This Is Spinal Tap | 1984
Constantly popping up on ‘Ten Best’ lists as one of the funniest movies of all time, Spinal Tap deserves its reputation. The mockumentary format has been much-copied, but nobody else got it so convincingly deadpan, and so spot-on: lost backstage at Cleveland, stuck in the stage-prop pod, the mini-Stonehenge... Like they say, "Put the band’s name first. Puppet show after."
Many comedy films go up to 10, but Tap goes up to 11. Which is one funnier.
Apparently roaming all over the the States, Tap was mostly filmed around Los Angeles: the ‘Atlanta’ record company is the unmistakably modernistic Westin Bonaventure Hotel, 404 South Figueroa Street, downtown. Its cylindrical glass towers can also be seen in True Lies, In The Line of Fire, Jim McBride’s 1983 remake of Breathless (with Richard Gere), Strange Days and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It’s by the Bonaventure’s pool that Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) finds his conscience and turns down $250,000 from Dr Brunner in Rain Man.
The group pays tribute to the King with a moving version of Heartbreak Hotel at his tastefully restrained graveside in the grounds of Graceland, 3717 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. Spot how the necessarily reverential longshots, on location, are craftily spliced into wicked close-ups, which were filmed separately.
The rooftop pool is atop the Andaz West Hollywood, 8401 Sunset Boulevard, on the Strip in West Hollywood. Previously the Continental Hyatt, this is the legendary ‘Riot House’, scene of most of the notorious (and sometimes mythical rock’n’roll moments – which included Led Zeppelin riding Harleys through its corridors and, yes, the TV thrown from the window. The Hyatt is also featured in another, gentler, look at the rock biz, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, and the pool pops up again in Crank.
One of the film’s key locations is the Raymond Theatre, 129 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, where the band’s concert scenes were filmed. This was also the venue for the ‘Battle of the Titans’, the boxing match unwisely won by Butch (Bruce Willis) in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Opened in 1921, the 2,000-seat theatre boasted a lavish interior and, throughout most of the 80s functioned as live music venue Perkins’ Palace. A pretty culty location, you might think. A great tourist spot. Not so.
The Raymond was closed down and has been standing empty for some years. After a long struggle to save the theatre, it was finally gutted in 2009 to provide condominiums.
The frontage has been preserved, but there’s no chance of it ever hosting a Spinal Tap reunion.