Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stubs – Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (1984) Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Screenplay by Dan Ayroyd, Harold Ramis. Produced by Ivan Reirman.  Run Time: 107 minutes. U.S.  Color. Comedy, Science Fiction

Like many films released in Hollywood, the film that we see in the theaters is not the film as originally envisioned. Ghostbusters is no exception. Originally conceived as a movie vehicle for Dan Aykroyd and his then comedy partner, John Belushi, the film was originally called Ghostmashers and saw the two funnymen travel through space and time to fight ghosts.

Ivan Reitman convinced Aykroyd that the concept was impractical and too expensive. So Aykroyd teamed with Harold Ramis and the film was re-written with roles for Belushi, John Candy and Eddie Murphy. But Belushi died in 1982 and the other two would not commit to the movie. While perhaps not as earthshaking for filmdom, as say, George Raft playing Rick in Casablanca, the film would definitely have been quite different than what we have now, which for many is considered a comedy classic.

A paranormal disturbance at the main branch of the New York Public Library summons three Columbia University-based parapsychologists to investigate. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), who would rather use science to put the moves on a comely co-ed and ESP test subject (Jennifer Runyon), is pulled away by Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd). Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) is already at the library and doing tests, getting positive results.

Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) experiments with the effects of negative
 reinforcement and ESP on unsuspecting Columbia students.

Venkman is skeptical yet interested, and the three come across the ghost: a full torso apparition of a dead librarian (Ruth Oliver). They are, needless to say, actually unprepared for the encounter. Venkman’s attempt to communicate with the ghost is rebuffed. Stantz comes up with the idea to “get her”, but the mild mannered ghost transforms into a horrifying monster that chases the men away.

"Get her!" That was your whole plan, huh, "get her."

Things don’t get better for the trio. Arriving back at Columbia, they are notified that they’ve lost funding and are no longer welcome on campus. But Venkman sees it as an opportunity and, using money from Stantz, the three establish a paranormal extermination service they call "Ghostbusters", convinced there are other and possibly more harmful entities in the city. They hire Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) as their receptionist, though business is very slow:

Dr. Peter Venkman: Janine, any calls?
Janine Melnitz: No.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Any messages?
Janine Melnitz: No.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Any customers?
Janine Melnitz: No, Dr. Venkman.
Dr. Peter Venkman: It's a good job, huh?
[she smiles]
Dr. Peter Venkman: Type something, will you? We're paying for this stuff! And don't stare at me, you got the bug-eyes.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Janine, sorry about the bug-eyes thing. I'll be in my office.

Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) plays the receptionist at Ghostbusters.

Based on previous research, Egon develops high-tech equipment for them to use, including proton packs, which they compare to wearing unlicensed nuclear accelerators on their backs, and traps capable of capturing the undead. They don’t get an opportunity to test them prior to being hired by the Sedgewick Hotel to investigate a haunting.

Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Dr. Venkman
arrive with untested proton packs and ghost traps to capture a ghost.

The on-the-job training goes a little rough as they set fires and blow holes in walls with the energy stream the packs put out. And Egon gives them last minute advice not to cross the unwieldy streams:

Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.       
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

After Venkman gets slimed by the apparition, they do manage to capture their first ghost and deposit it in a "containment unit" back at the reconditioned firehouse they use as their headquarters.

Dr. Venkman gets slimed.

As paranormal activity begins to increase in the city, the Ghostbusters become celebrities, but with fame comes more business. In an effort to get some relief from their ever hectic schedules, they hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), to help them cope. Unlike the others, Winston is an average Joe looking for a job:

Janine Melnitz: Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?
Winston Zeddemore: Ah, if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.

Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) being shown the ropes
by Stantz on his first day as a ghostbuster.

Meanwhile, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a cellist with a never mentioned orchestra, comes home. She is immediately confronted by her lovesick neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), who seems to be waiting for her to walk by his apartment door. Dana manages to appease him and escape into her apartment, but while she’s putting away her groceries, things start to go weird. Her eggs start to explode and cook themselves on her counter top. Then they go from bad to worse as she discovers her refrigerator is a gateway. Her apartment is haunted by a demonic spirit, Zuul, a demigod worshipped as a servant to Gozer the Gozerian, a Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction.

Anytime she's in the hallway, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) is confronted
by her neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis).

She turns to the Ghostbusters for help and Venkman takes a particular interest in her. Venkman tries to turn the investigation into a date, which Dana reluctantly agrees to. 

The Ghostbusters' TV ad catches Dana's notice.

But before their date, paranormal activity in the building increases and Dana is possessed by Zuul (voiced by Ivan Reitman), which declares itself the "Gatekeeper". Meanwhile, across the hall during a party for clients, Louis is possessed  by a similar demon called Vinz Clortho, the "Keymaster".

Venkman arrives for his date with Dana only to find she’s now been replaced in spirit by Zuul.:

Dana Barrett: [possessed by Zuul] Do you want this body?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Is this a trick question?

Dana Barrett: [possessed by Zuul] I want you inside me.
Dr. Peter Venkman: It sounds like you've got at least two or three people in there already.

At the same time, the police capture Clortho and with no where else to turn, take him to the Ghostbusters to examine him. When Venkman talks with Egon, they realize that they have to keep the two apart.

But plans got awry, when Walter Peck (William Atherton), a lawyer with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visits the Ghostbusters’ office. Concerned about unlicensed nuclear devices and hazardous unknown containments, he asks to see their containment chamber. 

Court order in hand, Walter Peck (William Atherton) demands Egon turn off
 the containment unit. Louis Tully, already possessed by Vinz Clortho looks on.

