STUDIO: Columbia TriStar Home Video
MSRP: $19.94
RUNNING TIME: 105/108 Minutes
• Collectible Movie Scrapbook
• 3 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Joe Medjuck
• 2 Animated Episodes
• Storyboards
• Multi-Angle Features
• Photo Galleries

During the cinematic salad days of the early-to-mid 80’s, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd could do no wrong. Murray tore us to pieces in Caddyshack, Stripes and Tootsie. Aykroyd gave us peed pants in The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Neighbors (a guilty pleasure of this reviewer). Both stumbled at times later in their careers, but for a number of years they helped to establish a firm foundation of comedy that has yet to be bested by dudes with missing cars or ridiculous gigolo-based comedies. In the same comedic universe, Harold Ramis was riding high on a string of hit screenplays and the occasional straight-man supporting role. It’s hard to imagine a world in which a single person can claim writing credits for Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes and Back to School and not have his face printed on some denomination of U.S. currency. Even Thomas “Giggles” Jefferson is on the two-dollar bill, and he is best known for writing one of the least funny declarations in American history.

All dead president jokes aside, another great Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of comedy came together in 1984 with chocolaty comic acting chops and nutty, creamy writing excellence in a little spook-spoof called Ghostbusters. Suddenly, after a couple of decades of scary ghost movies, it became okay to laugh at the supernatural again. And laugh we did, many millions of times. We also began to rent movies to laugh at in the comfort of our own tattered underclothing. In 1989, Ghostbusters II was released. Again, we laughed long and hard in neighborhood multiplexes and small, dank living rooms. Laughing has rarely been as fulfilling as with these two movies.

Now it’s 2005 and I gotta say, I could use a few good chuckles to keep my mind off of high gas prices and the ever-present knowledge that Tom Cruise is still famous. Do the Ghostbusters movies still wring out the laughs like they did in the days of old?

The Flicks

These movies have played on TV so much that a plot summary may seem almost insulting to the average movie fiend. However, a whole generation of people has grown up thinking Adam Sandler is the one of the best comedic actor in Hollywood, and I’d like to introduce those people to some smarter and funnier actors. Here goes:

The smoking ban in New York City went too far when it adopted a mascot named Smokey the Whistling Klansman.

Apparently, when there’s something strange in your neighborhood, one is compelled to ask the question, “Who you gonna call?” In the bustling megalopolis of New York, NY there is no definitive answer to that question. There is currently no service worthy of a theme song at least. Three Columbia University parapsychology professors, Egon Spengler (Ramis), Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Peter Venkman (Murray) flounder in their search for evidence of the Great Beyond when their grant money is pulled by an unsympathetic dean. After a brief ghostly encounter in the university library, the three researchers decide to start their own paranormal investigation and elimination agency. They call themselves the Ghostbusters. Catchy name, eh? Business is slow at first for the upstart spectral exterminators, but their first client, Dana Barrett (the radiant Sigourney Weaver) soon arrives with a whopper of a problem. It seems that chicken starter is spewing from a carton of eggs in her kitchen. But that’s not all. A portal to Hell’s dark expanse has opened up in her fridge and a demon growls the name “Zuul” at her from deep in the abyss. Dana is scared, Peter is aroused, and Egon and Ray are giddy with the prospect of new data and an actual paying client.

Shortly after the ghostly happenings begin in Dana’s mysterious apartment building (which the three investigators learn has a rich history of bad goings-on), the Ghostbusters hotline begins ringing off the hook. It seems that ghosts, spectres, poltergeists and other such spirits of every shape and capacity are popping up all around the city. The Ghostbusters suddenly have a huge workload, which requires that they hire another crew member, blue collar clock-puncher Winston Zeddemore (the radiant Ernie Hudson).

zombie child flung itself at Peter from across the room, tearing into
his face with a ravenous, chattering jaw and speed only the dead can

With the Ghostbusters’ laser containment unit filling to the brim with ghosties, some arrogant New York bureaucrat is bound to take offense at their success and attempt to throw a monkey wrench in the works. The pencil-pusher in question appears in the form of EPA Inspector Walter Peck, played by everyone’s favorite on-screen prick, William Atherton. Peck wants the Ghostbusters to cease and desist all operations because he assumes they are scamming the citizens of NYC and creating an environmental disaster with their shenanigans. What Peck doesn’t realize is that by turning off the containment grid, large buckets of ghost soup will ladle themselves on the unsuspecting throngs of commuters and indigents crowding the well-worn streets of Manhattan. The grid inevitably gets shut down, members of New York’s Finest throw the Ghostbusters in the clink, and seventeen kinds of feces happen.

“Remind me to give Peter North’s ghost a pass next time.”

