Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
DEAR READERS: No need to panic. You did not wake up in 1984. There are no less than three major releases opening this week but the powers that be at the studios did not think them worthy of being screened early. However, as the good people at AMC Theatres have decided to screen “Ghostbusters” every Thursday evening in the month of October, I thought it would be fun to review it as if I had never seen it before. Enjoy!
Bill Murray wanted to be serious.
Coming off such hit comedies as “Caddyshack,” “Stripes” and “Tootsie,” Murray, like many funny people, hoped to challenge himself creatively. He convinced Columbia to put up $13 million for him to star in a remake of the film “The Razor’s Edge,” with Murray himself starring in the role played by Tyrone Power. Unwilling to finance the film at first, Columbia then became aware of a screenplay that Dan Aykroyd had written for he and his pal John Belushi to star in entitled “Ghost Smashers.” In short, Murray replaced Belushi, Columbia ponied up the thirteen mill and a comedy classic was born.
New York City. When we first meet Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) he is giving an ESP test to two volunteer students, to no avail. He is interrupted by his two colleagues, Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Ramis) who inform him of a possible ghost sighting at the local library. Once there the trio meet up with the ghostly image of a long dead librarian. This contact encourages them to start their own business, which will allow the public with spirit problems to call for help. They call themselves Ghostbusters.
Co-written by Aykroyd and Ramis, “Ghostbusters” is a fun romp with a couple of comedy’s greatest stars at the top of their game. Murray brings his familiar dead pan expression to the forefront here, milking it for all it’s worth. He has some of the better lines and his timing is impeccable. Same with Aykroyd and Ramis. This is Ramis’ second feature film (following “Stripes”) but he more than holds his own alongside his co-stars. Supporting players Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts also do well, with the normally straight laced Weaver taking a turn as a seductive she-demon.
If there is anything poorly done in the film it is the special effects. (NOTE: Even by 1984 standards, the effects were pretty crappy. Surprisingly, “Ghostbusters” was nominated for the Special Visual Effects Oscar, along with “2010” and the film that would win the award, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”) Most of the stop motion is quite jumpy while the nuclear “blasts” from the Ghostbusters’ weapons is not rendered cleanly. I will say that the spiritually conjured up Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is pretty impressive. (NOTE: like a lot of movies filmed in New York City prior to September 11, 2001, there are many shots of the World Trade Center, which gave me, and the audience, pause when they first appear on screen.)
History will show that “Ghostbusters” went on to become, until “Home Alone,” the highest grossing comedy of all time, earning $13 million in its opening weekend, which I’m sure Columbia put towards the box office bomb that was “The Razor’s Edge.” Murray continued to get serious and in 2003 he earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his work in “Lost in Translation.”
Read about “Ghostbusters III” in our exclusive interview with Ernie Hudson here.