#283) Ghostbusters (1984)

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#283) Ghostbusters (1984)

OR “Zuul Me Once, Shame On You”

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis

Class of 2015

The Plot: New York City is swarming with ghosts, and only disgraced scientists Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, & Egon Spengler (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, & Harold Ramis, respectively) can stop them. After being evicted from Columbia University, the trio rent an abandon firehouse and creates the “Ghostbusters” business. Peter tries to woo client Dana (Sigourney Weaver), who is at risk of being possessed by ancient demigod Zuul and signaling the end times (“Dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA!”). Joined later by the severely underwritten Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), this team ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film “One of the most popular, quotable films from the past three decades” and praises Murray as well as the film’s “infectious insanity”. There’s also a reverential essay by filmmaker Adam Bertocci, whose webpage “Overthinking Ghostbusters” ultimately led to the film’s NFR inclusion. Truly, Adam is the change he wants to see in the world.

But Does It Really?: Readers, it’s time you learned the truth: I like but don’t love “Ghostbusters”. It’s funny – at times even hilarious – and I am 100% behind its NFR inclusion, but overall the movie just doesn’t click for me. Dan Aykroyd wrote an overcomplicated ghost movie that Harold Ramis had to drastically edit, and Bill Murray was given free rein to Bill Murray all over it. In fact, I’ll argue that the movie wouldn’t work without Murray as the audience surrogate. I can hear your cries of heresy already, so I’ll conclude by saying that “Ghostbusters” is a good movie and deserving of preservation, it’s just not a personal favorite. See, internet? Sometimes other people don’t like the same movies you do, and that’s okay.

Everybody Gets One: Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, songwriter Ray Parker Jr., Casey (and Jean) Kasem, Larry King, and adult film star/concerned extra Ron Jeremy.

Wow, That’s Dated: The non-Elmer Bernstein parts of the soundtrack are very ‘80s. Plus, this is a movie that showed just how far visual effects could go without computers. Matte paintings, stop motion, this movie throws in everything.

Take a Shot: Four words: Who ya gonna call?

Seriously, Oscars?: Second only to “Beverly Hills Cop” at the box office, “Ghostbusters” was nominated for two Oscars. The film lost Special Effects to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, and the title number lost Original Song to “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from…you can’t name the movie can you? I bet you didn’t even know it was from a movie.

Other notes

  • This opening scene at the New York Public Library is a good reminder: Please support your local library. In this post-FilmStruck world I’m forced to live in, the DVD/Bluray selection of my library is indispensable.
  • Is the title “Ghostbusters” or “Ghost Busters”? Am confused. But hey, at least they’re not tacking on “Answer the Call” after the fact.
  • “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.” That line kills me every time.
  • Dana and Louis reside at New York’s famous Matte Painting Towers.
  • Dear Rick Moranis, I know you don’t like making movies anymore, but you are missed.
  • Oh god, Venkman and Dana have one of those “He’s stalking me but we’ll still end up together” romances. Ugh.
  • I appreciate that this film doesn’t fall into the “there’s no such thing as ghosts” cliché. While they may not believe in ghosts, most of their clientele admit that the apparitions are real.
  • So there’s plenty of paranormal activity in New York, but the Ghostbusters are the only business in town? Surely rival ghost businesses would follow shortly. Why couldn’t “Ghostbusters II” have been about that?
  • Shoutout to Annie Potts as receptionist Janine Melnitz. That may be the best line reading of “Whaddya want?” in any movie.
  • Keep your hands where I can see them, Zuul! Don’t you be feeling up Sigourney Weaver!
  • The scene where Dana levitates was an on-set practical effect that Ivan Reitman picked up from directing the Broadway musical “Merlin”. Some good came from that train wreck after all.
  • William Atherton as Peck is the kind of movie douchebag that only existed in the ‘80s. He is perfection, much to that actor’s future detriment.
  • That Zuul theme sounds like Elmer Bernstein is getting ready for “The Black Cauldron”.
  • Everyone loves the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, but they couldn’t get an actual food mascot for this scene? Was the Pillsbury Doughboy too expensive?
  • You know what? I would have given this movie the Special Effects Oscar. The effects never get in the way of the comedy, and they hold up surprisingly well. Hats off to Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Mark Vargo, Chuck Gaspar, and the whole effects team that Columbia didn’t credit to save money.
  • Wow, this movie really doesn’t give a shit about Winston. His screentime was greatly reduced once Eddie Murphy turned the part down, and Ernie Hudson gets 8th billing in the credits. 8th! And he’s a Ghostbuster! That’s gotta hurt.
  • I must confess that at the end of the day, bustin’ makes me feel good.

Legacy

  • “Ghostbusters” was an instant hit in summer 1984, with merchandise sprouting up everywhere. The film’s classic status has only grown over the years, with hardcore fans dubbing themselves…“Ghostheads”. Side note: Like “-gate” in a scandal, not every fandom needs the suffix “-head”. It worked for The Grateful Dead because, you know, it rhymed.
  • While the filmmakers initially refused to do a sequel, they eventually relented with 1989’s “Ghostbusters II”. It’s…the first movie again.
  • A third movie has been stuck in Development Hell for almost 30 years. The plotline was eventually recycled into the “Ghosbusters” 2009 video game.
  • There have been two animated series based on the movie. The immediate follow-up “The Real Ghostbusters” made a star out of Slimer, while “Extreme Ghostbusters” lasted three months in 1997.
  • Not every movie on this list inspires an Improv Everywhere stunt. Just this and “The Deer Hunter”.
  • “Who ya gonna call? Someone else.”
  • Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 has become a popular destination for Ghostheads (still sounds weird). It was saved from closure in 2011, and is currently undergoing a two-year renovation.
  • And last but not least, an all-female reboot in 2016 that DID. NOT. RUIN. ANYONE’S. CHILDHOOD. Get a life, you damn misogynists!

Further Viewing: Another premake! This one takes its cue from the countless, largely forgotten ghost comedies that preceded “Ghostbusters”.

 

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