Who will save the day? It’s up to an image-conscious mayor to decide whether the Ghostbusters will get the opportunity to battle the ultimate evil, Gozer the Gozerian, who has taken over at Dana’s apartment. Gozer has transformed Dana and her quirky neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) into cranky cocker spaniels named Zuul the Gatekeeper and Vince Clortho the Key Master and reduced their building into a hellhole of epic proportions. Sky Daddy is nowhere to be found. A giant marshmallow man threatens to give everyone diabetes. Streams of protons are crossed. A huge explosion sends Gozer back to Hell and pools of smouldering marshmallow cream all over our heroes. Even that prickish EPA guy gets scalded into righteous, sugary oblivion. Not a single graham cracker or chocolate bar is spared the sweet ooze of victory.

“Look what came out of my ass.”

Who you gonna call? The MF’n Ghostbusters, that’s who! There are so many wonderful levels of comedy going on here. Murray leads the first wave with his patented hipster antics. Aykroyd and Ramis play off of him beautifully in nearly every scene. Annie Potts as secretary Janine Melnitz and Rick Moranis represent the second wave, and they draw plenty of humor from their odd characters and the goofy situations they find themselves in. Even Sigourney Weaver, not usually credited for her comedic side, gets to let loose as Zuul. She’s also quite beautiful in this movie. It’s not necessary to watch Ghostbusters for just the comedy aspects. The visual effects still impress, even if they seem dated. What movie that is more than five years old can’t claim that? There are also a few nice chills to be had here. When I saw Ghostbusters in the theater at the age of twelve, I found it to be pretty scary. I laughed too, but the library ghost and those red eyes of Gozer made me shiver in between the guffaws.

Clint Howard in jerky form.

Ghostbusters II starts five years after the events of the first movie. After the ghost plague was neutralized, our pals the Ghostbusters found themselves the targets of several lawsuits. After the legal smoke cleared, the Ghostbusters fell back to square one, without their ghost-catching business to keep them occupied and an uncomfortable lack of motivation holding them back. Peter hosts a TV talk show called World of the Psychic in an attempt to cash in on his former paranormal exploits. Ray and Winston lower themselves to making appearances at kids’ birthday parties for money. Egon has gone back to a university lab to study the possible effect of human emotions on the physical environment. The only person who seems to have accomplished anything of substance is Dana Barrett, who has given birth to a toe-headed boy named Oscar. After a short, rocky relationship with Peter, Dana married a concert musician and gave birth to Oscar. Her marriage fell apart, but her life stayed on track when Oscar (played by a pair of German infants that have a bizarre resemblance to a compacted Brian Bosworth) came along. She put music aside and accepted a job as a restorer for an art museum directed by Dr. Janosz Poha (the pre-Ally McBeal Peter MacNicol). Janosz has just received a new painting of an intimidating Carpathian magician named Vigo. Meet our new baddie.

When Translucent Women Attack.

When her baby’s stroller careens out of control in front of her First Avenue apartment after rolling through some pink goo bubbling out of the sidewalk, Dana gets the feeling that something otherworldly is going on. Unable to explain the incident and worried that something may be wrong with her son, she visits Egon to ask for help. Peter and Ray get involved as well, and the three visit Dana’s apartment to examine the tyke. Peter uses the opportunity to reestablish contact with Dana and make jokes about her ex and her child’s bizarre facial features. Meanwhile, Egon and Ray have made a discovery. Their ghost sniffers go off the charts outside Dana’s apartment. Something strange is definitely going on in the neighborhood. The phantom fighters decide to dig a hole in the street to investigate. Unlucky Ray gets lowered into the giant air shaft they discover under the asphalt. He becomes a literal worm on a hook as he is nearly lowered into a frothing river of pink slime that seems to flow from nowhere through an abandoned underground train station. Ray collects a bit of the pink stuff for analysis and narrowly avoids being pulled down by the living river of nastiness.

Hasbro’s Skinned Seal bathtub toy received more than one complaint from topless parents.

Up above, Egon and Peter run into some trouble with a few uniformed civil servants. The three are once again under the thumb of an uncaring justice system when Ray accidentally snags a power line on his way out of the cavern, causing a city-wide blackout. Despite their findings, the Busters find themselves in court, defended by Louis Tully’s limited legal skills. The hardball judge doesn’t flinch, and finds the three guilty. His bile-fueled judgment sets off a ghostly resurrection in his courtroom, and he’s forced to release the Ghostbusters to do what they do best. It seems that the pink slime flowing under the city is some kind of ethereal “mood slime” that reacts to the emotions of the people of the city. When the slime senses anger, it expands and reacts violently. Our phantom flushers also find that positive emotions (and Jackie Wilson tunes) turn the slime into a peaceful and benevolent force.

