Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good!
BUSTIN' MAKES ME
Sweet Thrift Store Find
As Dr. Peter Venkman sings, "Call it 'fate,' call it 'luck,' call it 'Karma.'" Today, I got very lucky. My wife and I went to a local thrift store to browse through the vinyl record selection. While she was perusing the records, I went through the DVDs. Though I frequently do so to no avail, today, my persistence paid off in a big way. They had the movie Ghostbusters on DVD marked at -wait for it- One Dollar. I couldn't believe my senses. I turned to my wife, who was still rifling through 30 year old copies of very unpopular music and said, "You have to let me get this."
If you're curious, it was this version, in the slim case that would have come in the 2-pack.
She smiled apathetically and shrugged her approval. I opened the case and checked the disc. It looked brand new. No scratches, no gunk, just a smooth and glassy seedy underbelly. Or, um, CD underbelly. Got it home, popped it in, and to my satisfaction, it played perfectly. The only way I had watched this movie in recent years is on a badly worn VHS and for free on Crackle.com. I must say, it looks great on DVD. I noticed things I never had before and the disc is loaded with features and featurettes. As it is one of my favorite 80's movies, I can't believe I've passed it up so many times in the past in an inexpensive pack that also includes Ghostbusters II, but today I was more than happy to shell out the dollar they were asking. I don't care too much for GB 2 any-dang-way.
GB & Me
For me, a love of Ghostbusters media started at a very early age. I had an older brother who watched cartoons that I found much more entertaining than Sesame Street and the like, and so I started watching cartoons such as the Real Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles and Robocop at an age when I probably should have been watching shows that were designed to make me smarter.
It was confusing to me that this was called the Real Ghostbusters. I always called live action stuff "real" and animated stuff "cartoon."
In 1989, when the sequel was nearing theatrical release, Ghostbusters changed from a cartoon that I liked watching to laugh at Slimer and to hear and sing along with the theme song to one of my primary fixations. Though I must admit that at times it took a back seat to the other summer blockbuster of June 1989, Batman, I was very excited for Ghostbusters II. In fact, we must have spent a lot of time at the theaters that month, because Honey, I Shrunk the Kids also premiered and my siblings and I were excited to see that too.
1989 saw a real surge in summer blockbusters.
It was at about this time that my dad purchased our VHS copy of Ghostbusters which began it's long tour of duty in our VCR, being subjected to a rigorous assault of pausings, fast-forwardings, rewindings and many, many play-throughs that would bring it to its present, near unwatchable condition.
The Principal Characters
Whenever a movie has a cast as perfectly suited to their roles as are the actors in Ghostbusters, it is a delight to watch time and time again. So let's briefly meet the main characters.
Peter Venkman, portrayed by Bill Murray. The sarcastic, sharp tounged and witty comic voice of the bunch. He takes on a leader like role because, as the original script reveals, he is worried that Egon and Ray are a bit too preoccupied with the technology they're dealing with and could become a danger.
Ray Stantz, portrayed by Dan Aykroyd. A good-natured genius, a great friend and a pushover. Ray is the glue that holds the Ghostbusters together and he even puts a third mortgage on his house to provide funding to begin the business.
Egon Spengler, portrayed by Harold Ramis. Egon is a genius and an oddball. He collects spores, molds and fungi, doesn't read because he believes print is dead and studies ectoplasm and bizarre occurrences.
Dana Barrett, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver. Classy single lady living in the city. Just so happens that her apartment is the portal to the realm of Gozer. Gets freaked out by eggs that fry themselves and by beasts who roar the word "Zuul." Will be possessed by Zull, the Gate Keeper.
Louis Tully, portrayed by Rick Moranis. A swingin', geeky, yet lovable accountant. Shares a hallway with Dana, who he is hopelessly infatuated with. Will be posessed by Vince Clortho, the Key Master.
Janine Melnitz, portrayed by Annie Potts. Gets hired to be the Ghostbusters' over-worked receptionist. Can be quite surly. Has an obvious crush on Egon.
Walter Peck, portrayed by William Atherton. Peck is very into his job at the EPA. Becomes very agitated when met with opposition and can become your worst enemy, as Venkman discovers. Dislikes being called names. The actor, William Atherton, had a hard time being in public for a while after the film. He portrayed a major jerk so well that people couldn't separate him from Walter Peck and children would glare at him and people would call him names.
Slimer. They have called Slimer "the Ghost of John Belushi." Disgusting as he is, he is a tribute to a lost friend and is inspired by Belushi's character, Bluto, in Animal House. Wasn't called "Slimer" in the script or on film- was originally called "Onion Head."
Gozer, a.k.a. the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Gozer the Gozerian's final form as chosen, albeit, accidentally, by Ray. When Mr. Stay Puft comes tromping down the streets of New York, you don't know whether to laugh or to be terrified.
