Director: Ivan Reitman Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis Synopsis: “Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.” Rating: 12A Runtime: 105 minutes
” Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”
Anyone who pays any kind of attention to this site or my Twitter feed knows that Ghostbusters is my favourite film of all time. I have loved it since I was a child, and I love it, possibly even more, as an adult. However, I have purposely avoided reviewing this film ever since I started my own website because I’m not sure if I can review it without bias. Whenever I approach a film I do so in a way that I can review it down the middle, but I have constantly thought to myself how can I review my favourite film and call it anything less than amazing?
This past weekend, September 6th, I turned 30. I say that not to get you all to wish me a happy belated birthday, although that would be nice, but the number is significant because Ghostbusters also celebrates its 30th anniversary. As a way of celebrating I hired a screen at my local Cineworld and held a private screening of Ghostbusters. With that in mind, I thought now was the best time to review a classic which just happens to be my favourite film ever.
Ghostbusters was originally envisioned as something completely different to what you see in front of you today. When Dan Aykroyd first conceived Ghostbusters, his film contained several teams of Ghostbusters battling the paranormal all over the country, and who would essentially act like the fourth emergency service. The Ghostbusters wore black suits, they had wands but no back packs, the first scene in the film would start with the Ecto 1 bursting out of the famous fire station and one of the final scenes involved the Statue of Liberty coming to life. It was a mess, and would have cost Columbia Pictures an absolute fortune.
That is until director Ivan Reitman came along. He read Aykroyd’s script, and even though he liked what he saw he knew things had to change. He turned the film into a comedy, as opposed to a straight science fiction film, and led the audience into proceedings gradually, instead of starting out with an already established team going out on their umpteenth mission. Reitman then brought along Harold Ramis and ultimately Bill Murray to join the cast. Murray was not originally cast in the film, instead Aykroyd had cast his good friend John Belushi in the role of Peter Venkman. Sadly Belushi passed away before filming began, and Murray was selected for the role, a role that now seems as if it could have not been played by anyone else.
Various other actors were due parts in Ghostbusters, but were either changed or dropped altogether. John Candy was set to play Louis Tully at one point, a role that eventually became famous by the excellent Rick Moranis. Eddie Murphy also originally had a part in the film as Winston Zeddemore, but due to his commitment to the Beverly Hills Cop film meant the part was given to Ernie Hudson. It is rare for a film to be altered in such a way and come out on the other side as anywhere near coherent or even fun. But Ghostbusters did not have a troubled production whatsoever. Director Ivan Reitman laid down the basic idea for the film, and alongside Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis they wrote a script together, but perhaps most importantly, he let the excellent cast do their own thing.
Most, if not all, of Ghostbusters is ad-libbed. Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis knew each other very well and with that they were able to riff off each other throughout the film, and create and share a chemistry that only the best at what they do can replicate. Murray’s Peter Venkman is, of course, the mouth of the group. While, Ramis’ Egon Spengler is the brains, Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz the heart of the Ghostbusters, while Hudson’s Zeddemore is clearly the eyes of the group . In most successful films, it can be hard to imagine anyone else portraying a popular character or set of characters, but it remains especially so here.
The three leads are supported more than ably here. As mentioned previously, Rick Moranis does sterling work as loveable loser Louis Tully. His role could have been pure throw away fluff, and resulted in nothing more than an excuse to move the story along, but Moranis takes it and runs with it. From the moment we first see him, he is all nervous charm in his attempts to woo Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and makes a small part an eminently memorable one. Sigourney Weaver is the Ghostbusters first case, after her eggs fry themselves and she see’s a dog in her fridge. Soon she becomes the love interest of Peter Venkman, and more than likely the first crush of many thirty something year old men. Her role is an important one and she is never there as mere eye candy. Her role, like the others in the film and despite the cartoon nature of the film, is played straight, and is another essential cog in the wheel. Even Annie Potts’ secretary Janine feels as if her small role contributes wholeheartedly to the film.
For a film that is based around ghosts and the supernatural, it is maybe a little odd that the villain of the piece is entirely human. The man from the Environmental Protection Agency, Walter Peck, is played with ace precision by William Atherton. Atherton’s portrayal of Peck is so brilliant that he quickly became the most hated man in New York. Atherton has attested that he still walks down the streets of New York being heckled and called “dickless”, much to the amusement of the man who cast him, Ivan Reitman.
The brilliance behind Ghostbusters is that everything seems to work. The length of the film, the decade it’s set in, the city it adores, the actors who nail every line and the characters who stay with you forever. It all works. I once read someone say that they thought Ghostbusters was as close to perfection as you could get in a film, and while even I would be loath to call any film perfect, Ghostbusters certainly makes a case at being so. It captures all its elements and turns them into a hugely satisfying whole, and makes for one of the most memorable, funny and downright entertaining films ever..
In summary: 30 years on and Ghostbusters is still peerless, and still has the power to make people laugh whether you are seeing it for the first time or the hundredth time.