“Go ahead, say hoser one more goddamn time…”

What happens in the final act of the film essentially matches the events in the first film, with a few exceptions. Dana’s baby is kidnapped by the awakened Vigo’s earth-bound henchman Dr. Poha, the Ghostbusters find themselves committed to a mental hospital by the mayor’s sleazy lieutenant, and plenty of havoc gets caused by a blossoming ghost menace when the pink slime bubbles from the sewers by the bathtub-full. Thankfully, Mr. Mayor lets the boys loose just in time. They ride a mood slime-possessed Statue of Liberty to Dana’s museum, where Vigo plans to reincarnate himself in little Oscar. Funny, the kid already has a strange resemblance to him. Leave it to the people of New York, who only find themselves singing the same tune once a year, to give Vigo a New Year’s headache long enough for the Ghostbusters to do their job. Vigo goes bye-bye and everything is once again right in the Big Apple. Lady Liberty looks a little hung over, though.

As much as I like the characters, the slime and all the wacky goings-on, I can’t find it in myself to enjoy Ghostbusters II as much as I do the first film. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get to see this movie in the theater as a youngster. More likely, I don’t think the comedy is as sharp in this one, and the action and story don’t move along as efficiently as in the original. And, Peter MacNicol is not funny. Still, I’m glad this sequel exists. I only wish they had found a cuter kid to play Oscar.

There’s a reason the Smuckers factory doesn’t offer tours.

The Ghostbusters movies represent a mix of genres that is difficult to pull off. The movies could be considered straight comedies, and you’ll probably find them in that section of the average video store (except for those weird stores that put them in the Sci-Fi section). However, the horror elements, especially in the first film, shouldn’t be ignored. There are plenty of ghosts and hellhounds to make the case, and some of those scenes still pack a punch. Because of the generous mix of comedy and horror in these films, the Ghostbusters movies are unique entries in the history of 80’s cinema: genre films with some major talent in front of and behind the camera. I love them both, and I’m glad they have received some decent treatment in this DVD set.

Ghostbusters: 9.5 out 10
Ghostbusters II: 7.5 out of 10

The Look

Never invite Peter Weller and a large rat to your cocktail party.

Both movies boast new High Definition transfers, and both are plenty beautiful to look at. Ghostbusters, presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, still has its share of film grain in some darker scenes and some specks and sparkles here and there on the print, but the colors are rich and full. Ghostbusters II shows the same luster with its 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Five years certainly makes a difference too. I found fewer film specks in the sequel and a little less grain as well.

Ghostbusters: 8.0 out of 10
Ghostbusters II: 8.7 out of 10

The Noise

Herman Munster’s German cousin, Hermann Müenster.

Dolby Digital 5.1 rules the day on both discs. I found some decent levels of surround sound during the flashier battle scenes and plenty of bass thumping from the infectious theme songs. Yes, I had Ray Parker Jr.’s only major hit on 45. Sue me. Bobby Brown did not benefit from my hard-earned lawn mowing money, however.

Both: 8.0 out of 10

The Goodies

This is a lop-sided affair. The Ghostbusters disc houses the bulk of the special features, including a commentary track, deleted scenes, some featurettes and plenty of photos and storyboards. The commentary track, with director Ivan Reitman, co-writer Ramis and producer Joe Medjuck is one of those friendly, scene-specific, going-down-memory-lane recordings that are almost always enjoyable to listen to. They have plenty of anecdotes to share about the shoot, and they aren’t afraid to make cracks about some of the cheesier F/X. The featurettes are a mixed bag. The original 1984 featurette is standard EPK fluff, but it is interesting to see the cast and crew in their younger days. Another cast and crew feature has updated interviews with Aykroyd, Ramis and Reitman, but Murray’s presence is sorely missed. The special effects featurette shows a group discussion with the effects team reminiscing about their work. There is also a multi-angle comparison for some of the effects scenes that impress the average viewer like me with not only how the effects were done but how much cleaner the enhanced film is than the original raw footage. It’s like night and day. I haven’t seen the previous DVD release of this film, but it appears that most of these features were available on that release.

Sheena Easton followed up Morning Train with the lesser hit, Devilstab Bloodeyes.

The disc for Ghostbusters II holds no features related to the film at all. But, it does have a couple of episodes from The Real Ghostbusters animated series, so that’s something. It was a fun cartoon while it lasted.

Ghostbusters: 8.5 out of 10
Ghostbusters II: 3.5 out of 10

The Artwork

This gift set has an attractive green and gold foil cardboard sleeve with the red and white logo emblazoned on the cover. The sleeve contains two slim DVD cases with the same cover designs, but the logos for each case match the films. I’m a big fan of these slim cases. They are a nice improvement over those flip-fold cases, if you ask me. With this set they could have gone cheap and put both discs in a standard case, but lucky for us they didn’t. Also included in the set is a 26-page collectible scrapbook full of pictures, concept drawings and other artwork from the original Ghostbusters. You’re left out again, Ghostbusters II, ya red-headed stepchild.

9.5 out of 10

“Congratulations. You are now a born-again ejaculation.”

Ghostbusters: 9.0 out of 10
Ghostbusters II: 7.4 out of 10