Winston Zeddmore, portrayed by Ernie Hudson. Gets hired as the 4th Ghostbuster. Gets Ray thinking about the biblical and spiritual reasons for all of the paranormal activity.
As with most of my childhood fixations, toys were a required part of being obsessed. I loved the Ghostbusters toys, which can be sorted into 2 major categories:
1. Action figures and related vehicles/play sets. This line included people and objects that would transform into monstrous ghosts.
2. Role playing costumes/weapons. When playing Ghostbusters, it was fun to turn off all the lights and sneak around the house with your friends looking for Ghosts to trap. Having the proper equipment, of course was essential.
This would be a way cooler picture (and I would be way less dorky) if I didn't know that this kid's Proton Pack was on upside down.
Most Ghostbusters toys were more closely related to the cartoon series than to the movies. Though I never obtained the coveted Ecto-1, I was fortunate and somewhat contented that I did have the firehouse play set that looked just like the one in the movie, the proton pack, and an array of figures and ghosts of which the haunted toilet stands out most.
Dudes & dudettes, meet "Fearsome Flush."
Though I had a lot of cool Ghostbusters junk, I had a friend who had way more. His mom even found a jumpsuit in his size that was just the right color and somehow had some embroidery or patches sewn on it to make it look very authentic. "Ghost trapping" at this kid's house was quite the memorable experience.
In the animated series, Dr. Peter Venkman was voiced by Lorenzo Music, who voiced Garfield on Garfield & Friends. In 2004, Venkman himself, Bill Murray, voiced Garfield in the movie, Garfield. Interesting little circle there, eh?
Venkman = Garfield.
One of my favorite things about this movie is the sometimes hilarious array of gear and equipment the Ghostbusters employ in tracking down and eliminating various phantasms. In one of the DVD featurettes, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd discuss the Ghostbusters' method of Ecto-containment:
Dan Aykroyd: "Basically the trapping process is..."
Bill Murray: "It's difficult. It's something like trying to push smoke into a Coke bottle... with a baseball bat."
"Nice shootin', Tex!"
In the library scene and later at the hotel, Egon is completely absorbed in a peculiar looking device that measures Psycho Kinetic Energy. This device, the PKE Meter, helped him to come up with their method for trapping and containing ghosts.
Symmetrical Book Stacking.
The fact that they made "busting" the ghosts such an imprecise, uncontrollable and even disastrous fiasco exponentially increases the comedic genius of this movie. The Proton Pack's cartoony stream of energy weakens the specter and sorta works as a lasso until they can wrangle it into the trap, but wreaks havoc on anything else it comes in contact with.
It's OK. The table will break this chandelier's fall.
This was never called a "Proton Pack" in this film. That term wasn't used until Ghostbusters II. No, this is a Thermo-Nuclear Accelerator/Positron Collider with a Neutrona Wand.
Once the ghost is incapacitated in the "streams" from the proton packs, one of the ghostbusters will throw a wheeled trap under it and stomp on a foot pedal that opens it up and, somehow, captures and contains it until it can be released into a larger containment unit.
How these traps work is a mystery.
At this point, the ghostbusting team is free to present the bill to the customer, jump in the Ecto-1 and speed away.
"What you had there was what we refer to as a focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm, or a Class 5 full roaming vapor. A real nasty one, too!"
The Ecto-1 holds a special place in the hearts of many. There is just something about this doctored up old Cadillac ambulance that makes it so much more than just a way for the ghostbusters to get from A to B. Is it the siren? The "No Ghosts" logo on the doors? The mountain of gear on top that has purposes yet to be seen by a motion picture audience? Yes. It is all these elements and others coming together in a synergetic fashion that makes them more than they would be on their own.
There are wanna be Ecto-1s all over the country in various stages of awesomeness. From beat up old college clunkers (which is, sadly, all I've seen in person) with a simple logo on each side, to newer, late-model cars that show a real attention to detail.
How else can I say that this is awesome?
Influence on Pop-Culture
"A perfect threesome of movie magic, comedy and just a dash of horror." -Crackle.com
Watching this movie nowadays, I laugh at the jokes and I laugh thinking about seeing the movie referenced in other situations and media. It has become ingrained in our popular culture. It's just one of those movies that everyone seems to have seen and we can all share a laugh over. Like Back to the Future. If you would like to reference this movie, when someone calls your name, respond with a growly voice, saying "There is no *insert your name here*, only ZUUL." You'll be a real hit at parties.
Zuul in Dana's fridge.
There are fan sites, fan clubs, podcasts, Ghostbuster imitating entertainers, a comic book series and an excellent video game that some look at as a third chapter in the trilogy. Though geek conventions are not my scene, elaborate Ghostbusters costumes including very accurate homemade recreations of the gear are common sightings.
An issue of the Ghostbusters Comic Book.
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