When Venkman refuses, he comes back with a court order. Despite their warnings about what will happen, Peck orders the power be cut off to containment. The team is arrested and Clortho is freed from their protective custody. Instinctively, he hurries towards Zuul’s apartment, while the now freed ghosts wreak havoc on New York City. A consummation of gatekeeper and keymaster opens the portal for Gozer to arrive.

Gatekeeper and Keymaster have made contact, paving the way for Gozer to arrive.

In jail, the four consult blueprints of Dana's apartment building and learn that a mad scientist named Ivo Shandor, had designed the building as a gateway to summon Gozer and bring about the end of the world. Shandor claimed humanity was too sick to survive after the horrors of World War I.

Seeing no other option, the Mayor of New York (David Marguiles) releases the Ghostbusters over Peck’s objections and sent to put an end to the paranormal activity. Arriving with a police escort, the Ghostbusters are too late to prevent the arrival of Gozer (Slavitza Jovan, voiced by Paddi Edwards), a shape-shifter who initially appears as a woman.

Gozer, the Gozerian (Slavitza Joven) appears as a woman to the Ghostbusters.

While the team briefly subdues Gozer, who disappears, her voice echoes that the "destructor" will follow, taking a form as chosen by the team. Venkman, knowing that whatever they think of will appear, tries to get the others to clear their minds of all thoughts. But Zuul informs them that the form has been decided. Turns out Stantz can’t and instead “I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us…” The destructor arrives in the form of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, which begins storming the city and climbing up the outside of the apartment house.

Stay Puft the Destructor is created by the memories of Ray Stantz.

With no other option, Egon comes up with a new plan:

Dr. Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the polarity flow through the gate.
Dr. Peter Venkman: How?
Dr. Egon Spengler: [hesitates] We'll cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: 'Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Dr Ray Stantz: Cross the streams...
Dr. Peter Venkman: You're gonna endanger us, you're gonna endanger our client - the nice lady, "who paid us in advance", before she became a dog...
Dr. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There's definitely a "very slim" chance we'll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Dr. Peter Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I'm excited it could work! LET'S DO IT!

The four combine the energy streams from their proton packs and fire at Gozer’s portal. The result is an explosion which sends Gozer back into its dimension and closes the gateway between worlds. Remnants of the Marshmallow Man rain down on the city, trapping Peck under a particularly large pile of the sugary concoction.

Marshmallow is no match for the energy streams from the Proton packs.

Dana and Louis are freed from the remains of their possessors and the Ghostbusters are applauded for saving New York City and the world.

The film, budgeted at $30 million, at the time considered a lot of money for a comedy, earned $291 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film of the year. Enough to spawn the required sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989), two animated  TV series, The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991) and Extreme Ghostbusters (1997), several video games (Ghostbusters, The Real Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Ghostbusters, Extreme Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2006, Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime and Ghostbusters: Paranormal Blast) and several comic books, including one-shots and mini-series.

A Ghostbusters III has been in the works, probably since Ghostbusters II. (Hollywood really loves a trilogy.) While the planned film would pass on the Ghostbusters work from Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson to four new actors (tbd), those plans were put back in limbo with the death of Harold Ramis in February 2014.

Ghostbusters was one of the first, and probably best, of sci-fi special-effects laden comedies which include the Men in Black and Back to the Future trilogies, the Honey, I Shrunk the … series, Ghostbusters II, Spaceballs (1987) and Galaxy Quest (1999). In this film, the special effects don’t overwhelm the dialogue and the script is very smartly written and delivered by the cast, which includes some of the best talent to come from the Second City – Saturday Night Live axis of comedy: Bill Murray. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, though the latter was more a behind the camera person at SCTV. Ghostbusters is only Ramis’ second appearance in a movie, having appeared in and co-written Stripes (1981).

For Ernie Hudson, Winston Zeddemore might be his best known role. He still acts, but mostly on TV, recently voicing Agent William “Bill” Fowler on the HUB’s Transformers: Prime animated series.

Sigourney Weaver, who’s first appearance on film was as Alvy Singer’s date at the end of Annie Hall (1977), was two years later a major star thanks to the part of Ripley in Alien (1979). She would go on to reprise that role in Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997). She has also appeared in such films as The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Working Girl (1988), Dave (1993), Galaxy Quest, Holes (2003) and Avatar (2009) to name a few.

Rick Moranis, another SCTV veteran, who had previously appeared in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983), would make a career of special effect comedies appeared in such films as Spaceballs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Honey, I Blew Up the Kids (1992), Honey, I Shrunk the Audience! (1994) and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997). Moranis would also appear with better results in Parenthood (1989) and My Blue Heaven (1990), both films starring Steve Martin. Moranis would give up acting in 1997 to concentrate on being a single-parent after the death of his wife, Ann, in 1991. He has occasionally done some voice-over work since.

Ghostbusters would generate two Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects and ironically, Best Original Song for the title track, written and performed by Ray Parker Jr. The irony is that Parker was sued for plagiarism by Huey Lewis in 1984. Lewis claimed Parker stole the melody line for his song, “I Want a New Drug” written in 1983. The story goes, Lewis was originally approached about writing a theme song for the movie, something along the lines of “I Want a New Drug”, but he declined as he was working on Back to the Future (1985). So producers hired Parker and got that new version of “I Want a New Drug. The suit was settled out of court.

Despite the problem with the title song, Ghostbusters is a really solid film. It is one of those film experiences that when you think about it will still make you laugh.

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