The classic Ghostbusters was released on June 7, 1984. Direct by Ivan Reitman, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It’s a supernatural comedy about a trio of parapsychologists at Columbia University (interesting that Columbia Pictures distributed the film), they lose their jobs and go into business for themselves… ghost-catching. Doctors Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Ramis) then hire a fourth member in to their group, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), along with someone to handle the phones, Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts).
These new entrepreneurs then get inundated with phone calls requesting their services to remove apparitions from their homes and establishments. We meet Slimer and Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) along the way, and Zuul. Zuul’s a demigod who’s a servant to Gozer the Gozerian. We get a great 80s montage of them bustin’ ghosts and feelin’ good. All the while there are skeptics of the Ghostbusters and what they do.
Venkman takes an interest in Dana, but then Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) and Dana become possessed by the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper of destruction.
The gang wants to keep these two apart, but then Walter Peck (William Atherton) speaks his legal mumbo jumbo representing the EPA and shuts down the containment unit at the firehouse while having the Ghostbusters arrested.
All hell literally breaks loose, and who you’d call can’t be reached cause they’re behind bars. So the Mayor brings all parties forward and with a classic rant about a “dick-less” man and a delicious metaphor about mass hysteria in the form of “cats and dogs living together” the boys are set free to save New York City and the world.
Throw in the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a lady with totally eighties hair and a urination reference when streams are crossed…
And thus a classic is born.
The good; gotta start with that theme song by Ray Parker Jr., it’s catchy and it was nominated for Best Original Song at the 57th Academy awards, along with a nom for Best Visual Effects. It didn’t win either, but that doesn’t diminish from this film’s greatness.
But gone are the theme songs from film and television, looks like we lost it after the first (and only good) Men in Black movie. I want the title of my movie sung or rapped in a song, cause if I were to tune in to a movie late I want to be reminded of the title. Is that too much to ask for? We don’t even hear the theme till about 40 mins in to the movie!
Granted the James Bond movies still implement this practice, but everyone else needs to take up this cause.
Along with the theme song, Elmer Bernstein‘s score matches the tone of the movie beautifully. It’s balanced between quirky absurd and terrifying, and I love it.
This film run about 105 minutes. Shorter is better, despite the slower pacing, we don’t even see them in the jumpsuits until about 30 mins in! we get in… we get out… no need for a trilogy or a 3 hour movie!
The blending of two genres – this “mash-up” has been done before with success (Star Wars – scifi/western, Alien – scifi/horror) but now we get supernatural/horror/comedy. The stakes are very end of the world biblical here, ghosts and ghouls appearing in the world of the living. But then our characters are all comedic geniuses in their own right and that’s what really carries us through this journey.
That brings me to the characters, boy are they great, and well defined in who they are.
Everyone loves the cynically sarcastic Venkman, I do too… but the others are just as developed.
Egon is the bespectacled resident awkward scientist of the group, who’s responsible for most of the Ghostbusting equipment.
Ray is the heart of the Ghostbusters with him being the most child like of the group, he approaches the paranormal with wonder and awe. Winston is the straight-man of the group, he’s the everyman grounded to the world.
All of them have their place on the team. And we actually get to know these characters, due to the slower pacing, there’s a build up that you don’t see in modern films, things move way to quickly. But something novel and outrageous happens when you spend time plotting out where you’re going… you actually care for these characters and you care for what happens to them.
Up next would be the special effects. This whole movie was done pre-CG… that means practical and optical effects. In my book, that makes them better. This especially works in favor of scary scenes, an example is where Dana’s is being terrorized in her apartment, Sigourney Weaver has something to react to, you not only get the sense that she’s terrified, but those arms are actually grabbing her from the sofa.
Then the whole eggs frying on the counter top, the crew actually built that so the eggs would pop and fry right there, in real time, for the actor to act/react against. There’s just something to be said and had by having the creature shop actually create the creature from latex, silicone, KY jelly, wire and sweat.
Oh and look, a set up for the Marshmallow man;
Gozer, yes I know this is “the good” section, but Gozer is the bad guy and what a great bad guy. Gozer’s goal is clear, world destruction at any cost. We get a couple lines from he/she about how and why, but then that’s it, it’s time for action. Today’s villains are deliciously lacking, they’re either just seeking revenge or their motives are way to vague.
I could go on and on here, but I must stop at some point, here looks good.
The bad; there’s so much smoking in this movie, hahaha, it’s something that really dates the movie, besides the fashion.
I don’t think there will ever be a Part III, especially now that Harold Ramis has passed away. Even if he was still alive, I doubt that a sequel today would live up to our expectations.
Overall, one of my favorite movies that I watch over and over again. I didn’t post anything when Ramis died, there was already so much about it, that I felt others did it better than I could have. But this is more fitting, with a tribute to one of his best and lasting gifts that he’s left us with. RIP Harold Ramis.
I’d pair a viewing of this film with Green River Soda. The color will remind you of the ectoplasm plentifully emanating from all the free roaming vapors. And possible one of the spoors, molds and fungus that Egon’s collected.
Green River soda goes all the way back to 1919, when Congress was passing the 18th Amendment for Prohibition. The Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company of Chicago turned to Green River in late 1919 as a non-alcoholic product. Such was the practice at the time, with Prohibition officially in effect at the beginning of 1920, some breweries turned to making non alcoholic drinks and ice cream.
The green soda will keep you company with your bucket of popcorn, it isn’t too heavy or too light. Green River’s Chicago origin also goes well with the fact that both Harold Ramis and Bill Murray hail from Chicago. So drink up, cause, “this town is a part of who you are! This is a Springfield (Chicago) Isotopes Cap… when you wear it, you’re wearing Springfield (Chicago)! When you eat a fish from our river, you’re eating Springfield (Chicago)! When you make Lemonade from our trees, you’re drinking Springfield (Chicago)!” – Marge Simpson.
I love this film, in case you couldn’t tell. It manages to delicately balance true horror and fabulous comedy with scenes like; Ray and Winston talking about the end of the world in the Ecto-1, the ghost librarian, with the twinkie line and the appearance of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The writing is top notch, all the actors are perfectly casted, the special effects are wonderful and far superior than Transformers, the tone is spot on, and we get classic (truly obscure) lines like this;
Ray, “Hey! Where these stairs go?”
Peter, “They go up.”
Here’s spook central, the Ghostbuster’s firehouse as seen in the movie;
And here’s me visiting the actual location in New York;
I made it a point to visit this location, the Hook & Ladder 8 is located at;
14 N Moore St
New York, NY 10013
Here’s my very own Ecto-1;
This is a case where the franchise was built around the success of this movie, and not the other way around – the way Hollywood is doing things these days. Way to start it strong and set the bar high, cause after this initial film we got an animated series in the form of The Real Ghostbusters. That animated series kept us satisfied until the live action sequel came about, and then there was another animated series and a slew of video games and comics.
My parents had the Ghostbusters soundtrack on vinyl, so I’d spend hours listening to it with them. Those songs are forever ingrained in me. I’ve listened to the Ghostbusters before I even saw the movie and when I went to New York I had to visit the firehouse before I went to The Statue of Liberty, that’s how much I love the Ghostbusters.
I’m not the only one to feel this way about the Ghostbusters, my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have also written up something about this modern day classic, check out what they bring to the table.
And you can also see the genesis of our collaboration here!
(Let’s make it a throwback Thursday)