread on AnimeonDvd, which includes some comments by representatives of Tokyopop.

  (0) comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?