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Oct 23, 2012

AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE SPOTLIGHT – GHOSTBUSTERS (70MM)


GHOSTBUSTERS
1984 / Columbia Pictures / 105 minutes / PG




Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Ernie Hudson

Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis




The summer of 1984 was a big one at the box office and especially memorable for my young self.  INDIANA JONES returned in THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, Spock came back to life and the Enterprise blew up in STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, THE KARATE KID washed on and washed off and there was GHOSTBUSTERS.




Instantly the poster art caught your attention with the symbol of a crossed-out ghost and then of course there was that song that got stuck in your head no matter what and had you asking WHO YA GONNA CALL?




Here were some of the biggest names in comedy – Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis – teamed up with strait-laced Sigourney Weaver (post ALIEN but 2 years before her kick ass turn in ALIENS) in a fantasy comedy that just seemed to have the right combination of laughs with the fantastic. 




My introduction to this movie was in May of 1984 (I’m guessing given that the movie was released to theaters on June 8, 1984) when I was banished to the basement with my sister while my parents threw a dinner party with some family friends, and we watched TIME BANDITS on TV (I believe it was on CBS).  During the movie several ads ran for GHOSTBUSTERS, a new movie hitting theaters and I was amazed by the images of Slimer and The Stay Puft Marshmallow man, etc.  It seemed that ad was on during every single break and I wanted nothing more than to see that movie.  Too bad I was too young to go (according to my parents – and they were probably right) so I had to suffice with the novelization which I got from the library, and with any clips that happen to come across TV, listening to my friends talk about it and the picture storybook version of the movie which I somehow convinced my parents to purchase for me.  I couldn’t talk them into the soundtrack, so had to wait a few years for that – although granted my obsession with movie soundtracks had not yet begun and I was more or less listening to Disney albums at the time given my age.




Some years pass, and I am at a mall with my parents and I happen to come across an electronics store that had the latest Betamax machine off to the side hooked up to a 14” TV that was playing GHOSTBUSTERS.  I was so excited (and somehow had arrived right at the beginning of the film) that I squatted in the corner and watched the entire movie in the store.  It’s a wonder the clerks didn’t throw me out, but I guess I seemed harmless enough (and maybe they thought I would end up talking my parents into buying the VCR – I tried, but failed). 




Somehow during those school years and from the TV commercials and that bizarre screening at an electronics store, I became very hooked on this movie – almost obsessed.  Even as a kid I was a HUGE movie fan (although didn’t realize how much of one until what I call my film awakening which came with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM) but had to settle for watching as much Television as possible with my favorite TV show being THE A-TEAM, then later I discovered STAR TREK.  I was so excited by GHOSTBUSTERS that I started the official GHOSTBUSTERS fan club in my school, and drafted the official GHOSTBUSTERS newsletter from articles that I copied information from in STARLOG magazine (I can just see this being sent to their lawyers now) of which I was the only member and the only one who ever read the newsletter (my fellow students thought I was….odd….which may be an understatement of the true facts). 




Of course once I got my hands on a VCR and a copy of the movie, I watched it over and over and over again to the point where I could quote it back and forth.  I can’t think of many movies that are as quotable as GHOSTBUSTERS.  For instance:

“What are you guys some sort of Cosmonauts or something?” “No we’re exterminators; someone saw a cockroach on 12.”  “That must be some cockroach.”  “Bite your head off man.”

“Back off man. I’m a scientist.”

“Dogs and cats living together.  Mass hysteria!”

“What about the Twinkie?”

“Nobody steps on a church in my town!”

“Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god you say YES!”

And of course…the ultimate…

“He Slimed me.”




This is a movie that has truly stood the test of time.  It has a huge cult following and spawned a sequel (in 1989), a cartoon series -  THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS - which stayed pretty true to the tone of the original movie (with the exception that the Slimer ghost was a team mascot), a video game that featured the voices of the original cast (still wondering how they talked Bill Murray into that), an IDW Publishing comic book series and there is talk of another movie in development with plans for a release sometime within the next couple of years (without Bill Murray, or so the rumors go).  The humor is spot on, the effects look great especially given that they were all done in the pre-CGI era.  I am still amazed at how real the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man looks. 




One aspect of this movie that really makes it a classic is Bill Murray.  You constantly wonder how his character of Peter Venkmen who seems so far removed from science (although he has moments where he shows he has smarts) got involved with the very nerdy Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd).  You get the sense he is the anchor of this group and of course he keeps things light even during the biggest action and scary scenes.  I believe the role originally was written and intended for John Belushi whose death altered that casting, and the movie was retooled. 




And scary scenes this movie does have.  When the big-bad Gozer appears, she is a true threat and the full final half hour of the movie is packed with excitement laced with humor.  Not many movies can mix it up like this one can, and still feel fresh 28 years later.  I still laugh out loud at the jokes.




I finally got the chance to see GHOSTBUSTERS on the big screen after years of watching it on VHS and Laserdisc (there was a great Criterion box set edition, but Criterion could not retain the rights for DVD or Blu-ray Disc) in 1996 when a movie theater in Westwood started featuring Midnight movies, and screened GHOSTBUSTERS in 70mm (also helped that the series was programmed by a friend).  I went with a couple of college buddies, and anytime it screened anywhere in Los Angeles – like at the New Beverly – I made sure to catch it.  A far cry from my first screening of it crouched in a corner of a store watching a 14” Beta version praying my parents wouldn’t show up to drag me home anytime soon.  I believe Cinespia had it as part of their summer screening series at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery this past summer.  I was out of town though and missed it.  Missing that was a huge disappointment!




I have other personal GHOSTBUSTERS related stories – like when I wrote to Columbia pictures asking for information on the making of the movie for a school science project I was doing about Movie special effects and was sent a copy of the amazing book MAKING GHOSTBUSTERS with a letter on official GHOSTBUSTERS II letterhead (which was in production at the time) from the desk of Ivan Reitman.  I nearly passed out from nerd overload.  I also have a great Stay Puft Marshmallow Man action figure which brought me a little bit of mocking from co-workers when it featured prominently in THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN.  They were just jealous.




The Cinematheque is giving Los Angeles audiences 2 opportunities to see the movie in glorious 70mm with screenings on both Friday and Saturday night at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood at 7:30pm.  It is Halloween weekend and I expect that both of these events will be pretty packed.  I can’t think of a better movie to see with an audience on the BIG screen right before Halloween. 




So who ya gonna call?

Tickets and further information can be found HERE.