Ah, Ghostbusters. To say I love this film would be an understatement. From the moment I first viewed it way back in 1985 on VHS, Ghostbusters has cast a spell upon me. It’s pitch perfect blend of ghouls and giggles made it mandatory viewing for me and my brother growing up.
Peter Venkmann, Ray Stanz, and Egon Spengler are all professors in para-psychology. Sacked from their research jobs at the university, they go into business for themselves as the “Ghostbusters”. Joined by Egon obsessed secretary Janine Melnitz, and regular working joe WInston Zeddemore, they combat the rise in paranormal activity plaguing New York. Unbeknownst to them, however, a ritual performed decades earlier is about to bear fruit, in the form of Gozer, an ancient Sumerian God. Trapped in this build up are Peters would be girlfriend Dana Barrett, and her nerdish neighbour Louis Tully.
Can the Ghostbusters stop Gozer and save the world? WIll Peter get his date with Dana? And most importantly, will Walter Peck get his comeuppance?
Ghostbusters was the perfect film for it’s time. Released in 1984 (on the same day as Gremlins!), it took the anarchic comedy of the first generation Saturday Night Love crew, and melded it with creator Dan Ackroyds love of the supernatural. Originally concieved as a vehicle for Ackroyd and John Belushi (much as The Blues Brothers was), Belushis passing from a drug overdose lead to the film being retooled. SNL alumni Bill Murray stepped in, alongside Stripes co-star (and co writer of the film) Harold Ramis. This core three were originally supposed to be joined by rising SNL star Eddie Murphy as Winston, but alas this was not to be.
The Winston part was rewritten and Ernie Hudson joined the team as the “everyman” to their scientists. Add in Rick Moranis as the wonderfully inept Louis Tully, and the stunning Sigourney Weaver as Dana, and you had a prime cast of marketable stars upon which to base the film.
However, those stars would be nothing if the script wasn’t good enough. Thankfully for all involved, it most certainly was. The plot is relatively straight forward, but the way it unfolds, and the dialogue make for an unforgettable experience. Indeed, Ghostbusters may well be one of the most quotable films of all time, with many of the films catchphrases still being spoken today.
Credit must go to the performers though, for bringing the script to life. The film is played, despite the subject matter, in a remarkably straight manner. The characters come across as real, natural people, as opposed to the normal caricatures you expect in a comedy. This “realism” helps make the supernatural activities all the more believable within the world of the film. Throw in brief but effective cameos from Larry King and Casey Kasem as themselves, real world media such as Time and Omni magazines, and a contemporary soundtrack and you have a great example of world building.
The films outstanding performance (amongst many) is that of Bill Murray. He owns the screen every single time he is on it. His Dr Venkmann is laconic, sarcastic, and so totally “New York” it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever being that character. Ghostbusters is certainly his film, and made him into possibly the biggest comedy star in the world at the time, eclipsing friend/rival Chevy Chase.
Ghostbusters Technical Analysis:
For a comedy film, Ghostbusters features many special effects. And at the time they were all state of the art. The films ghosts are stunning creations, utilising green screen compositing to a standard rarely seen before (or indeed since). The equipment used by the characters has a believable, hand made look and feel to it. The proton packs look real, not just like film props.
And the film is stunningly well shot. In full 2.35:1 widescreen, this is a film that begs to be seen on the largest screen you can find. The lighting, sets, and camera work all combine to produce a luscious looking movie. Everything has texture and depth. The matte work for the effects as I have already mentioned is second to none. It far surpasses much of what had been done prior to Ghostbusters, with nary a visible matte line to be seen. And everything is done as a practical effect. No CG at play here. And it all looks o much more real because of it.
The films finale also features what was at the time the worlds largest fully lit 360 degree panoramic matte painting. It stands alone as a work of actual art, representing the 1984 New York skyline in stunning detail.
This film is as damn near to perfect as humanly possible, in my opinion. I owned it on VHS. It was the first DVD that I ever bought. I have a Blu Ray of it (and soon I will have a 4k UHD disc, too). I guarantee that you will be thoroughly entertained by Ghostbusters. And if you are not? Well, I guess we need to call the Ghostbusters on you…